Saturday, December 31, 2011

minimal man

the shroud of 12"
[1981, subterranean]

full disclosure: i have almost no interest in industrial music. while the san francisco based minimal man (founded by patrick miller) are credited as being one of the more influential bands when it came to narrowing the distance between punk rock and industrial, to me, they were far more than an industrial hybrid. at least at first. their debut release contained elements of cold wave, art rock, post-punk, new wave, avant-garde, experimental electronics as well as noise. it's elements of the latter, mixed with miller's lyrical misanthropy and paranoia that lent to the "industrial" sound, but honestly i think that minimal man's neighbors (and label mates) nervous gender were a better embodiment of the punk goes industrial ethos. there's also the fact that this album is the only one theirs that even sounds like that. their second full length, safari, took plenty of strides forward in terms of listenability; retaining the synth and electronics love, but (for the most part) losing the darkness and edge which made the shroud of such a unique and groundbreaking document. by the time that 1985's sex with god came out, that's when patrick miller would come to more wholeheartedly embrace industrial music... and the results mostly came across like shitty dance music for goths. slave lullabies was a marked improvement over that, doing a much better job of fusing at least the tone of their debut with the recent shift in artistic direction. when minimal man's last album, pure, was released, in 1988, all semblance of what this project was all about was shot to hell as that album mainly consisted of minimal electronic soundscapes. the shroud of may have helped bridge the gap between punk and industrial, but once this group crossed that bridge, they seemed to have burnt it.

the foundation of the band, initially, also included drummer lliam hart (pansy division) and saxophonist / bassist andrew baumer, but miller fancied the idea of the group being more of a musical collective and as such their debut record featured contributions from a myriad of artists: hitoshi sasaki, stephen wymore (pink section), stefano paolillo, michael belfer (sleepers, tuxedomoon), steven brown (tuxedomoon), michael fox (code of honor) and gary miles. interestingly enough, only this and slave lullabies would feature such an array of collaborators, though the band's core would alter with every release; to the best of my knowledge he never worked with one single musician on more than two albums.

as far as mood-setting opening tracks goes, loneliness is a glorious choice. after beginning with an excerpt of a man listing his depression related symptoms, sparse guitar chords, which sound like they're underwater, enter, soon to be joined by a slow drumbeat and moody synth atmospherics. miller carries that opening theme and runs with it, as evidenced by lines like "no one lives but me, shadows are my only friend, and ghosts are all i see". after spending the verse extolling the pros and cons of loneliness, as a condition and a concept, his (lyrical) hopelessness begins to grow in intensity, and so will the instruments, culminating in a chugging apex during the chorus, with patrick's frantic repeated insistence that "ronald reagan and i agree!". aside from just being an awesome song, to me it's also an encapsulation of the climate in the country at the time, and makes me feel faux-nostalgic, since i was like two at the time. the early 80's were a good time for fear.

two people is just... eerie madness, really, since there's not a whole lot of actual substance. the lyrics see our protagonist in the role of either a soothsayer or misanthropic god, spinning a little yarn about how two people in a car, who think they're going far (not sure if that's both literal and metaphorical, but both work), are really just going to die and he's the only one privy to this fact. the macabre subject matter is made more severe by the cold, mechanical music, consisting of random noises (blaring drones, blasting saxophone), the sudden falling out of the background music as well as shrieking vocals. what two people lacks in conventional songwriting, it more than makes up for in menace.

the storytelling structure will continue with high why. here miller recounts a tale about how he scored some drugs off the street and got high before a show. then he proceeds to rhetorically, and repeatedly, ask (yell) "why?" never answering, merely ruminating. at the very least it's a unique take on drug use since it serves as a counterbalance to the glorification of narcotics in music. since his story is left unresolved, it's the bouncing bassline and rubbery guitar chords which ultimately leave a lasting impression on the listener.

