CRYSTAL CLARITY : ADAM BEYER @ BIJOU 06.21.13

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There haven’t been many techno sets as masterful as the two hours that Sweden’s Adam Beyer sculpted in Boston on Friday night for an awed crowd at Bijou. Using the most minimal equipment — two CD players and a mixboard, no PC program — thus running only two channels, Beyer played with a clarity or tone and precision of texture unmatched in the techno DJ universe. He proved that clarity and precision are part of techno’s very message, the why and the how of its reconstruction of song and sense; the power of techno’s groove and the shine of its visions of urban noise and inner dream.

Other techno DJs, even the best — think Stefano Noferini, Dubfire, and Chris Liebing — evade the genre’s call for clarity by incorporating aspects of house music into their sound. Noferini imports the harsh beat of rave; Calderone, the sentimenatlity of soul; Liebing the abstract mechanics of German “industrial.”  Not so Beyer. He DJ’s fearlessly. The techno that he stretched into two hours of growly, grainy stomp — overtopped occasionally with pricking, sparkles — sounded as singular as possible. It was techno being techno and techno only. A sound so uncompromising could easily have bore dancers; at Bijou, however, Beyer’s craftsmanship detailed every tone shift, every texture nuance, and aligned them in progression narratives that relentlessly seduced his Bijou fans

Beyer never allowed his tracks to go untweaked. Tall as an NBA foward, slim and long-fingered, he bent his body to the music, reached onto the mixboard, dinged its knobs like a guitarist. He stuttered riffs, slammed beats home, fade-knobbed one line of tones, burst another. He gave extra attention to track pitch. As he played one CD, he was cueing the other, making every jab, boom, plunk, and purr speak with almost theatrical accuracy of diction. And if Beyer’s diction was mostly an urban din, not voices, it spoke a message as fascinating to the body as any voice on a stage.

His set beagn simply with a basic bluesy four to the floor, a force drive that scooped up dancers’ bodies. Gradually Beyer complicated his sound. Drop-ins talked back to the groove. The groove growled, as if arguing with the drop-ins. In the second hour Beyer changed beats, switched from funk to samba, tooled in some orchestral ear fluff, even at one point slid in a talker’s monologue. Yet nothing that he added to his basic sound led it astray or into vagueness. Even at set’s end, as his sound stuttered like scatted jazz, Beyer’s hand held tight to the throttle and brakes of his mixboard, concluding its stretch with a rattle of laughter.

Having local master DJ Wil Trahan open was an inspired choice. Though Trahan usually plays soft, soulful house, he loves what he calls “heavy techno.” In front of Beyer, “heavy” was what he was called upon to play, and did, with a relish evident in every scrape, buzz, and rumble of his PC program.

rating : sublime

—- Deedee Freedberg / “Feeling the Music”

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : WORLD WAR Z ( Rating : 2 1/2 stars )

