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Requiem // 102 Post #6
Monkey in the middle: Requiem for a Dream in the eighth minute (Video still: Darren Aronofsky)

Monkey in the middle: Requiem for a Dream in the eighth minute (Video still: Darren Aronofsky)

No matter how poor the movie this sort of protracted examination is a fate almost too cruel for any director to suffer. Almost. An exception of course is being made for Darren Aronofsky‘s Requiem for a Dream (2000) and so I’ll cut straight to it, spoiler alert, this film is utter tosh.

Until I was approached by Nicholas Rombes to contribute to this project I remember actually liking Requiem. The first and last time I saw the movie before now was in Warsaw’s Kino Muranów in late summer of 2000. Ten years ago the movie’s use of montage, split screen, and heart-rending score by Clint Mansell struck me as a fresh new approach to telling the tale of addiction’s many faces. New and thrilling was how I remembered it anyway, which ought to have been an indication of what was in store for me upon a second viewing — memory after all is rarely a reliable witness. It certainly wasn’t how I remembered the eighth minute of Requiem for a Dream, which is quite possibly still one of my favorite scenes in an otherwise disappointing and overly deterministic movie.

The scene begins with Harry (Jared Leto) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) eating snow cones at a food counter on a listless summer evening in Coney Island. Talk turns to scoring heroin directly from their chief source, which they surmise they could in turn sell and use the profits to buy a pound of pure heroin, and thus be able to live out a comfortable summer free the daily hustle of having to score scag — a decidedly improbable scenario for a couple of small time junkies whose primary source of income is the repeated pawning Harry’s mother’s relic of a television set. A police officer approaches the counter and takes a seat. Harry and Tyrone perk up a bit and exchange a knowing glance. Unbeknownst to the cop Harry unbuttons the officer’s holster, withdraws his side arm, and proceeds to play monkey in the middle with Tyrone. Or at least that’s how Harry imagines it until he’s jolted out of his pipe dream into the banal present after being prompted by the cook several times for his order. The cop looks at Harry. Harry declines another order. Harry and Tyrone leave the counter. Scene ends.

Aronofsky uses the same fantasy technique later in the movie when Marion (Jennifer Connelly) drives a fork into the hand of Arnold the shrink (Sean Gullette) as he makes a sexual advance. Like the monkey in the middle scenario, the scene is wrenched back to a desperate present wherein Marion offers sex in exchange for money to her erstwhile psychiatrist. Both fantasy sequences — monkey in the middle and the forked hand — picture the Requiem protagonists acting out in ways contrary to their condemned lives. On both occasions, however the fantasies collapse and the characters resume their one-way journeys to oblivion.

For all the jazzed up editing and lurid subject matter Requiem for a Dream is little more than Old Testament redux. Characters are doomed without any possibility of redemption. The monkey in the middle and forked hand fantasies provide a glimmer of another world not entirely ruled by an angry God or the economy of heroin addiction. Just as Harry and Tyrone taunt the cop with his pistol so too Aronfsky taunts the audience with the promise of dramatic conflict only to snatch it away in an instant. To those who would suggest that is how addiction works in a relentless, all-consuming fashion, I counter by saying that is precisely where Aronofsky’s film founders. Requiem‘s portrayal of addiction however realistic or not makes for lousy dramatic effect and even worse cinema.

As a closing thought were my clever remarks, bad poetry, and first semester graduate papers from ten years ago be subjected to the same scrutiny I can say definitely that I would fare much worse than today’s subject.

“Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago, hard to believe I was ever as bad as that. Thank God that’s all done with anyway.”

Beckett, Samuel. Krapp’s Last Tape. Collected Shorter Plays. New York: Grove, 1984. 53-63.



Diplo’s Suit Measurements by Ford Men

If you know anything about Diplo née Wes Pentz, then you’re well aware of his nearly non-stop tour and production schedule. When he’s not busy recording dance hall tracks in Jamaica, he’s working with Santigold on her new record, or touring with Major Lazer and hanging out afterward with Prince in Minneapolis. The grueling schedule has taken its toll on Diplo’s wardrobe, which has precipitously tumbled from the custom-tailored Comme des Garçons suit he sported last October to the $100 suits from Top Shop that he’s recently been wearing on the Major Lazer Lazers Never Die tour. Never one to stand by idly as a friend’s attire suffers ignominiously, we intervened by inviting Diplo to the agency for some help.

