Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hospitality - The Right Profession

The self-titled debut of indie-rock trio Hospitality dropped today.  An eclectic collection of songs ranging from twee-pop bliss to garage-y guitar rockers, the tracks will be put on display at BAR New Haven come March 7th as part of Manic Productions' free Wednesday concert series.  Until then, here's the all-too-brief cut, "The Right Profession", and look forward to more as the show approaches.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Riz Ortolani - Theme from Cannibal Holocaust

The archetypical horror film score is one that sets out to scare, heightening the tension felt by those on-screen as well as in the theatre. John Carpenter’s piano-centric score for Halloween comes to mind, with the quirky 5/4 time signature of the main motif and the incidental music contributing to a slow sense of dread that pays off in a big way at the film’s climax. Other soundtracks, such as Goblin’s work on Dario Argento’s Suspiria (featured here: http://bit.ly/wPkSBb), beat you over the head to a degree, reflecting the action and increasing madness of the film.

Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero Deodato’s classic of mondo cinema, has a score that bucks the trend. Riz Ortolani (recently featured on the Drive soundtrack), contributes music that instills neither dread nor outright terror, but disquiet instead. The film itself is horrific. Featuring realistic amputations, outstanding gore and make-up direction, and actual animal deaths (a major point of contention for the film’s detractors), the horror is laid out right on the screen. The disquiet comes from the music, featuring heavy-handed synth motifs when things are about to get particularly gruesome. Juxtaposed against that, however, is the main theme, a blend of synthesizers and acoustic guitars seemingly out of place in such a film.

We are introduced to the theme during the film’s opening credits. Consisting of aerial shots of the Amazon River, the scene is one of tranquil greenery, nothing indicative of the “Holocaust” to come. The music seems more befitting a David Attenborough documentary than a noted gore-fest. That’s where the disquiet comes in.

The theme is used, to great effect, several times throughout Cannibal Holocaust. A scene where a group of natives are burned alive by documentarians builds to an intense sonic peak, which then abruptly switches to the main theme. The screams of a tribe being immolated are nearly drowned out by the unsettling beauty of the soundtrack. As the fires choke out signs of life, a cameraman cries with unfettered glee, “It’s BEAUTIFUL” as dozens of so-called “savages” are burned for this so-called documentary. In this moment you forget you’re watching a film, and for a split second, you realize the scene truly is beautiful. The film questions, somewhat heavy handedly, “who the real cannibals are”, but it’s moments like these that make the viewer the savage, at best a morally suspect observer to the slaughter if not outright sharing the jubilance of the main characters.

The film’s notoriety has only grown with time, as has its fan base.  The staged “deaths” of the four leads were deemed to be so life-like that director Deodato was brought to Italian court with his actors to prove that they were not actually murdered for the film.  Having lurked in the shadows for decades, one had to turn to Google Video or find a particularly well-stocked video store to acquire a copy of the film. Recent years have seen high quality DVD and CD releases for the movie and its soundtrack, making it easier than ever to become a Cannibal Holocaust devotee. In any case, give Ortolani’s classic theme a listen (we’ll feature more of Riz’s work in the near future) and for the less squeamish among us, give the flick a try too. I can assure it will stick with you, for better or for worse.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel - Little Birds

And now, my four-word review of last night's Jeff Mangum show.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel - Engine

The night is upon us! Mr. Mangum plays the Shubert in a few short hours.  We'll be hearing this one during the encore (we hope), so get ready and give "Engine" a listen now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel - Oh Sister

Our excitement for Jeff Mangum’s upcoming tour has reached a fever pitch as of late. The formerly reclusive Neutral Milk Hotel frontman opens his 2012 schedule with a stop at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre. Like kids on Christmas, we’ve been wearing out our copy of their seminal record In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Other standouts, such as Mangum’s Live at Jittery Joe’s LP have gotten us through the last few weeks, but it’s the newly collected EP Ferris Wheel on Fire that has been the biggest and most welcome surprise. The sole complaint about Jeff Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel would be a comparable lack of material when looking at other beloved acts, being that there are only two full-length NMH albums. Ferris Wheel on Fire immensely adds to their fairly short discography, collecting 8 excellent rarities and b-sides, all of which would feel right at home on Aeroplane. The EP’s leadoff track, “Oh Sister” features the impassioned vocals and allegorical lyrics that have enamored listeners over the years, and is the perfect compliment for an album that so many know so well. We’ll continue our Mangum coverage over the next couple days, so give “Oh Sister” a listen and don’t miss the show tomorrow night (1/18).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Real Estate - Wonder Years

You know when there's a song that grabs you?  It might not be the album's big hit; it might not be everyone's favorite track, but its YOUR favorite track.  "Wonder Years" off Real Estate's newest LP, Days, is one such song.  Ringing guitar gets paired with melancholic lyrics, hearkening back to hot, hazy afternoons and days that blend into each other, with nothing but droning cicadas and fuzzy FM radio breaking the stillness.  That description could apply to much of Real Estate's work, but more than any other track, "Wonder Years" fits that bill, drawing on more than just fond summer memories, but not so fond ones as well.  Nostalgia becomes wistfullness becomes lament on this tune, a requiem for summers long since past and the people and places that reside in those memories.

 But I'm not yours and you're not mine
No, I'm not okay but I guess I'm doing fine

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dexter's Dodge Commercial

It's a new year at Merry Picnic, so let's start it off right, with a half-baked post on a viral video! By now you've likely seen Dodge's recent campaign featuring Dexter star Michael C. Hall, but did you notice the famous narrator?  Hall adopts a deep baritone in the ads making him somewhat difficult to spot, but add a clip from the Dexter score and it's a dead ringer, not to mention hilarious.