Meeting Necrobutcher from Mayhem, discussing Per Ohlin’s life and the recently announced Lords Of Chaos film

 

Introduction

Earlier this year I attended the 2nd ever Westfest, a metal and hard rock festival staged in Auckland, New Zealand. There was a massive lineup of bands on the bill, including Lamb Of God, Judas Priest, Faith No More and Soundgarden. It was pretty much a New Zealand Soundwave. According to rumour, the festival failed to break even which surprises me given the impressive line-up, but this was perhaps due to the festival being held on a Tuesday more than anything else.

Also playing on the bill was the infamous Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. I was immediately curious about checking out these guys live when I heard of their addition, even though I hadn’t really listened to them since my high school days. Listening to their first EP Deathcrush and reading about the bands dark history was a strong memory from my mid-teen metal head days. I caught up on the bands discography, and found they had plenty more fantastic albums and songs, Freezing Moon off first album De Mysteriis Dom SathanasMy Death off Chimera, Psywar off newest album Esoteric Warfare to name a few. Their music was complex and aggressive but much more textured and well written than I’d previously assumed.

 

Past controversies

Mayhem‘s past is well documented. Their third lead singer Dead, real name Per Yngve Ohlin joined in 1988 just after the release of the Deathcrush EP. Per lived with fellow Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, aka  Øystein Aarseth, in a house the band also used to practice in. Per was a quiet, reclusive personality and possibly depressed. He killed himself, his body later being found by Øystein/Euronymous, who took photos of the corpse. These photos later turned up on the bootleg live album cover, Dawn Of The Black Hearts, which infuriated Mayhem founding member and bass played Necrobutcher (Jørn). Jørn left the band after that incident, but Euronymous would continue, recruiting Hungarian singer Attila Csihar to fill Dead’s shoes on the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album (using the lyrics largely written by Dead). Varg Vikernes was recruited to fill in as bass player, who also recorded as the artist Burzum. Drummer Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg) filled out the line-up, who had also joined the band after Deathcrush. Tempers would soon flare between Øystein and Varg, with Varg stabbing and killing Øystein (he would plead in self-defense during the court case). Varg would head to jail, leaving Mayhem’s future up in the air.

pelle ohlin 1988

Pelle Ohlin or ‘Dead’ in 1988

Lords Of Chaos

A chance meeting between drummer Hellhammer and Necrobutcher would result in reviving Mayhem and since then they have gone on to release 3 albums, an EP and toured the world, gathering a loyal fanbase. This is a very brief history of the band and you find more definitive histories through out the web, or in documentaries such as Pure Fucking Mayhem. Their complicated and somewhat tragic past has often overshadowed their since productive and relatively normal career’s though, and this continues to be the case, with Hollywood now announcing a film based on the history of the band and particularly murdered guitarist Euronymous, to be directed by Swedish music video director Jonas Akerlund. Akerlund is not a complete stranger to the metal community, having been a drummer in early black metal bands and also the filmmaker for the infamous Candlemass music video, Bewitched. Mayhem singer Dead appears in the Candlemass video, so it’s possible Akerlund and Dead were friends or acquaintances at one stage. Never-the-less, the movie is based on the book Lords Of Chaos, which is not looked at favorably by some parts of the black metal community, for glorifying or being factually wrong regarding the lives of Euronymous and the events that occurred in the history of the band.

Necrobutcher, interviewed recently, is not too happy about this upcoming adaptation. He’s quoted as saying;

This book Lords of Chaos is fucking crap and that some stupid Swedes are gonna make a movie out of it is not OK. I will do everything I can to stop this film… Tell the Swedes and the Hollywood people to go fuck themselves.”