Diplo accepted our invitation the other week and stopped by our Fifth Avenue office in New York before the Major Lazer show at Terminal 5 to have his suit measurements taken by Moira Foehr of Ford Men. With Diplo’s measurements accurately recorded by the industry’s top men’s division, the world’s leading menswear designers now have the requisite information to create a suit fit for Diplo. We will feature a follow up story on any designer that meets the challenge to suit Diplo. Tom Ford, Prada, Gucci, who will be first?

DIPLO’s SUIT MEASUREMENTS
NECK: 16¼
FULL CHEST: 34¾
FRONT CHEST: 17
½ SHOULDER RIGHT: 6¾
SLEEVE RIGHT: 26½
FULL SLEEVE RIGHT: 32¾
WRIST: 7¼
BICEP: 16½
ARMPIT: 23
BACK CHEST: 16½
SHOULDER: 19¼
½ SHOULDER LEFT: 6¾
SLEEVE LEFT: 26½

FULL SLEEVE LEFT: 32¾
WAIST/TROUSER WAIST: 36½
HIPS: 43
OUTSIDE LEG: 37
WAIST TO FLOOR: 39¼
ANKLE: 11¼
KNEE: 16
THIGH: 25¼
INSIDE LEG: 20¼
CROTCH: 24½
½ BACK: 22½
FULL BACK: 60½
FRONT JACKET: 27¼

Diplo has suit measurements taken by Moira Foehr (Photography: Damien Neva)

Diplo has suit measurements taken by Moira Foehr (Photography: Damien Neva)

[A version of this blog originally appeared on the Ford Models Blog]



Dâm-Funk Interview Special
26 March 2010, 22:18
Filed under: Interviews, Music | Tags: , , , ,

What comes to mind with you think funk? Silver platform boots and star-shape sunglasses? OK, maybe. Now what comes to mind when you think modern funk? If you’re drawing a blank, then we’d like to pass the mic to one modern funkster straight from the Funkmosphere…enter Dâm-Funk. Dâm-Funk née Damon G. Riddick is a Los Angeles based producer and musician who hasn’t so much dusted off funky records from decades past (though he is an accomplished DJ) as he has kept living the funk from the day the mothership went into orbit. To this end last last year Dâm-Funk has released a 2xCD and 5xLP called Toeachizown on Stones Throw Records, which realizes funk in wholly modern ways through the use of electric analog instruments. Funk isn’t a fashion, it’s a way of living and with that, I give you the Dâm-Funk Interview Special.

[A version of this blog originally appeared on the Ford Models Blog]



Peanut Butter Wolf Interview Special

Last month I had an opportunity to interview DJ, producer, and Stones Throw Records label founder Peanut Butter Wolf in Brooklyn. For a person who is a friend a collaborator with the likes of Madlib, MF Doom, and the late J Dilla he betrays none of the affectations of fame. To start he switches off his Blackberry (yup, not the other one) during the interview. His consideration extends to the frankness with which he answers my questions many of which concern the music industry. He was also generous with his time in both granting the interview and time afterward to shoot still photographs. This same thoughtfulness in approach to an interview is most obviously present in the music label that he operates and the records it releases.

A week after I conducted this interview El-P announced the indefinite hiatus of Definitive Jux. This announcement alone puts paid to the notion that it’s only the major record labels who are wobbling. Few people buy music and many freeload it. This behavior has completely wiped out the financial model of major and indy labels alike. Stones Throw isn’t immune to the market either. Peanut Butter Wolf admits 2009 was a financially difficult year despite somehow managing to keep all ten of the label’s employees on staff. Difficult though it may have been they still managed twelve releases in 2009 including Mayer Hawthorne‘s A Strange Arrangement, James Pants‘s Seven Seals, and Madlib‘s Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to Dil Cosby & Dil Withers Suite to name just three. Twelve records in one year is alone impressive, but to put out strong records by a diverse roster of talented artists is one reason I believe the future looks bright for Stones Throw in an otherwise miserable market.

Below is the video interview that I conducted with Peanut Butter Wolf for Ford Models TV.

