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All posts for the month April, 2013

Jan Svanmajer on the set of "Surviving Life" in 2010.

Jan Svankmajer on the set of “Surviving Life” in 2010.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

Jan Svankmajer, better known as the “alchemist of film” and an architect of the surreal structure, has been making films which have made their way into the consciousness of the surreal genre since the 1960’s.

He was born the year the Czech Surrealist group became a reality and was a student of puppetry as a young artist. Also a visual artist and sculptor, his unique combination of stop-motion animation, puppets and sometimes live-action, the plots he chooses are spooky and bizarre yet amusing. Anyone or anything can play the leads in his films including humans, machines, puppets, socks and shoes, clay figures, dolls, stuffed animals or other inanimate objects. His sets are what might be considered macabre, grotesque or “steampunk.”

A lot of decay figures strongly into many of his works. His homeland, then Czechoslovakia, has often been the backdrop with its elaborate yet often decaying buildings and landscapes, with echoes of the industrial revolution and communism about, rusted objects and rotting wood and furniture. Svankmajer was always cognizant of the five senses in his films, often exaggerating not only visuals, but sounds as well. He loved to point out sensory perception and speculate its effects on the viewer to bring them to another level. Perhaps that is the goal of surrealism.

Svankmajer has much admiration within the independent film community, but mainstream recognition has been sparse. However, in 1983 he won the Grand Prize for his film Dimensions of Dialogue at the 1983 Annecy Animation Festival. In 1997, The San Francisco International Film Festival bestowed Svankmajer with The Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award, which is an award to recognize filmmakers who are revolutionary by working outside of traditional filmmaking.

Today Švankmajer is one of the most celebrated among animators. His most known works are his feature films Alice (1988), a dark but whimsical retelling of Alice in Wonderland; Faust (1994), a film in which he comedically borrows from the legend of Faustus; Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), a black comedy adventure of the day in the life of a Czech man; Little Otik (2000), a frightening retelling of a traditional folk tale and Lunacy (2005) based on the works of Poe and the archetype of the Marquis de Sade.

While these cherished films are some of his most popular, his short films and animations are highly recommended as a start for those new to his work. He creates shorts from an often thought provoking yet to-the-point concept that usually make the viewer want more or inspire others to create shorts themselves.

Among those who have been influenced by him include the Brothers Quay, (who made film The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer), Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame and arguably, Tim Burton.

In addition to his influence upon filmmakers and animators his direction and screenwriting have been praised and often compared to Kafka in its emotional range. Interestingly enough, his upcoming work includes another feature film for release in 2015 entitled Insects.

It should be fantastical yet oddly scientific.

Jan Svankmajer’s Filmography:

The Last Trick (1964)
A Game With Stones (1965)
J.S. Bach: Fantasy in G-Minor (1965)
Punch and Judy (1966)
Et Cetera (1966)
Historia Naturae, Suita (1967)
The Garden (1968)
Picnic with Weissman (1968)
The Flat (1968)
A Quiet Week in the House (1969)
Ossuary (1970)
Don Juan (1970)
Jabberwocky (1971)
Leonardo’s Diary (1972)

From 1973 to 1980 Jan was forced to “rest” by the Communist Party.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1981)
Dimensions of Dialogue (1982)
Pendulum, Pit and Hope (1983)
Down to the Cellar (1983)
Alice (1988)
Manly Games (a/k/a Virile Games) (1988)
Darkness, Light, Darkness (1989)
Death of Stalinism in Bohemia (1990)
The Animator of Prague (BBC Documentary about Jan, year unknown)
Food (1992)
Faust (1994)
Conspirators of Pleasure (1996)
Little Otik (2000)
Lunacy (2005)
The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether (2005)
The Premature Burial (2005)
Surviving Life (2010)
Insects (Upcoming, 2015)

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

 

The Youngstown music scene is a very elective community consisting of dozens of diverse artists and musical styles. It is thriving, busting with talent from all ends of the spectrum. Unfortunately, unless one frequents the clubs and bars often, it is easy to be oblivious to all of the talent that this little region has to offer. Most local media outlets do not help, highlighting on certain acts and overlooking dozens of other who are worthy and waiting for an audience. Here is an extended look of highlighted local artists and their specific genres, as well as links to their social media pages.