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Jorn or Necrobutcher and I outside the Westfest after party

Meeting Necrobutcher & discussing the real Per Ohlin (Dead)

I met and chatted to Jørn for sometime after the Mayhem concert in Auckland. Although some alcohol may have been involved I got some interesting insight into the workings of the band and Jorn’s own feelings about his bands history and how they’re regarded. Jørn talked about the loss of Per (Dead). Per had been known to talk about killing himself for some time. Jørn said that members of the band had limited patience his comments about suicide. He seemed to imply that Øystein and Hellhammer would say things to the extent of – “if you’re going to keep talking about killing yourself, why don’t you go and do it”. This uncaring attitude seems cruel but in my mind, the band were all very young at that time. They were perhaps short tempered and serious people, but I doubt they would have actually wanted their singer to commit suicide. Jørn stated that he was closest with Per, that Per was a cool guy – shy and with a weird sense of humour. Per apparently avoided eye contact with people – Jørn talked about Per coming over for dinner at his house, and when thanking Jorn’s mum for the food, would have his eyes fixed at the ground. Had Jørn himself had been aware of Per’s final threat to kill himself, Jørn would have tried to stop him. Per had told the other members of the band, but not Jørn, about his plans. Jørn suspects that Per knew Jørn would be the one that would stop him committing this act, hence why he kept it secret.

An early Mayhem band photo, Per Ohlin in the corpse paint

An early Mayhem band photo, Per Ohlin in the corpse paint

I was told about the funeral for Per, that Jørn attending and conversed with many family members morning the loss of the barely beyond teenage years Per. It seems like it would have been a lot for a young musician to cope with. When we read about Mayhem‘s history, it is nearly always exaggerated and played up for shock, treating the drama around the band like tabloid fodder. It’s easy to forget that these were real people, with real struggles and that the bassist commonly known as Necrobutcher was a real guy, playing in a metal band with ambitions to be the next Slayer, who suddenly has to cope with a suicide in the project he had avidly pursued since high school. Jørn leaves the band after the death of Per, angry at Øystein who’d promised to destroy the photos he took of Per’s corpse. He did not, and the image turned up on the cover of a bootleg live release that has now been widely seen. Per had a personality, and circulating the image of his corpse only served to dehumanize him.

Øystein would continue Mayhem without Jørn. The next incarnation of Mayhem would once again come to end with a death, this time Øystein’s, at the hand of the bassist of his own band. Jørn stated he had since forgiven Varg for killing Øystein, he understood why he could have been driven to, although of course didn’t support the crime that took another friend from Jørn’s life. Now he had to deal with the death of another one of his friends and bandmates. Jørn told me that due to these losses, touring with the band is now especially hard, as he has children that he finds it difficult to leave. When he’s on the road, he constantly worries about their safety. So many people look at a band like Mayhem and judge them on past events and their brutal image, without taking into consideration the real personalities within the band.

The current Mayhem line up (from left) Hellhammer, Ghul, Attila, Teloch, Necrobutcher

The current Mayhem line up (from left) Hellhammer, Ghul, Attila, Teloch, Necrobutcher

I talked to Jørn about a whole lot more general stuff, not just the heavy topics, just generally discussing the current Mayhem live set-up. We talked about their songs and I rambled to him about how awesome it was to be partying with a whole bunch of music fans to a classic like Chainsaw Gutsfuck. Apparently the bands gear had been stuck in America and couldn’t get to Australasia for this tour so they were forced to borrow Fear Factory’s gear, hence a rawer set (no triggers on the drums I believe and mostly old favourites played, not many from the new album). We also discussed the controversial/racist comments that drummer Hellhammer had made in an interview (Jørn brought this up, I didn’t prompt him) with Jørn expressing his disapproval at what he said (black metal is only for white people – or something pretty disgusting). This has apparently caused Mayhem to have problems playing with other bands. Napalm Death, long-time friends of Jørn, had banned Mayhem from the guest list at their gigs. This harsh feeling has somewhat cooled down, and although Hellhammer hasn’t retracted his statements it seemed some consolation that Jørn didn’t agree with them and felt them just another set back, another controversy in Mayhem’s history to distract from the music they were making. I have to admit, getting into Mayhem I had reservations due to the connection with racism through the drummers comments. I had to do some research to decide whether I would follow this band. Talking to Jørn made me realize the the complicated nature behind band dynamics and that even if one band member says something, the rest of the band doesn’t necessarily agree with it. It is still a complicated and off putting issue and I believe if the band want to be recognized on a wider scale, one step would be to publicly denounce these prior ignorant and inflammatory comments.

