Brown Sugar

'Round up the usual suspects'
Boyhood
 Having had my head pummeled and permeated by the blockbuster machine that takes residence every summer, it was a mighty relief to settle down for Richard Linklater’s latest, and much talked about project- Boyhood. Clearly blithe to the conventions of studio driven cinema, the Texan director has cemented his reputation as a proprietor of original filmmaking. Harking back to 2002, just before shooting cult flick School of Rock, Linklater had started building the foundations for Boyhood, patiently allocating a few precious days a year to start telling this once in a lifetime story.
 A Silver Bear winner at this year’s Berlin film festival, Boyhood was shot in 39 days over a period of 12 years and has already been hailed as his crowning achievement. Perhaps it was Linklater’s background as a self-taught writer/director that helps buoy his artistic freedom to create movies that are touched with this overarching feel of tender, independent storytelling. To shoehorn Boyhood as a coming of age tale would not only be patronising, but would also misrepresent the films message. Whilst we may bear witness to our main protagonist; a six-year old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) sprouting through adolescence, it is important to look beyond that- to the wholly convincing dynamic between all four members of this typically dysfunctional family. Through Linklater’s writing and docu-style shooting, us the audience can’t help but identify with these characters, seeing through their eyes the changing nature of motherhood, fatherhood and sibling ties.
 As time progresses we witness a truthful account of a young boy tussling with the changing landscape of life as a teenager- a deepening of vocal chords, lengthening limbs and toe curling romantic angst. No longer is Mason a 6 year old boy drifting off in class, but a budding photographer with glorious blue painted nails. These movements are interspersed with camping trips, baseball games and caped cinema outings to Harry Potter. Meanwhile, his sister Samantha’s (played brilliantly by Linklater’s unaffected daughter, Lorelei) development aligns almost to a tee. Although we are not privy to all her personal trials and tribulations, the growing number of Lorelei’s birthday candles and increasingly creative teasing of Mason is captured unmistakably.
 Admittedly, there may be a necessary familiarity about the transition of a boy to man, or girl to woman, but there is nothing formulaic about the makeup of their separated parents. Their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) has to juggle the endless rigors of single parenthood, shouldering the burden of financial pressures and claustrophobic misery of abusive relationships. There is clearly a strong message about the surreal horrors of alcohol addiction- one seemingly harmless, dower partner in a short space of time starts to resemble Ike Turner in beige chinos.  Whilst Mason’s mother may anchor the family, Mason Snr (Ethan Hawke) appears to be the wind in its sails, irresponsibly swooping into their lives unannounced- much to the delight of the children, and frustration of Olivia. Ethan Hawke’s energy and charisma are a real asset to the picture, offering it lighthearted episodes that steer it clear from overplayed sentimentality. But even his somewhat chaotic life begins to ease, as Mason Snr matures from a Pontiac driving, wannabe musician to a mustachioed man taking fatherhood far more seriously in his family minivan.
 The narrative of various journeys taking place within the story is always quietly observed, as Linklater favours implied messages rather than treating the audience as mannequins rustling popcorn. In one understated scene it suddenly occurs that Mason and Samantha now prefer conversational death- twiddling their thumbs restlessly on iPhones, no longer content charging around freely in the outdoors. This realization is poignant, and of course harnesses a social commentary on the explosion of technology. Like the planting of a tree, it’s the subtle, finer details that gradually grow and flourish to great effect. Rather than looking at them, you are gently encouraged to share their ambitions and experiences (even if this means nodding reluctantly to Coldplay- Yellow).
 Where the likes of Lars Von Trier’s Dimension have fallen short in the past, the devotion of Linklater has ultimately triumphed in this highly ambitious project. The film is shot beautifully, and with remarkable continuity when you consider the gaps of time that are sprawled between each segment. With a running time on a par with Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, there is no clubbing your senses or glancing at ones watch, just a charmingly told tale that sees you speed dialing home upon exit.
****

Boyhood

 Having had my head pummeled and permeated by the blockbuster machine that takes residence every summer, it was a mighty relief to settle down for Richard Linklater’s latest, and much talked about project- Boyhood. Clearly blithe to the conventions of studio driven cinema, the Texan director has cemented his reputation as a proprietor of original filmmaking. Harking back to 2002, just before shooting cult flick School of Rock, Linklater had started building the foundations for Boyhood, patiently allocating a few precious days a year to start telling this once in a lifetime story.