 

 

*Note: This list only covers original acts who either play live on a regular basis or are prominent studio acts.

 

By Joel Anderson (Art & Poetry Editor)

Migrant

Artist: The Dear Hunter

Album: Migrant

Release Date: April 2, 2013

Rating: 4.5/5

In April, The Dear Hunter released its latest album Migrant. Their first disc after 2011’s monumental The Color Spectrum project; the Nine EP set with each record representing a different color of the visible spectrum. Two years later and the influence of the project can be seen on Migrant.

The Rhode Island based band has made its mark on the music scene with their unique combination of progressive/jazz/pop/and indie ever since their 2007 full length debut album Act II: The Meaning of, and the All Things Regarding Ms. Leading, the second chapter in a six part story.

Picking up where The Color Spectrum left off, band leader Casey Crescenzo continues his journey away from the concept album toward a more streamlined pop album.

Migrant trades in the progressive rock influence found throughout the rest of the Dear Hunter’s catalogue and goes toward a more somber/melancholic pop. It’s the bands most personal to date, as Crescenzo has said he wanted to make a personal record this time.

The songs range from the anthemic to the introspective. And although the album doesn’t harness more of the hard rock influences like previous releases, what influences the record does focus on executes them beautifully.

The album starts off with the tender “Bring You Down,” which starts off as a simple piano drive song before it kicks in to a power pop groove after the first chorus. The record picks up even further with the next track and lead single “Whisper.” Its gang vocal choruses and chugging string intro and fast beat lends itself perfectly to become an anthem.

“Shame” brings the record down a bit, with its mischievous keyboard intro and slithering melody line. And although Crescenzo holds back more on his trademark aggressive vocals on this track, he does use his falsetto range impeccably for this song.

“An Escape” picks the tempo back up with its charging bass line intro and never let go until its release with the final choruses; another song that makes it on the list of antemic songs off the album, featuring more gang vocals and spaced out guitars.

“Shouting at the Rain” has a California pop vibe to it, with its mellow vocals, sweet slide guitar line and mellow back beat, it’s easy to be transported to some beach as the sun is beating on you; despite the melancholy lyrics accompanying the delightful music. This song, along with “Bring You Down,” “Whisper,” and “Girls,” are the stand out on the album.

“The Kiss of Life,” pulls the same bait and switch as “Bring You Down” did, beginning with a somber, atmospheric intro that kicks into a mid tempo rocker. Its chorus of jangly guitars and syncopated drums beats make it hard for anyone not to dance along while belting out the lyrics right along with Crescenzo. The break down in this song is one of the “hardest” moments of the record.

“Girls” is by far the most aggressive song on the whole album, which for this album, isn’t saying much, as it’s still only a mid tempo rocker at best with distorted guitars and even the drums in the beginning. This is also a turning point in the album, as most the songs after this point are mostly piano drive songs.

“Cycles” begins in a dreamlike state, which continues through the song. Spacey, reverb drenched guitars and Crescenzos laid back vocal delivery are what makes the song so dreamy.

“Sweet Naiveté” is a piano ballad with a lilting melody. This song deals with a loss of innocence. And I think it can be interpreted in two different ways. One is the loss of God in one’s life, losing the naïve notion there is a supreme being in the universe. The other being the end of a relationship and realizing the childhood expectations are false.

“Let Go” is the records second most aggressive song. With its stabbing descending guitar octaves and bombastic drums it rocks more than any other track on the record. But it doesn’t maintain this mood; it dials it back for the verses. Which is a shame, because the slower parts hinder the overall greatness of the song.

“This Vicious Place” is the weakest song on the album. It just doesn’t do anything. It opens with a simple piano line and settles in a dreary, slow and unexciting groove. It ends with a silky smooth, Wilco-esque guitar solo. Overall, it’s just a boring track.