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Zombie apocalypse and anything vampire seems to be the hot ticket out of Hollywood these days. The subtext, that we prey on each other and that life is a precious and fragile thing, is a piquant notion that gets magnified to its fullest when examining how man comports himself as civilization crumbles.
Sans rules and with limited resources, what would you do? Snatch and grab, help out or hole up doomsday prepper style?
That’s the special sauce that makes any apocalypse-cum-horror flick grip the road. Real people, super natural horror, deep shit. George Romero’s seminal “Night of the Living Dead” was more about the dynamics and dissent amongst a band of survivors barricaded in a farm house than it was about the throng of shambling flesh scratching at the walls. Decades later, guys like Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later”) and Zack Snyder (the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”) got the nifty idea to make the dead move at warp speed.
Speed kills and given the choice in “Jurassic Park,” who would you really want to face, T-Rex or the veloci-raptors?
“World War Z” does zombie on a grand scale and goes at the genre in new ways, even if the rabies outbreak that is transforming people in to flesh ripping berserkers is similar to the rage virus that fueled the “28 Days Later” series.  You get bitten and in seconds you’re one of them, a maniac on angel dust spreading the disease. The decayed, mangled weak-kneed dead in Romero’s tales and TV’s “The Walking Dead” have nothing on these Olympic athletes.
The outbreak comes suddenly and fast as Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, who snatched up the rights to Max Brooks’s 2006 book) and his family wallow in a Philadelphia traffic standstill and a wave of the rampaging infected sweep through, shattering windshields with their heads, chomping and biting, and increasing their numbers. It’s a terrifying beginning of the end.
Gerry, it turns out, is a recently retired UN operator who was adept at getting in and out of such hellish hotbeds as Liberia and Bosnia. Those survival skills keep the family alive for a night in a Newark housing project, and to get the family out and onto the safety of a flotilla of military vessels off the coast, Gerry has to agree to get back in the game. Bureaucracy and governments are eroding all around the world, and so Gerry, a SEAL team, and a Harvard educated biologist set out on a viral forensics mission of sorts to find a potential cure. The journey sends them to Korea, Wales and Israel where the Middle East flashpoint of contention has seen this coming and taken all their settlement walls and set them outward-facing.
The globe-hopping plot drops Gerry in one harrowing situation after another– I’m not sure what was more unsettling: the transformation of coach class on an airliner into a neck biting brood or being trapped in a W.H.O. laboratory (a veritable maze) with dormant undead at every turn. The scripts and Pitt play Gerry right, though; he’s not a can-do skull basher, he’s a thinker and a plotter, susceptible, vulnerable and human, more MacGyver than Rambo.
The film — directed by Marc Forster, who’s been all over the map with “Monster’s Ball” and a Bond credit — does an effusive job of rendering the world spanning terror. The scenes of broad carnage–that Philly traffic jam and the scaling of the wall in Israel by a zombie flesh ladder, which must be some type spin on the Tower of Babble — astound in scale, authenticity, and the seamless blend of FX and live action. If the story bogs down, it’s in its disjointedness. Each stop along the way feels like a chapter written by a different author; and that would be correct, as the script credits listed in IMDB require more comas that I care to entertain.
The end also comes (too) quick and rushed (and a bit of a groaner to boot), and there’s not enough screen time for Mireillie Enos of “The Killing,” who plays Pitt’s wife and the mother of their two daughters. The family tie binds the film nicely and Forster and Pitt hold it from going over and into cliché and hyperbole. The result is lithe and agile, and intrinsically eerie enough to keep your stomach pinned to the back of your throat throughout.
—- Tom Meek / “Meek at the Movies”

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THIS IS THE END (rating : 3 ***)

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“This is the End” may be the most meta-vanity project ever to come out of Hollywood, where things meta usually don’t fly unless Charlie Kaufman is involved. The film co-written and co-directed by Seth Rogen has Rogen playing Seth Rogen — the asshole extrapolation of himself.  James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride all do the same. Baruchel is the one out of towner visiting Rogen in Los Angeles. Baruchel despises LA and just wants to hangout and smoke weed and watch 3D TV, but Rogen pries him off the couch and drags him to a house party at Franco’s manse.
Pot humor and pop up party guests like Rihanna keep the slow moving premise (Baruchel also hates Hill and is a bit of whining wet noodle to boot) alive, though there are nuggets of WTF humor that snap you out of the stupor : for example,  Michael Cera (yup, the anemic sweet wimp from “Juno”) doing blow and getting a rim job in the bathroom while sipping an effete cocktail that he seemingly relishes more than the sex act.
If that’s not an apocalyptic vision, the real apocalypse does arrive. A la the Rapture and Judgment Day, ‘good’ people are sucked up in blue tractor beams; the middlers and miscreants are left on Earth to perish in the building inferno. No one at Franco’s party gets beamed up to say the least, and, as the hills of Hollywood burn, it takes a while before the revelation sets in, and when it does, the sink hole from hell (literally) opens up and takes all but the main lads.
Most everything on view is aflame, and the six performers bunker up in Franco’s art-deco fortress, smoke more weed, divvy up supplies and jockey for masturbation rights to the lone porn mag in the house. McBride, so funny and unshakable in “Pineapple Express,” turns out to be the loose cannon, depleting the supplies in a matter of minutes; and Emma Watson shows up to provide a sexual distraction, not to mention dissension and Potter jokes.
This film, ostensibly birthed by the 2007 short film “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse,” gets teeth from its self-deprecating nature. When wondering if they’ll be saved, one the insightful lot remarks, “They always save actors and famous people first.” One of the film’s wittier turns has Franco breaking out the video-camera from “127 Hours” and the boys making a cheeky, low-fi sequel to “Pineapple Express.” Things that don’t work so well are the heavily peddled spoof of “The Exorcist.” It’s dull, uninspired flatness will leave your head spinning.
Outside creatures that look like the minions of the Gatekeeper in “Ghostbusters” or some rubber costume baddie in a Scooby Doo episode tear up the turf. Eventually the posse must venture out; and when they do, the scale of special FX won’t wow you so much as make you wonder how such a hokey skit idea stretched into a feature length film got such big dollars.
“This is the End,” won’t get you any deeper into the personas on display or change your perception of them, no matter how you feel about them, but it will make you laugh — and test your patience a bit too.
—- Tom Meek  / “Meek at the Movies”

WE ENDORSE, FINALLY : ED MARKEY FOR US SENATE

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(photo: courtesy dailykos.com )

If you’re a Massachusetts voter, you almost certainly have found this year’s US Senate seat campaign a puzzling event. Boring, too. That is not what we in Massachusetts expect. We expect and want eloquent, bold, knowledgeable Senators who go to Washington and make a difference, for Massachusetts and the nation. It was that way when Scott Brown faced Elizabeth Warren. It had been that way with Ted Kennedy and with John Kerry, whose resignation to become Secretary of State brought about this year’s election. It had been that way before, all the way back to Daniel Webster and Charles Sumner.