 A Silver Bear winner at this year’s Berlin film festival, Boyhood was shot in 39 days over a period of 12 years and has already been hailed as his crowning achievement. Perhaps it was Linklater’s background as a self-taught writer/director that helps buoy his artistic freedom to create movies that are touched with this overarching feel of tender, independent storytelling. To shoehorn Boyhood as a coming of age tale would not only be patronising, but would also misrepresent the films message. Whilst we may bear witness to our main protagonist; a six-year old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) sprouting through adolescence, it is important to look beyond that- to the wholly convincing dynamic between all four members of this typically dysfunctional family. Through Linklater’s writing and docu-style shooting, us the audience can’t help but identify with these characters, seeing through their eyes the changing nature of motherhood, fatherhood and sibling ties.

 As time progresses we witness a truthful account of a young boy tussling with the changing landscape of life as a teenager- a deepening of vocal chords, lengthening limbs and toe curling romantic angst. No longer is Mason a 6 year old boy drifting off in class, but a budding photographer with glorious blue painted nails. These movements are interspersed with camping trips, baseball games and caped cinema outings to Harry Potter. Meanwhile, his sister Samantha’s (played brilliantly by Linklater’s unaffected daughter, Lorelei) development aligns almost to a tee. Although we are not privy to all her personal trials and tribulations, the growing number of Lorelei’s birthday candles and increasingly creative teasing of Mason is captured unmistakably.

 Admittedly, there may be a necessary familiarity about the transition of a boy to man, or girl to woman, but there is nothing formulaic about the makeup of their separated parents. Their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) has to juggle the endless rigors of single parenthood, shouldering the burden of financial pressures and claustrophobic misery of abusive relationships. There is clearly a strong message about the surreal horrors of alcohol addiction- one seemingly harmless, dower partner in a short space of time starts to resemble Ike Turner in beige chinos.  Whilst Mason’s mother may anchor the family, Mason Snr (Ethan Hawke) appears to be the wind in its sails, irresponsibly swooping into their lives unannounced- much to the delight of the children, and frustration of Olivia. Ethan Hawke’s energy and charisma are a real asset to the picture, offering it lighthearted episodes that steer it clear from overplayed sentimentality. But even his somewhat chaotic life begins to ease, as Mason Snr matures from a Pontiac driving, wannabe musician to a mustachioed man taking fatherhood far more seriously in his family minivan.

 The narrative of various journeys taking place within the story is always quietly observed, as Linklater favours implied messages rather than treating the audience as mannequins rustling popcorn. In one understated scene it suddenly occurs that Mason and Samantha now prefer conversational death- twiddling their thumbs restlessly on iPhones, no longer content charging around freely in the outdoors. This realization is poignant, and of course harnesses a social commentary on the explosion of technology. Like the planting of a tree, it’s the subtle, finer details that gradually grow and flourish to great effect. Rather than looking at them, you are gently encouraged to share their ambitions and experiences (even if this means nodding reluctantly to Coldplay- Yellow).

 Where the likes of Lars Von Trier’s Dimension have fallen short in the past, the devotion of Linklater has ultimately triumphed in this highly ambitious project. The film is shot beautifully, and with remarkable continuity when you consider the gaps of time that are sprawled between each segment. With a running time on a par with Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, there is no clubbing your senses or glancing at ones watch, just a charmingly told tale that sees you speed dialing home upon exit.

****

Following up his wonderfully melodic debut Amsel 001 release- Voyage Avec Yukazu, Rafaele Castiglione returns with the much-anticipated Nature of the Universe EP. Castiglione has worked alongside Berlin-based label Amselcom for the last two years, and during this time has established himself as perhaps their most prominent artist. The hugely talented producer is brimming full with ideas, sourcing inspiration from the likes of Nu, Stimming or Frivolous, to name just a few. 
With this latest release Rafaele Castiglione has continued down his beguiling musical path, delivering deep and mysterious waves of peerless production that make the body sway. At heart- Nature of the Universe is a minimalist dub masterpiece, which gently takes your hand and guides you through blissful dancefloor meditation. Accompanying you through this is also US collaborator John LaMonica, whose marvellous vocal canon tricks and psychedelic lyrics help harmonise those mystical sounds. Open City on the flipside possesses a more melancholic feel- perfectly blending clever arrangements and progressive, evolving melodies. The most fascinating element of this track is how it’s high reaching, ethereal synths give it a human face that evokes great emotion in the listener. The DkA remix remains somewhat faithful to the original, reducing the track to its essence, whilst pushing the boundaries ever outward. The final result is irresistible, spiritual music for the rituals of our time. We invite you to a session that promises to transform and elevate the most primal places in your brain.
Artwork by Bakea
http://amselcom.de/rafaele-castiglione-nature-of-the-universe

Following up his wonderfully melodic debut Amsel 001 release- Voyage Avec Yukazu, Rafaele Castiglione returns with the much-anticipated Nature of the Universe EP. Castiglione has worked alongside Berlin-based label Amselcom for the last two years, and during this time has established himself as perhaps their most prominent artist. The hugely talented producer is brimming full with ideas, sourcing inspiration from the likes of Nu, Stimming or Frivolous, to name just a few. 