 

Conclusion

Jørn and Mayhem have had a whole career, nearly 25 years since those dark events transpired in the bands history in the early 90s. They’ve recorded four albums since the death of guitarist and founding member Øystein, and have largely avoided controversy since. In an artistic sense, Mayhem have always been motivated by pushing extreme music to the next level. Their divisive image reflects this, and even though their history has been forever tainted with several tragic events – they are a band like any other, one that was started by music fans back in high school and that has achieved what all teenage musicians dream of – having a legacy and influence that would ripple out through-out a worldwide music community.
The upcoming Lords Of Chaos film will be interesting – will it tell the story of Mayhem with sensitivity, respecting the fact that the deceased singer Per/Dead was a real person, a shy and sensitive guy who was overwhelmed with his own internal darkness, or will it sensationalize the events that transpired? Regardless, it’s good to keep in mind the complexities behind any horrible story, that there are real people and lives affected even in a band that are as misanthropic on a surface level as Mayhem.

It’s quite possible that I’m a kiwi fan who got a thrill from talking to a crazy Scandinavian bass player from the other side of the world that goes by Necrobutcher and who was keen to down some vodka sodas and indulge me in asking way too personal questions about his life and career. That’s probably closer to the truth.

On a side note, I also chatted to Attila for a while after Necrobutcher departed back to his hotel. Also a cool guy, we discussed some pretty crazy stuff, but at the risk of sounding like to much of a fan, I’ll save that for another time.

Attila Csihar

Attila Csihar

 

 

[Concert Review] Eagles, Mt. Smart (or how to watch stadium concerts for free)

It might be unwise to advertise this, as it might ruin my chances of being able to pull it off in the future – but watching large, expensive stadium concert for free is a lot easier than you’d imagine.

Eminem I watched from the top of a walking track (Bullock, for those in the know), placed perfectly so as to see the Western Springs stage and screen. The audio may not have been perfect, with vocals only somewhat comprehensible, but 30 – 40 of us had a good ol’ time watching the Detroit MC tear it up, free of charge – and BYO as well. For that concert I followed the lead of others and eventually made it into Western Springs amphitheater in time for the encore, Lose Yourself – which seemed an appropriate moment to celebrate joining the age old club of the concert fence jumper.

I repeated the experience a few Saturday’s ago for Eagles – who rolled into Auckland on the back of their History of the Eagles world tour. I’d not planned to see them live – I’d recently been spoiled with great concerts (that I paid for), of Laneway Festival 2015, Drake and Westfest, the latter of which included great sets from Mayhem, Lamb Of God and Judas Priest (I hope to review these soon – will perhaps review them in a reverse chronological order). But Saturday came round and the Eagles called. All through-out that day I had Desperado and Take It Easy in my head, alternating on repeat. So at 7.40pm, knowing the Eagles were due on roughly about that time, I took a train to Mt. Smart without a ticket in hand. Not knowing if I would find a scalper selling a cheaper ticket as so often happens I rocked up to the stadium, only to find the only option for ticket purchasing was a $150 seat right at the back. Eagles were already up to Peaceful Easy Feeling. I decided to flag laying down a large sum to sit in the back of the stadium and instead opted for circling the stadium, soaking up the aural vibes (the sound was oddly good outside the stadium), and scoping out potential fences to jump.

The fences all proved too high and too risky, but I eventually found a spot with a perfect viewing angle towards the stage. I was behind a fence, but the sound was still top notch, and I was pretty much parallel to the stands at the back of the stadium. At this point the band had finished their first set, one that largely highlighted their ballads and after a brief interlude they would return with a decidedly more upbeat second half.

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The Eagles are pretty uncool in a way, their songs have been bashed to death by oldies radio stations, and though it may be kind of like commenting of the vastness of the grand canyon – they sounded amazing live. It might be something about the style of music they play but it seemed perfectly suited to stadium acoustics – not something you can claim of all genres. Of course the huge team of sound engineers and millions of dollars they’re making for the playing the show probably helped as well. The vocal harmonies, dry drum sound, tight bass and jangly guitar of which is characteristic of the Eagles sound sounded crystal clear even as far back as I was, it was almost as if current core-Eagles Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt weren’t really there, and that we were all just watching holograms broadcast from a futuristic blu-ray player on to the stage.

