THE VOICE OF ENERGY VOL. 061.5
Good day, friends. I trust this finds you well. I'd like to welcome the new subscribers to the fold - and encourage you to consider upgrading to a paid subscription. For $5/month, you'll get bonus newsletters, free stuff, and my undying love. Might even open it up for questions from you all or audio or some other components to make it worth your while.
Even if you don't join the paying ranks, I'm going to need your help in the future sharing these newsletters far and wide. As you may or may not know, I'm deleting my main Twitter account. For my mental health. Was getting way too wrapped up in trying to keep up with everything being fired at me every minute and could feel a desperate desire for engagement and likes growing within. Been staying away for the most part this past week and feel immensely better already. That may mean less eyes on my writing work, but it's a fair tradeoff for my overall sanity.
So, if you would please share these little missives with your friends and followers, I'd appreciate it. I set up a Twitter account for this newsletter (@voiceofenergy) for easy RTing and what not.
Alright. Enough of my yakking. Let's get to the good stuff.
WHAT TO WATCH
Azor (2021, dir. Andreas Fontana)
One of the finest films of the year sneaks out into the wider world through the little streaming service that could that is MUBI. Filmmaker Andreas Fontana makes up for a lack of straight up action with a feeling of squeezing intensity and dread as we follow Yvan, a Swiss banker, as he and his wife travel through Argentina in 1980. It's the period following the overthrow of the Perón government and the tightening grip of the junta. Yvan feels all this at a remove as he negotiates various deals and picks up the pieces from his vanished predecessor. But through his interactions with old money, the clergy, and young Argentinians taking advantage of the pillaging of the region's history and the growing class divisions. If you can't spot the connections Fontana is making to our current sociopolitical landscape, you really aren't paying attention. (streaming on MUBI)
The Killer Elite (1975, dir. Sam Peckinpah)
The creeping dread instilled in the U.S. via the Nixon administration infected the world of cinema in a fascinating way in the middle part of the ’70s. One great example is this knotty drama starring James Caan as a freelance spy who get double-crossed by an associate (played by Caan's Godfather co-star Robert Duvall) and spends the rest of the film looking for revenge as they battle over a foreign dignitary. Simple enough on paper, but director Sam Peckinpah injects it with a deep cynicism and black humor that goes surprisingly well with the action sequences and Cann and Duvall's clenched jaw acting. (streaming on Hoopla and Tubi)
Mimì metallurgico ferito nell'onore (1972, dir. Lina Wertmüller)
The world of cinema lost another great this month with the death of Italian director Lina Wertmüller at age 93. The first woman to earn a Best Director nomination at the Oscar and a statue in 2019 for her lifetime of work. If you've never dived into her work before, my suggestion would be to start with this film—better known to international audiences as The Seduction of Mimi. It showcases Wertmüller's deep empathy for blue collar Italians as she brings us in to the life of a metalworker (played by Giancarlo Giannini) pulled between the influences of the Mafia, the worker's unions, and his own dreams. Throw in a little romantic bumbling with his Communist wife and the result is a near perfect dramedy. (streaming on Criterion Channel and Kanopy)
WHAT TO HEAR
Jeff Parker: Forfolks (International Anthem/Nonesuch)
For as skeptical as I was about the independent label International Anthem hitching their apple wagon to the Warner Records-adjacent Nonesuch, this loose partnership has yielded some real beauty. Case in point is the new album from guitarist Jeff Parker. It's a strictly solo effort that finds Parker messing with loop pedals in unexpected fashion, like repeating a bit of guitar hum on "Suffolk" over which he begins to layer a Reichian splay of polyrhythmic melodies, and absolutely dazzling on the flushed cheek drones of his Monk interpretation "Ugly Beauty" and his heartfelt return to a melody familiar to fans of his work in Isotope 217 and Tortoise on "La Jetee."
Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos (Atlantic)
Much as I love the politically charged work that Marc Ribot has been getting up to of late with his trio Ceramic Dog, I would love for him to return to this delightful project that finds him fucking around with the music of Arsenio Rodriguez with a few original compositions thrown in the mix. Ribot's spiky, devilish guitar tone throughout feels like little lightning bolts shocking himself, his band, and the listener awake over and over again.
Beauty Pill: Instant Night (Northern Spy)
I remember reading an interview with Chad Clark during his days leading the band Smart Went Crazy where he talked about losing his shit on tour, trashing a club bathroom, and being talked down off the ledge by The Dismemberment Plan's Travis Morrison. If memory serves, it was his frustration with trying to deliver his artful, thoughtful version of rock with pie-eyed youngsters in ironic t-shirts. It feels so good to see that Clark has found his people and is connecting with them deeply. And his songwriting has only gotten stronger since he started the brilliant ensemble Beauty Pill. The lineup has changed considerably over the years, but that hasn't affected the consistency and gentle evolution of the songwriting. On the latest EP Instant Night, Clark continues to wear his artificial heart on his sleeve with the title track that looks at the state of the world with a quiet fury and two versions of "You Need A Better Mind," a groovy, thoughtful look at our modern malaise.
WHAT TO READ
Spend some time paying proper tribute to the late great critic Greg Tate. Hua Hsu and Hanif Abdurraqib left me breathless with their tributes. And then just as I was getting my bearings, I lost it all again going through archives of his work for Village Voice and The Wire. I can lie to myself and say I'm a critic, but I'm not even in the same league as Tate. Hardly even playing the same sport.
That said, here's a couple of pieces of mine for you to check out. I previewed upcoming performances in Portland by local artists Saloli and June Magnolia for Oregon Arts Watch. And DownBeat finally published my report from the Other Minds event in San Francisco that included performances by Anthony Braxton, William Winant, Tyshawn Sorey, and many more.
The Sublime Spectacle of Yoko Ono Disrupting the Beatles by Amanda Hess for The New York Times
Ono simply never leaves. She refuses to decamp to the sidelines, but she also resists acting out stereotypes; she appears as neither a doting naïf nor a needling busybody. Instead she seems engaged in a kind of passive resistance, defying all expectations of women who enter the realm of rock genius.
That's what I've got for now. Cooking up some stuff for the next proper edition of the newsletter. I hope you'll join me then.
Artwork for this edition is from Jan Frank whose exhibition Lover Boy opens today at the Gruin Gallery in Los Angeles.