Yet here we are, with two candidates each of whose candidacies brings not eloquence or boldness but enigma. About Markey, one has to ask : why is he giving up 37 years seniority in Congress — seniority which is good for Massachusetts — to become an entirely freshman Senator ? In the case of Gabriel Gomez, the Republican, the riddle is, if you’re going to run for such a high office your first time out, why not be bold ? Why not rivet our attention ? Why not have a message or a vision that gives us a reason to reject Ed Markey’s proven competence, and his commitment to agendas most Massachusetts voters support ? Gomez has failed that test.

He has failed in two ways. First, by not putting forward any such message or vision, he has failed the voters. Second, because a Republican, if he is to overcone Massachusetts’s deep aversion to the national GOP, must speak boldly and even beyond bold; must put forth an agenda so progressive and comprenhsive as to take a Massachusetts voter’s breath away. A message to make a Bay State voter say, “This guy is great ! The national GOP will never control him ! Heck, the national GOP had better watch out !”

To say the least, Gomez has done no such thing. He has barely said anything at all, and what he has said fits — at best — into the dullest, and sometimes most damaging — his refusal to back an assault weapons ban –of national GOP talking points.

Meanwhile, Ed Markey has aid nothing bold either, and his giving up his seniority hurts his own cause as well as our state’s.

Still, until 2014, when hopefully our State can finally elect a bold, attention-getting Senator to a next full term, Markey will do a better job of continuing William “Mo” Cowan’s service as our state’s temporary Senator than can Gomez. Markey, at least, has knowledge, commitment, and long relationships with many Senators. No temporary Senator has a better chance than Markey will, of advancing legislation important to the nation’s progress and vital for directing scarce Federal funds to our state’s defense industry and education institutions.

We endorse the election of Ed Markey to the remaining year and a half of this Senate seat’s current term.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

SIMPLE TO COMPLEX, LIKE LIFE ITSELF : CHUS + CEBALLOS @ BIJOU BOSTON 06.14.13

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At Bijou on Friday night the Madrid-based DJ team of Chus and Ceballos dropped a masterly, three and a half hour set on a dance floor as crowded as always happens when this duo comes to town. They did not disappoint. Their set moved straight ahead, a long train ride as metaphor for the long ride that is life itself. We grow up from the simplicities of childhood to the ever more quizzical disputations and demands that pressure us as we come of age. At Bijou, Chus and Ceballos worked just that sort of narrative and message.

The music advanced from basic blues, bottom rhythms to overlay blends, then to overlays with streaks added and conversations; then to rhythms themselves more streaky and complicated, alongside top-octave sound effects intensely varied. The duo’s mixes, too, progressed from simple to not at all simple. DJ Chus, as inspired a shape-maker as any, bent and twisted the music, stuttered it, fade-knobbed it, and bounced it from one mode to another with intensifying aggressiveness.

His mixes touched skin and bit deep. From one-two-three on the fingers, the rhythm and scream of Chus’s work inexorably pulled the dancers beyond control into its vortices of ambition, doubt, wants, needs, dreams, and siren calls variously lovely or fatal. It was a sweet sound at first, then sparkly, cool as a crush.

As always, they worked two mix boards and two PCs; and, as always, it was Ceballos who cued up tempos and tracks — and mixed the basics — and Chus who crafted the complication. Ceballos mixed his stuff using headphones, Chus shape-shifted almost always without them.

Because Chus and Ceballos have been doing their work for a long time;  because as house music has grown up, so they too have grown, with and by way of the music. And thus their life narrative was theirs as well as one for the Bijou fans. To make the point quite clear, they tooled into their set a great many tracks from their personal journey, including Todd Terry’s “Can You Feel It,” 1972’s disco classic “Soul Makossa,” and a drastic re-work of The Fog’s 1994 “Fired Up.” Also in their flashback mix were the venerable house track “Preacher,” samplings of Danny Tenaglia’s “Elements,” the monologue from Victor Calderone’s “Let Me Set You Free,” Queen’s scream from 1980’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” and — a staple of Chus and Ceballos sets — portions of two Celeda sides, “Music Is the Answer” and “The Underground.”