With this latest release Rafaele Castiglione has continued down his beguiling musical path, delivering deep and mysterious waves of peerless production that make the body sway. At heart- Nature of the Universe is a minimalist dub masterpiece, which gently takes your hand and guides you through blissful dancefloor meditation. Accompanying you through this is also US collaborator John LaMonica, whose marvellous vocal canon tricks and psychedelic lyrics help harmonise those mystical sounds.

Open City on the flipside possesses a more melancholic feel- perfectly blending clever arrangements and progressive, evolving melodies. The most fascinating element of this track is how it’s high reaching, ethereal synths give it a human face that evokes great emotion in the listener. The DkA remix remains somewhat faithful to the original, reducing the track to its essence, whilst pushing the boundaries ever outward. The final result is irresistible, spiritual music for the rituals of our time. We invite you to a session that promises to transform and elevate the most primal places in your brain.

Artwork by Bakea

http://amselcom.de/rafaele-castiglione-nature-of-the-universe

(via amselpick)

JOINTRUST

Japanese fashion label Jointrust has drawn the curtain on its 2014 fall/winter collection. It appears that they’ve gone for a largely somber, understated colour palette in their design aesthetic. The collection sees navy, grey and black splashed on loose fitting cardigans, jumpers and pea coat jackets. This modish disposition would be incomplete without a fedora hat to nestle on your crown.

Our lad Delroy has cooked up some serious heat with this one. It’s a mixtape brimming with raw lo-fi tracks, but it’s not his usual manic ghetto house blend. He’s pitched things down a few notches, and given us a glimpse of his East Coast roots. So turn down the windows and get these beats coming out your speakers!

Our lad Delroy has cooked up some serious heat with this one. It’s a mixtape brimming with raw lo-fi tracks, but it’s not his usual manic ghetto house blend. He’s pitched things down a few notches, and given us a glimpse of his East Coast roots. So turn down the windows and get these beats coming out your speakers!

(via pootee)

Charles Bradley: Soul of America
It is hard to believe that a man with Charles Bradley’s on stage charisma and timeless vocals had to wait half a lifetime to achieve the success that he so richly deserved. Starting out at the age of 20 as a career singer, Bradley spent many years under the shadow of James Brown, performing as ‘Black Velvet’ or on less subtle occasions  ‘James Brown Jr’. Yet this documentary remarkably joins the 62-year-old soul singer in the month preceding his first album release No Time For Dreaming. 
 Charles Bradley Soul of America is a rare story that allows us to explore his struggles throughout life, and discover what kind of man he is, what he dreams of. The film draws obvious comparisons with Searching for Sugar Man, the 2012 film about Sixto Rodriquez’s unlikely rise to stardom. Truthfully, both deserve enormous credit for managing to capture the strength of human spirit when faced with adversity. And paired with Charles’s undeniable talent, he is finally able to lands himself a record deal with Daptone Records, a label responsible for the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. But perhaps most importantly, he is able to fulfill those lasting ambitions of devotedly caring for his mother and living a modest life in Brooklyn.
 The film pays tribute to Bradley’s character, a man who is genuinely likeable and full of heart. These admirable traits are certainly supported by footage of relatives recalling Bradley’s decision to sacrifice much of his youth and adulthood for the betterment of his family. Despite suffering personal tragedy and the devastating death of his brother, his beliefs and faith in God never waver.
Charles’ personal strife undoubtedly reflects in his soulful and stirring music, especially when crying out lines like ‘Why is it so hard to make it in America’.
At the centre of the documentary is a fascinating portrayal of Charles’s transformation from an impersonator to a solo performer with his own identity and crucially, songs. You are given a glimpse into his progression through clips of rehearsals, live performances and interviews with complimentary band collaborators. Witnessing such infectious enthusiasm and continued optimism is a joy to behold first hand.  Unsurprisingly, the film puts together a wholly appropriate and enjoyable soundtrack that features old recording from artists such as Otis Redding, Al Green, Sam Cooke and the man himself James Brown. 
 Soul of America may not be wholly polished, but neither is Charles, and this well-founded documentary really leaves you feeling uplifted. You can certainly be assured that this will please fans of the soulful singer and inspire many more.  