You can criticize a band for sounding too much like their studio albums, but there’s also something to be said for giving the people want they want. Dad rockers and mainstream music fans were in ecstasy as the band belted out hit after hit. Early songs such as Doolan-Dalton sounded fantastic, with founding member Bernie Leadon re-joining the band for this tour, adding further to the authenticity. There was perhaps a bit too much self-congratulating, with the story of the band being told between performances (this being a tour inspired by a documentary), but moments such as the underrated These Shoes, Joe Walsh’ Life’s Been Good absolutely rocked.

At least from where I was behind a fence at the back of the stadium they seemed to rock.

To sum up this brief post,  I recommend trying your hardest to find the cheapest way in to the next big stadium concert you’re weighing up. You might not be right at the front, but you’ll still get all the atmosphere and almost the same show at not nearly the price. If fence jumping isn’t your thing, you could always try asking for a ticket from someone leaving the show early. Worked for me at both the 2nd Queen + Adam Lambert show and the Black Caps vs. South Africa cricket world cup semi-final at Eden Park. A great match might I add, thanks very much to the family who gave me their space ticket to watch the last few overs for free.

eden park cricket semi-final black caps south africa

Posse In Effect – Lazarus [NEW EP]

Posse In Effect is the indie rap project of myself and Andy Weston. We’re both based in different cities (Melbourne and Auckland) so touring is a bit of an improbability, but we’ve managed to make a few music videos when in the same city, as well as two EPs. Our second EP, Lazarus was released last week, and was a labor of love over the last few months. Demos and song sketches were sent to one another, which were slowly built over time, sending various drafts back and forth, adding new elements, replacing samples, getting guest vocalists and musicians in while trying to get the songwriting to the best possible standard.

Big shout out to the guest musicians and all those who helped during the making of the EP. Credits are below.

We’re pretty happy with the result – it’s good, diverse, New Zealand accent rap. Check it out by clicking on the image below, it’ll take you directly to our bandcamp. Give us a like on Facebook here, and tell us what you think.

Posse In Effect Lazarus

 

Tracks 2, 3, 5, 6: Hamish Gavin
Tracks 1, 4: Andy Weston

Guest Rappers/Singers:
Sam Blissett (Sammy B)
Kellie McDonald (K-Mac)
Harley Neville (The Nevs)
Aidan Ginn (Doughnut Boy)
Hamish Marchant (Marshon)
Rachel Trainor (Raq-Hell)

Guest Musicians:
Nic Dwyer
Drew Handcock (Skillrex)

Mixed and Mastered: Hamish Gavin

Artwork: Andy Weston

2015 PIE Productions

The Theory Of Everything – Hawking on film

I’ve been out of touch with films for some time, so I thought I’d better catch up, seeing as it’s the Academy Awards later this week. I’m pretty jaded these days and I know longer care who wins the big awards, and I’m fairly jaded with the experience of going to the cinema as well, but never-the-less I gave this Stephen Hawking bio-pic a go.

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It’s a good film, and though predictable in usual Oscar bait fashion, Eddie Redmayne as Hawking is pretty remarkable, as is Felicity Jones as his wife, Jane Wilde. It cannot have been easy for Redmayne to pull off the various stages of Hawking’s life, both the eccentricity of his early life and his rapid physical decline due to motor neurone disease. The filmmakers never get manipulative with the emotional content of the story, instead presenting it as it was, investigating the complex nature of Hawking and Wilde’s relationship as they move from being loves, to husband and wife, and encounter many of the same issues that face all couples.

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The direction is clever, with certain elements chosen to reflect Hawking’s theories (particularly those about time). The science is simplified, but not skipped over, so the film is some sense representative of Hawking’s career.

Perhaps what I like most about the film, is it has gotten me interested again in Hawking. I’ve always meant to read his Brief History Of Time and I imagine soon I will. The film has so far inspired me to watch the Errol Morris documentary based on that book and I recommend that film to anyone interested in Hawking’s life and his ideas. It goes well beyond the scope of a bio-pic, so in my opinion it’s still the more necessary of Hawking on film. The whole thing is on youtube, so check it out if you haven’t yet. Produced in the late-80s, Hawking narrates the film from his wheel chair, via characteristic robotic speech. Exploring both his theories and his life, with re-enactments, archival footage, interviews with his family and colleagues and fantastic sci-fi-esque sequences that portray Hawking as a mysterious traveler of space and time – the film is a masterpiece of mixed media documentary form. Surely one of Morris’ best, if not one of the greatest documentary’s ever.