“Don’t Look Back” is the albums finale and it’s a dark and moody track to end with. With a haunting guitar line and acrobatic melody line, it’s a great album closer. It perfectly reflects the rest of the album, with its refrain of “don’t look back,” Crescenzo warns the listener not to dwell on past experiences for too long. And after an album of reflective and introspective songs, it’s sound advice.

Overall, Migrant is a beautiful record with some promising moments. Although there are a few stumbles, it’s bound to become classic in The Dear Hunter’s canon. I’m excited to see what Crescenzo and co. put out next. I’m hoping for Act IV. But if Migrant proves one thing, it’s that The Dear Hunter are able to put out an album outside of the concept album, and still be a successful band.

Aging widower seeks half-pint
woman half his age
for meaningful relationship.

Must be beautiful (long, black
curly hair preferred, olive
skin, Mona Lisa lips),
talented, hilarious.

Must love: cooking
“cheesy-peppery rice,”
writing and reading poems,
sex,
running five miles a day
on the treadmill,
singing Aretha Franklin
into the TV remote control,
dancing in the kitchen in XXXL
men’s t-shirts.

No sadness
or sickness need apply.

You know it’s gonna be grub when the couple
coming out as you go in are big as sumo, and carry
enough take-home styrofoam to melt and mold
another one.

With paper towel napkins, a peanut
shell floor, and every tattoo, biker belt buckle,
bra and wife-beater shoulder strap in northeast
Ohio on show, we badly need a little class,
maybe a sniffy crayon sonnet on the brown,
butcher-paper tablecloth with a turn
at the ninth line, probably of the stomach
since the road that’s usually not taken
this time is: a primrose path of thin “prime” rib,
doll buckets of sour-cream and

I-Can’t Believe-
It’s-Not-Butter stuffed spuds in a dirge

for another dumb diet, and the workweek, too,
dead and needs buried at sea in watery beer
that’s just a dollar a glass.

There are those I don’t know,
but who seem to know me.

It’s as if there were
a Hades of love, all
you never took advantage of
or got the chance to.

These opportunities
lean on the lampposts
of a dark road through
my dreams, garbed in
gaudy black lace and leather.

Sometimes we dance slowly
in the spotlight of the streetlight,
or lie in the dark in the grass,
the dew beading on her back.

But there’s always a cop nearby,
whose “what’s all this then?”,
black hat, birdsong whistle,
and flashlight summon the sunrise
I know too well,
when long shadows again
become the bars of the same old cell.

By: Jacob Alexander Brew

I can’t explain why
Why the pen can’t hit the paper

I can’t explain how
How I’ve stopped here
But I know I’ve stopped here before
Wherever this is

I can’t speak words
Lest I’m to dig a tomb
I can’t break free
Lest I leave the womb

I can’t find the trace
Of why my hair hits my face
Looking down, on a kingdom I’d once found

Looking up, the God I once felt
Losing my winnings from the cards I was dealt

I suppose I just want to turn on the TV
And watch my eyes glaze over
While I lie there and breathe

This wasn’t planned
No idea here
No inspiration

Just want my eyes to glaze over
Tell me it’s over
Tell me, please, tell me

My brevity of breath
Brain welcomes death

Just feel lost, and I can’t enjoy the ride
Can’t liberate yourself
If you want to be locked inside

Can’t write if you’ve nothing to give
Can’t feel One, when your passion is gone

By Jacob Alexander Brew

You reflect the wizened features
A burning I’m forced to undertake
Your ashen hair whips to and fro
As I bow my head and die for you

Eight hundred years
One thousand miles
Sand in my soul
The blood takes its toll

Never have I bled for one such as you
Never had I loved a fickle one such as you
Never had your hand of cruel judgment felt as deserving as now

Never had I felt raped as I do now
Never have I strayed as I do now
I preach from a Satanic Bible
My ears remain open to the blind
And my eyes to the deaf

I look below to a lake of concrete
Ice beneath my feet as I jump headfirst

You remain a hellish force
Never had I shed my own blood before
Iron sharpens iron
Your iron was sharpened on my flesh

God keeps no record of wrong
Be you the Devil’s Scribe?