 

Charles Bradley: Soul of America

It is hard to believe that a man with Charles Bradley’s on stage charisma and timeless vocals had to wait half a lifetime to achieve the success that he so richly deserved. Starting out at the age of 20 as a career singer, Bradley spent many years under the shadow of James Brown, performing as ‘Black Velvet’ or on less subtle occasions  ‘James Brown Jr’. Yet this documentary remarkably joins the 62-year-old soul singer in the month preceding his first album release No Time For Dreaming.

 Charles Bradley Soul of America is a rare story that allows us to explore his struggles throughout life, and discover what kind of man he is, what he dreams of. The film draws obvious comparisons with Searching for Sugar Man, the 2012 film about Sixto Rodriquez’s unlikely rise to stardom. Truthfully, both deserve enormous credit for managing to capture the strength of human spirit when faced with adversity. And paired with Charles’s undeniable talent, he is finally able to lands himself a record deal with Daptone Records, a label responsible for the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. But perhaps most importantly, he is able to fulfill those lasting ambitions of devotedly caring for his mother and living a modest life in Brooklyn.

 The film pays tribute to Bradley’s character, a man who is genuinely likeable and full of heart. These admirable traits are certainly supported by footage of relatives recalling Bradley’s decision to sacrifice much of his youth and adulthood for the betterment of his family. Despite suffering personal tragedy and the devastating death of his brother, his beliefs and faith in God never waver.

Charles’ personal strife undoubtedly reflects in his soulful and stirring music, especially when crying out lines like ‘Why is it so hard to make it in America’.

At the centre of the documentary is a fascinating portrayal of Charles’s transformation from an impersonator to a solo performer with his own identity and crucially, songs. You are given a glimpse into his progression through clips of rehearsals, live performances and interviews with complimentary band collaborators. Witnessing such infectious enthusiasm and continued optimism is a joy to behold first hand.  Unsurprisingly, the film puts together a wholly appropriate and enjoyable soundtrack that features old recording from artists such as Otis Redding, Al Green, Sam Cooke and the man himself James Brown.

 Soul of America may not be wholly polished, but neither is Charles, and this well-founded documentary really leaves you feeling uplifted. You can certainly be assured that this will please fans of the soulful singer and inspire many more.  

 

Half of a Yellow Sun
Not alone in my admiration for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s wonderful novel, I naturally held lofty expectations for this intriguing project. When you consider the compelling source material and great cast assembled, it seemed highly possible that this could really make the transition onto the big screen. Sadly, in the footsteps of its cinematic ancestors-  Monica Ali’s ‘Brick Lane’ and Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’, this latest offering continues the trajectory of underwhelming film adaptations of postcolonial fiction. 
Man of the moment Chitewel Eijifor’s plays the conceited, charismatic academic Odenigbo who finds himself plunged into the throws of the bitterly violent 1960’s Biafran war. Accompanying him on this tempestuous journey of a post-independent Nigeria, is his other half, the elegant and troubled soul Olanna (Thandie Newton). The narrative largely focuses upon their relationship, with the backdrop of tragic events transpiring around them. The two leads are very impressive in their roles, sustaining a fantastic intensity to their performance, and never shying away from the intimacy and chemistry needed for a dynamic of this nature. These moments are dispersed between some compelling archive footage, helping to capture the mood of the nation and allowing its audience a glimpse of the stark reality.
Director Biyi Bandele, has admirably tried to stay true to the story, but in my opinion must shoulder the responsibility for a number of the films shortcomings. Admittedly, attempting to condense such a sweeping tale into the 120 minutes running time was always going to prove challenging, nigh unattainable. However, the film is often stately and sluggish, descending into soapy melodrama too easily when exploring central revelations. Familiar scenes of domineering mothers, unplanned pregnancies and infidelity dominate the early scenes. Consequently, although sympathetic to the tragedy of such a story the audience may struggle to fully believe in its muddled narrative.
When presenting different time periods of the story Bandele’s editing was frustratingly abrupt, as new and significant stages of Odenigbo and Olanna’s lives are only separated by a brief, black freeze frames. It is unclear whether Bandele perceived this as an effective way of demonstrating the immediacy of war, or simply elected to approach it somewhat impatiently, all too aware that he needed to to get through all the vital material. 
Although moving, and in places a gripping picture, there is a notable imbalance in Half of A Yellow Sun, as Director Biyi Bandele ultimately fails to blend domestic anxiety and action sequences into an effective drama. 