After I’ve read Brief History of Time and perhaps some more recent of Hawking’s writings (and anything else relevant), I hope to be able to discuss his theories more in depth and will hopefully do so on this blog. He has lived a very inspirational life, as the recent bio-pic and classic documentary reveal. Not everyone would lose all their motor functions, their ability to speak and continue to do work and live a relatively normal life –  it helps I guess that Hawking had the money and esteem for nurses and technology and people to help him through his struggles, but never-the-less, as particularly the documentary points out – not everyone could live and create a life’s work predominantly inside their head (without being able to greatly make contact with the outside work in a traditional way) .

Towards the end of Brief History Of Time, things get really deep, discussing the curved nature of the universe, the fact that it may not have a beginning or an end – and that how many calculations seem to indicate that the future effects the past. All awesome and mid boggling theories. Hawking ends by discussing how, if scientists, philosophers and the general public are able to one day discover the meaning of our existence on earth – then we will know the mind of God. Massive ideas there, and very inspiring – part of why Hawking’s influence has traveled so far, from books, to documentaries, to Oscar contending bio-pics.

briefhistory

[Review] Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)

 

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The life of Roger Ebert, flaws and all is celebrated in this particularly moving documentary on the late, great cinematic figure. I initially wasn’t going to review this film, but Ebert is an inspirational kind of person, if an unlikely one, and his love of film makes film criticism seem like something honorable. His was an arguably right-place, right-time kind of success story, and film criticism does not have any kind of the weight now that it had in Ebert’s prime, thanks to sprawling destructive beast that is the internet. But any art-form has it’s golden era, and film criticism is no different. Ebert is one of the lucky few to have been able to do what he loved for a job, perfected it and been recognized for his talents. A colossal presence in the world of film criticism, Ebert’s love of film as presented in this film is infectious.

ebert siskel

The real reason why Ebert has such a moving and successful documentary made about him when so many other deceased writers, Hollywood figures and film reviewers have not, is that we can learn a lot from how he responded to the challenges thrown at him in the last several years of his life. Having lost his jaw to thyroid cancer, he chose not to give up and throw in the towel, but instead to carry on reviewing films, carry on hosting lectures and write even more through his blog. He was helped with the love of his very loyal wife, so not only do we get an insight into personal struggle and hope that can found within but also an insight into the lives of those who will continue to care for us even in ailment. Ebert’s relationship with his wife is a particularly moving thread throughout the film, an unlikely relationship in some ways as his wife even admits.

The documentary is well pieced together, jumping between narrated sections taken from Ebert’s book also titled Life Itself, cutting to his youth and early career and to struggles in between. Ebert’s life is presented warts and all and the documentary makers don’t shy from talking about his troubles, such as alcoholism in his youth. His relationship with Gene Siskel is equally shown in an unbiased light, showing the tension between the two, both rival reviewers of different Chicago papers, and how strained their relationship behind the set of At The Movies often was. Siskel is shown as being creatively more dominant in decisions regarding At The Movies, yet Ebert was crucial to the success of the TV show. Ebert held the cards with each ongoing season of At The Movies, with Siskel said to have been in fear that his partner would eventually go solo. The developing dynamics between the two are explored as we see them becoming a tighter unit, and eventually friends.

life-itself-documentary

The life of a film critic might not seem the most gripping subject for a documentary but this film ends up being about so much more, showing a life fully lived –  with all aspects of Ebert’s inspiring and very human journey explored. Ebert truly loved life – and film just as much. If he was alive to watch this biographical documentary on himself, he most certainly would have given t a very favorable rating. Probably even two thumbs up.

Final thoughts on film and music for 2014 (Babadook, Under The Skin, The Interview)

The year has pretty much ended, only one Wednesday left to go. This is the time of year for reflection, so without getting too deep into rumination I will attempt one last discussion of the years cultural moments that resonated with me. There’s quite few albums and films I haven’t discussed throughout the year, so for the sake of conclusiveness I’ll write them up here.