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography: Damien Neva)

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography © Damien Neva)

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography: Damien Neva)

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography © Damien Neva)

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography: Damien Neva)

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography © Damien Neva)

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography: Damien Neva)

Peanut Butter Wolf, Brooklyn, 26 Jan. 2010 (Photography © Damien Neva)



Definitive Jux: To Be Continued
3 February 2010, 01:05
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , ,

El-P announced Tuesday that Definitive Jux “will effectively be put on hiatus.” This is a change, surely, but with El-P focusing on producing more music this cannot be entirely bad. I am proud to have worked on promoting Chin Chin‘s 2009 record, The Flashing, The Fancing, and also to have shot the cover for DJXP4, not to mention contribute photography and video promos to definitivejux.net.

My involvement with Jux was brief, but in the year or so of the label’s late period I was lucky enough to have worked with Katy Eustis, Jesse Ferguson, and Jaime Meline and look forward to working with them in the future.

Read in full El’s message “Of Hooptys and Hovercrafts” here.

DJXP4 Digipak Layout (Photography: Damien Neva)

DJXP4 Digipak Layout (Photography: Damien Neva)



Jesus Lizard | Fillmore New York | 16 Nov. 2009

According to the New Testament, the Rapture is the transporting of believers to heaven brought about by second coming of Christ. Not sure about the carpenter from Galilee, but Monday’s night second coming of the Jesus Lizard certainly proved a rapturous occasion for believers and nonbelievers alike. As far as I am concerned music can come to a screeching halt after Monday’s show. Anything additional would be superfluous and at worst in the context of this miraculous reptile, blasphemous. At one point between songs David Yow said, “We’re 65 years old and we’re still the best band in the world.” Penned against the stage barrier, I asked aloud, “What about the Melvins?” With a grin, David Yow conceded that the Jesus Lizard were at least the second best band in the world.

Aside from the Melvins or Fugazi there isn’t another band belonging to the loosely independent music scene of the 1990s even worth mentioning. Their last studio record, Blue, came out in 2000 and only in the last year have they started playing shows after having taken off the first decade of the new century. I saw them Monday night at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza and though vocalist David Yow’s a year shy of a half century, he stage dove with abandon a half dozen or more times. Can you imagine another 49-year-old musician doing this? What about Bono? Please. Yow’s face was bleeding by the third song and yet he just kept singing, diving into the crowd, and generally running riot on stage. Picture a louder, drunker Harry Dean Stanton and you’re close to the sort cinematic effect of David Yow. What’s remarkable about this band that released most of its albums on Touch & Go (save Shot and Blue, released on Capitol in 1996 and 2000 respectively) is the forcefulness of what is essentially just rock & roll. This deceptive normalcy gives their music an almost American Gothic quality like there is to many of David Lynch‘s movies.

I am not sure if another band like the Jesus Lizard could emerge from the present music scene(s), independent or otherwise. I frankly don’t even care. You can be sure David Yow doesn’t have his own blog and if he does, then so what, the point is he didn’t have one before his first 12″ EP dropped in 1989. Revisiting them a decade later is a reminder of all the changes that have taken place in music for better or worse. Ten years from now when _____ reunites, then perhaps its audience will recall fondly their quirky iPhone application and their music only second. Thankfully the Jesus Lizard will never suffer this ignominy.

David Yow & the Jesus Lizard

David Yow & the Jesus Lizard © Damien Neva

David Yow & the Jesus Lizard

David Yow & the Jesus Lizard © Damien Neva

David Yow & the Jesus Lizard

David Yow & the Jesus Lizard © Damien Neva



GG and the Boys

A little over a year ago I started working with the Brooklyn new soul group called Chin Chin, whose founding members include Torbitt Schwartz, Jeremy Wilms, and Wilder Zoby Schwartz. I was familiar with Wilder as he was a member of El-P‘s live band during the I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead tour in 2007. Together we collaborated on a series viral videos to promote the album The Flashing, The Fancing, which came out in March of this year on Definitive Jux. The series of four episodes featured guest stars Jaleel Bunton of TV on the Radio, Jon Kirby of Wax Poetics, Paula Henderson of Moisturizer, Eliza Sun from Gogol Bordello, Shannon Moore of Activator, El-P of El Producto fame, and a passenger van covered entirely in aluminum foil.

The plan was to adapt this series to be the music video for the song “GG and the Boys.” The music video has long since been edited, but never released until now. Enjoy the song, check out the viral series, and please pick up their album or see them live, whichever comes first.




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