Half of a Yellow Sun

Not alone in my admiration for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s wonderful novel, I naturally held lofty expectations for this intriguing project. When you consider the compelling source material and great cast assembled, it seemed highly possible that this could really make the transition onto the big screen. Sadly, in the footsteps of its cinematic ancestors-  Monica Ali’s ‘Brick Lane’ and Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’, this latest offering continues the trajectory of underwhelming film adaptations of postcolonial fiction. 

Man of the moment Chitewel Eijifor’s plays the conceited, charismatic academic Odenigbo who finds himself plunged into the throws of the bitterly violent 1960’s Biafran war. Accompanying him on this tempestuous journey of a post-independent Nigeria, is his other half, the elegant and troubled soul Olanna (Thandie Newton). The narrative largely focuses upon their relationship, with the backdrop of tragic events transpiring around them. The two leads are very impressive in their roles, sustaining a fantastic intensity to their performance, and never shying away from the intimacy and chemistry needed for a dynamic of this nature. These moments are dispersed between some compelling archive footage, helping to capture the mood of the nation and allowing its audience a glimpse of the stark reality.

Director Biyi Bandele, has admirably tried to stay true to the story, but in my opinion must shoulder the responsibility for a number of the films shortcomings. Admittedly, attempting to condense such a sweeping tale into the 120 minutes running time was always going to prove challenging, nigh unattainable. However, the film is often stately and sluggish, descending into soapy melodrama too easily when exploring central revelations. Familiar scenes of domineering mothers, unplanned pregnancies and infidelity dominate the early scenes. Consequently, although sympathetic to the tragedy of such a story the audience may struggle to fully believe in its muddled narrative.

When presenting different time periods of the story Bandele’s editing was frustratingly abrupt, as new and significant stages of Odenigbo and Olanna’s lives are only separated by a brief, black freeze frames. It is unclear whether Bandele perceived this as an effective way of demonstrating the immediacy of war, or simply elected to approach it somewhat impatiently, all too aware that he needed to to get through all the vital material. 

Although moving, and in places a gripping picture, there is a notable imbalance in Half of A Yellow Sun, as Director Biyi Bandele ultimately fails to blend domestic anxiety and action sequences into an effective drama. 

Rhye- Open (Jeff Samuel Faded Remix)
Slow-soul duo Rhye’s music has proved to be ideal remix material. It could be that the band’s singles are softly and cleanly constructed, their basic elements easy to come to terms with after just one or two listens. Most likely, though, it’s the soothing, mystical sound of Rhye vocalist Mike Milosh that’s been bringing out the best in producers, who have taken to jettisoning most of the original material and wrapping Milosh’s coos around their own constructions.
We’ve already heard disco auteur Maurice Fulton’s infectious, funky remix of ‘The Fall’,and now Jeff Samuel has offered up a fantastically jaunty eight-minute re-do of ‘Open’. No stranger to this sort of thing, the Midwestern-born, Berlin-based producer’s been at it with Ghostly artists and others for over 15 years now, and so his take on “Open” sounds like it comes from someone who knows how to completely re-imagine his source material. Samuel takes a snatch of Milosh’s come-on of a chorus from the original— the portion that includes the word “Faded”, hence the title— and throws it on an infinite, dizzying loop, constructing a compelling house structure below it. And be sure to watch the carefree, mono video that challenges you to keep a straight face; 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue5HQ1cN_qw 

Rhye- Open (Jeff Samuel Faded Remix)

Slow-soul duo Rhye’s music has proved to be ideal remix material. It could be that the band’s singles are softly and cleanly constructed, their basic elements easy to come to terms with after just one or two listens. Most likely, though, it’s the soothing, mystical sound of Rhye vocalist Mike Milosh that’s been bringing out the best in producers, who have taken to jettisoning most of the original material and wrapping Milosh’s coos around their own constructions.

We’ve already heard disco auteur Maurice Fulton’s infectious, funky remix of ‘The Fall’,and now Jeff Samuel has offered up a fantastically jaunty eight-minute re-do of ‘Open’. No stranger to this sort of thing, the Midwestern-born, Berlin-based producer’s been at it with Ghostly artists and others for over 15 years now, and so his take on “Open” sounds like it comes from someone who knows how to completely re-imagine his source material. Samuel takes a snatch of Milosh’s come-on of a chorus from the original— the portion that includes the word “Faded”, hence the title— and throws it on an infinite, dizzying loop, constructing a compelling house structure below it. And be sure to watch the carefree, mono video that challenges you to keep a straight face; 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue5HQ1cN_qw