Films

In the previous post I discussed favourite films from 2014, but there were a few I missed. I’ve recently been catching up on missed films, which I probably should have included in that list. One of which is The Babadook, an Australian horror directed by actor and first time director, Jennifer Kent. This is a thinking persons psychological horror, heart felt as well as horrible and dealing with relatable themes. Critics loved this and it’s worth checking out, some very creepy moments and clever twists and turns. Comparable to classic horror/dramas like The Exorcist or Asian horror – it’s hard to discuss the narrative without giving away too much, so I’ll leave it vague. The acting of six-year old Noah Wiseman is notable as well, and credit to director Kent for getting such a performance from a child.

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Another I enjoyed is the much raved about Under The Skin, from Jonathon Glazer, an unusual science fiction thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seducing and preying on men in Scotland. The aesthetic is a mix of realism and fantasy, with hidden cameras employed in the driving scenes – some conversations unscripted with non-actors. This is juxtaposed with stylized scenes – once Johansson’s unnamed creature succeeds in seducing a victim back to a desolate flat in the middle of some Scottish city, we enter a surreal black environment where men are sucked into this infinite dark swamp. These unusual images contrast with the gritty bleakness of the Scottish normality, although there is also something I found quite appealing about the northern landscape. In many ways the film is Johansson’s, she dominates the screen, her sensuality subverted into something sinister. But this is certainly not a horror film, more of an observation on modern life and the search for human connection in our distant contemporary communities – through the eyes of a creature far from human. The narrative becomes more complex throughout the running time and the themes are subverted further. Probably a surprise it’s so successful given the strange combination of styles, but deserving of the critical response and a film that will outlast many other 2014 releases.

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Upstream Color, the second from Primer director Shane Carruth was equally unusual and contained within it a wealth of themes ready to be unpacked by an undergrad film class. It’s entertainment value is arguable, and it is challenging, but the sound design is amazing, and credit to the skilled way the narrative is chopped up and gradually presented to the audience throughout the film. Worth a mention, but not my favourite of the years offerings.

Lastly, The Interview, which I have to mention as it’s last minute Christmas VOD release makes at least the last most talked about film of 2014. I enjoyed the film, not as much as Franco and Rogan’s previous This Is The End, but it’s not as bad as the pre-release reviews would have had me believe. There are lot of funny moments, it’s all immature as hell, but the script misses opportunities to properly critique American foreign policy, the media and the great dictatorship of our time. What we’ve got is a pretty good mainstream Hollywood comedy, which is better than the bulk of Hollywood comedies (but that’s not saying much). Rogan is likeable and there are some good performances from Randall Park as Kim Jong-un (giving a very Americanized performance) and Diana Bang as a North Korean minister and romantic interest Sook. I laughed a lot – at the repeated gags, slapstick scenarios and buddy-comedy situations, but the irresponsible elements of the narrative remained distasteful after the credits rolled. Although I initially enjoyed the gory shoot-out towards the end as a bit of comic fun, I can’t get with the killing of Kim Jong-un on screen – even if it is for the sake of a mildly funny Katie Perry joke (this context was not apparent when the footage was first released). The moral the filmmakers leave us with is that violence solves everything, an all too American approach, and one only has to take a look at the result of violence within the US to know this is false. It’s a film yes, and not something to be taken serious – it’s good the film was released, censorship is bullshit – but killing Kim Jong-un was not actually necessary to the plot of the film and there were many other less-arrogant ways the filmmakers could have ended things. There were more subtle options the filmmakers could have taken – a fictional dictatorship for example – from a capitalist perspective at least (one of making a profit that is), they’ve probably made the right choice.

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Music

I was going to end by talking about some of my most enjoyed music picks from 2014, but I feel I’ve talked enough now – so true to the title of this blog, I’m going to shut up. Instead I’ll let the tracks speak for themselves. I haven’t blogged a heck of a lot about music so this is perhaps something I’ll try to do more of next year. For now, here are some of the albums worthy of a bash from 2014.

Run The Jewels 2

The best rap album this year. El-P brings his best beats, and along with Killer Mike trade some great, angry, revolutionary and witty rhymes. No filler, all killer.

Ariel Pink – Pom Pom

A time warp to a musical age in between the 80s and 90s that never existed. Yet one that is really catchy, full of odd and interesting characters and much diversity.

Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

Not necessarily a great album, but there’s a lot of diversity in the tracks and some inventive flows. She tries a bit hard at times, but this track bangs.

Jack White – Lazaretto

The best Led Zeppelin and Rage Against The Machine song released this year. Fat as hell guitar tone from Mr. White. Good ideas all throughout the album as well.

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How will 2015 stack up against ’14? I predict it to be better music wise (new Kendrick Lamar and new Kanye will shake things up rap wise no doubt), but perhaps it’ll be a bit harder to match twenty fourteens film effort. Of course there’ll be a bunch more important things happening world wide in current events as well. Hopefully the world doesn’t end, and hopefully things in our personal lives go well also. I’m sure they will. On that note of positivity, see you next year!

A few favourite 2014 cinema experiences

There has been a lot of great films this year, but I’ve forgotten most of them or missed them for various reasons, never-the-less here’s a few of my favourites. (oh, and – Merry Christmas Eve!)

Concerning Violence / We Come As Friends

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One of the best documentaries at the NZIFF Concerning Violence (Göran Olsson), also one of the most intense. A sad and violent reflection of the affect of colonial rule on African people. Adapted from an academic study on the subject, but put together with news images from a Swedish news archive. Doesn’t sound like the most entertaining prospect on paper, and it’s probably not, but it is intense, important and thought provoking. Also worth a watch was a documentary on South Sudan, We Come As Friends (Hubert Sauper). Friends is the more contemporary, following Sauper as he flies around South Sudan, interviewing the rich and poor, wealthy investors and impoverished locals. Also good example of how modern digital filmmaking techniques can be employed (such as using smart phone cameras to conduct covert interviews.

Whiplash

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Nail biting, gut wrenching drama about something close to my heart – drumming. Through the story of the super-ambitious and talented Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) we are introduced to the world of academic music performance, and the sink or swim environment of the big leagues of Jazz. Neiman is enrolled in Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the states, and promptly becomes the pupil of it’s most famous conductor/teacher, Terence Fletcher. Neiman wants to be the best, like Buddy Rich, and Fletcher will help him get there, but the manipulative and abusive journey Fletcher forces him to take makes you wonder what’s the worth. Never the less, the film got me practicing drums for hours after viewing, and even those uninterested in jazz and music will find something to enjoy in this superbly scripted and shot narrative by second time director Damien Chazelle.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s latest was funny, beautifully shot with a great cast and littered with references to classic literature and cinema. Mostly just one of the most fun films of the year, with a touching script and lots of great Anderson visual ideas, such as the mixing of animation styles with live action.

Nightcrawler

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This years Drive, Taxi Driver, American Psycho, Network – though closer to Drive than the others. An unpredictable thriller about a slightly unhinged man, his personality quirks never fully explained, who when unemployed and searching for work stumbles across his passion – freelance news footage capturing, or Nightcrawling. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the nightcrawler, Lou Bloom, who’s determination to get ahead in the modern capitalist world sees him sacrificing all those around him –  and getting away with it. Bloom’s encouraged by the producer of a local late night television station, Ninia (Rene Russo), who relishes his voyeuristic footage and airs it to huge ratings – making obvious parallels with the state of news broadcasting in 2014, where we find for example the death of Eric Garner aired on a screens frequently. Darkly funny, morbidly brutal, the film features a stunning performance from Gyllenhaal, that is both creepy, scary and sympathetic in equal turns. The feature debut from Dan Gilroy, visually polished and thematically relevant, surely one of the darkest films to have been a success this year.

Boyhood

Boyhood

Shot over eleven years with the same cast, has any other mainstream director other than Richard Linklater attempted this? I doubt it, and the wikipedia page confirms my suspicions. I like this film so much, I’m not even sure how to praise it, other than that Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and the two lead kids Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater put in great performance, with the script adapter and tailored to suit the real life changes in the kids personalities, as well as the parents characters adapted from the real life families of Arquette and Hawke. The film is relatable, insightful and as Hawke put it in one interview – “it’s a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being”. Although the title and film do focus on the boy’s growth throughout 12 years, many more family situations are observed, marriages, divorces, graduations, first relationships. Worth a watch for any human being – probably my favourite film of the year if I had to chose one.