after beginning the album with something resembling a normal song, minimal man has been moving further away from the standard verse/chorus/verse pattern ever since. while that could be a risky move, in terms of holding people's interest, patrick miller's brand of nihilism actually seems to thrive more once it's freed from the shackles of convention; hospital is proof positive of that fact. this time he'll go in a different direction with the vocals, adopting a stutter to some words and repeating others for emphasis, definitely not as straight forward. now, due to his delivery, i can't fully grasp the song's meaning, but combining the dark lurch of the music with shouted lyrics such as "she's going to be in the hospital a long long long time!" one can assume it isn't anything sweet. i may not be able to get the gist of what's going on, but there is a good lyrical payoff (which is rather lacking in other songs). one of the things that patrick says a few times in the song's duration is "knowing fully well anything she found would always be mine", he'll follow up that thought just before the song ends with the multi-tracked whisper of "and she found the worms crawling out of her", which was a wonderfully fucking creepy way to end this song.

blue step is easily the album's noisiest track, and it's also one of the best. the highlight here is a great submerged guitar line which is often buried underneath a variety of noisy add-ons. without that grounding guitar it seems like blue step would just collapse from the sheer chaos surrounding it.

the appropriately titled hatemonger (the song ends with the repeating of "fucking little whore!") once again features a very strong musical foundation; a repetitious, affected guitar chug, which alternates between two particular tones. the relative monotony of it is broken up by another guitar, with its piercing siren-like wails and miller's fractured vocals will match the buoyant quality of the instruments to terrific effect.

following that rousing three song high the album's quasi-titular centerpiece, the shroud, will cool things down considerably. it consists of waves of layered ambient drones, disturbed only somewhat by subdued meandering synth clatter.
now i want it all stands out not only for being one of the scant normal songs on the record, but for the fact that it's actually upbeat to the point of being poppy. considering how things had been progressing up to now, it's pretty jarring. its airy synth melody will pair nicely with that of the distorted guitar and miller will (legitimately) sing, betraying the talk/shouting dynamic which had been commonplace. with that said, it's not all good times as the song's mid-section corrodes into droning guitar clamor, ambient synthesizer sounds, eerie whispers and a nice undercurrent of electronic noise. after that tumult, now i want it all picks up where it left off.

there's a good sparse vibe to the hex of sex, with its slight tribalesque percussion and a memorable anchoring bassline as its rhythmic counterpart. that'll be fleshed out by formless guitar and droning which differs in each stereo channel. lyrically, miller begins by saying how he thinks of all the disgusting animalistic things he used to do with an ex when he's lonely, making sex seem contemptible, he'll then build on that by stating that since the beginning of man, everyone has wanted just one thing, sex, and that word is issued with more than just a tinge of vitriol. fucking may be an instinctual act to him, but not one that he seems too proud to be engaging in.

the duality of minimal man will rear its head once more in you are. the lyrics are essentially an ode to someone he considers dear to him, "you are my friend, you're special to me, you're the one i love", the problem is that the music is so tense and unfeeling that the sentiment comes across as condescension. this actually makes the sappy lyrics much more tolerable. the music revolves around what sounds like a distorted alarm going off, which is joined by feedback and understated guitar noise.

miller retreats back to his lonely place in i don't resist. at this point he seems unburdened and resigned to just letting loneliness consume him, basically offering himself to it with his shouts of "i don't... resist!" there's a strong melancholic guitar melody at resist's core which is haunted by the darker bass chords and atmospheric industrial synth noise.

for having such a natural sounding title, jungle song is ardently inorganic. the no-frills drum machine beat in tandem with the main synthesized melody (two consecutive high-pitch tones followed by a mid) fit congruently with the patrick's theme; once more, though more obvoiusly this time, he will cast himself in the role of creator. now he's singing about how "nice" it is that so many different people (and animals) can coexist in "the same device", linking the mechanical quality of the music with the lyrics. the pauses that are used to separate each statement create a fragmentary format which is impactful in this setting. jungle song, which is (musically) catchy and upbeat, is oddly optimistic, without being backhandedly so, definitely a rarity.