In addition, they slid all sorts of throwback voices into their mix, plus some segments of 1978-ish reggae toasting. And of course their basic choogle recalls that of Creedence Clearwater doing the Bayou slop. Their past is, as one expects, 40 years, at least, extensive and wide-ranging. They used all of it at Bijou.

None of these memory sweeps dominated their rhythmic progress. Their own more recent tracks, including the dreamy “Partenza” and the samba-fierce “Quimera.” (co-produced with Marcello Castelli), assured as much.

Rhythm dominated, persuaded, tossed the dancers . Choogle became  rumble, strut, sizzle and stutter. Upper register screams jazzed the beat; screeches lit it up. And then — in the final forty minutes or so, Chus and Pablo blew samba beats past talk which lifted the samba onto a babble of many percussions running across each other’s path.

This sounds like a heap of blues, and for Pablo and Chus, the blues it was. But it also sounds like an exciting adventure; Chus and Pablo’s long set was an exciting sonic adventure for sure. One that the Bijou crowd could not get enough of or adequately respond to except by yelling and dancing and raising their hands in stunned astonishing.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feeling the Music”

RATING : sublime

MASSACHUSETTS : NO ENDORSEMENT YET FOR US SENATOR

Markey ... Gomez

 

Ed Markey (D)               Gabriel Gomez (R)

In twelve (12) days Massachusetts voters will elect anerw Senator to go to Washington in place of John Kerry, who resigned to become Secretary of State.

Twelve days, and we at Here and Sphere are having a peck of trouble trying to decide who to support. For the Republicans there is Gabriel Gomez, who has never held any elective office, seems unfamiliar with the issues, and appears reluctant to advance any issues that matter to anyone who’s not a politics junkie. For the Democrats, there is Ed Markey, 37 years a Congresssman, who knows the issues cold and says only too clrearly how he will vote: as a Massachusetts Democrat. And this we of course like.

But Markey could vote his views just as well in his Congress seat. Indeed, it puzzles us why Markey is, at this late stage in his career, surrendering 37 years of seniority — clout which benefits Massachusetts — to become a very junior Senator. By not electing him to the Senate, our state retains the advantages of Markey’s seniority.

That alone gives us reason to advance the candidacy of Gabriel Gomez. But we hesitate, because to the extent that we know anythying at all about what kind of Senator he might be, we don’t like it. For example :

He has a “plan to reboot Congress,” but his procedural reforms do not mention the only one that really matters: curbing the filibuster.

On abortion, he says he has no litmus test for Supreme Coiurt nominees, but he wants to write into law a 24-hour “waitng period” for wpomen seeking abortion procedure. Siuch a waiting period may be advisable as a matter of medical. ethiocs, but writing it into law intrudes lawyers and courts upon decisions that only a woman and her doctor(s) have competence to decide.

On gun control, he opposes a federal assault weapon ban — a ban that our previous Republican Senator, Scott Brown, supported.

He is for repealing Obamacare, which has given as many as 50,000,000 uninsured people — mostly of very limited income — health insurance. Whatever its other merits or drawbacks may be, universal health insurance enables people to get well and thus not cost our economy the impediment of workers taking sick days or even extended health absences. Not to mention the loss of income to such workers, almost all of whom cannot afford to forego even one week’s pay.

On taxation and the budget, Gomez thinks it OK to discuss eliminating all kinds of current income tax deductions, including the mortgage interest deduction, upon which most homewoners depend when budgeting their monthly mortgage payment.

Gomez’s stated positions — albeit in most cases worded vaguely and often walked back — would be sufficient grounds for rejecting his candidacy and endorsing Markey’s. Except that it’s not at all clear that Gomez would follow through on any of his stated positions were he to be elected. His vagueness and waffling force us to view him as either a very shifty advocate, or to wonder if he simply doesn’t know what he is talking about. Or is he asking, “Trust me to do the right thing, and I will do it” ? Voters rightly feel manipulated by this Hobson’s choice.

Still, Gomez is, as many Massachusetts voters are saying, “a new voice.’ Two debates have broken his newness in, sometimes to the good. He is spurning the national GOP’s right wing and its loony views; he would surely be a vote for comprehensive immigration reform; and there remains one more debate with Markey, at which Gomez can ramp up his issues advocacy, maybe.

Given our feeling that Markey can do more for Massachusetts by retaining his seniority as a Congressman, we’ll give Gomez this one last chancve to tell, us why he is ready to be a Massachusetts Senator and not just an amateurish twist in the wind of favor versus unfavor.

—- Michael Freedberg for Here and Sphere