it would have been a little too neat or easy to end the album with the last track, so instead it draws to conclusion with she was a visitor. lacking any ear-catching components, it's best when viewed merely as an outro (despite the fact that it's nearly four minutes long). the lyrics won't extend beyond the plaintively spoken title of the song and they're issued atop pulsing synth tones which are broken up by grim guitar riffs, rudimentary drumming and saxophone that just drifts along in the background. the vocals will gradually rise in amplitude and become increasingly affected by a delay pedal. it's not a bummer or anything, just a bit of a milquetoast ending.

the shroud of may be a (mostly) bleak journey, but it is a highly rewarding one, aurally. seeing as how there's a great deal of emphasis placed on experimentation, specifically with regards to the lyrical aspect of songwriting, it was imperative that the music portion be strong enough to sustain repeated listens, and that was certainly the case here. the moodiness that arose through the group's melding of (restrained) noise, synth atmospherics and post-punk sounding guitars paired remarkably well with patrick miller's ravings. his lyrics, which at times seem improvised, offer the listener a voyeuristic glimpse at the uglier side of the human condition. in short, this is feel good music, since your life probably isn't as shitty as he made his out to be and that's something to feel good about.


blue step

:: posted by apc, 12:29 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, March 6, 2011

mosquito the rapist

[mosquito der schänder]
(1977, marijan david vajda)

slasher films are generally regarded as the lowest form of film by critics, christians and cunts (feminists) for their general lack of substance and substantial use of violence toward women, but biographical accounts of real crime have a social function most slasher films don't, (in my humble opinion) exposing what seems to be the thin veneer between the impulses of a rational person, and those of a killer. while the genre is definitely over-saturated with its share of serious character studies and re-enactments of real crimes, a few stand out for their distinctly graphic and outrageous portrayals of real murderers; placing all of the focus on personal motivations in a not-so-subtle ploy to evoke sympathy for the disturbed rather than trouble the viewer with any discernible sense of morality (and really, it's more fun that way). films like 1990's henry: portrait of a serial killer (based on the murders of henry lee lucas) and, more recently, aileen wuornos' 2003 biopic 'monster' present compelling arguments for the interest in this type of storytelling. both are shockingly bleak accounts of horrific acts committed by remorseless products of our own society, outcast at a young age and unable to reclaim or find solace in ordinary lives, giving us an opportunity to easily psychologize crimes that otherwise wouldn't be terribly relatable (a quick search on the crimes of either murderer proves to be a pretty grim one); however, these honest representations would be anything but honest if they didn't include the brutality that made them so notable to begin with. it all certainly makes for strange escapist fare when these films are actually effective though, as you begin to sympathize and even share the stakes in their murderous conquests. whether their intention is to provoke emotion, or at the very least, discussion, humanizing antagonistic figures can't be an easy task.
marijan david vajda's 'mosquito the rapist' (aka bloodlust) certainly tries its best to manipulate perspective by presenting the account of germany's "vampire of nuremberg," kuno hoffman, in the best light possible. vadja constantly flashes back at every possible opportunity to remind the viewer of the connection between some heinous act and a past event that led him to commit it - bringing vajda's personal definition of subtlety into question, although i doubt anyone able to read this (with the exception of some lucky parolees) could find a story about kuno hoffman easy to watch without some constant reminder of his humanity. hoffman, beaten so severely by his father that he was left a deaf-mute, led a pretty difficult life. he spent most of 1971 closely following death notices in the newspaper in order to immediately break into local cemeteries and engage with the recently deceased; molesting them, drinking their blood with a glass straw, and sometimes even cutting their heads off, overall defiling at least 34 corpses. not one to let a good opportunity pass him by, he shot a guard in a local cemetery who had interrupted a very private session with a corpse. that same night he shot a couple parked in a wooded area, stripped them down, and completely drained them of blood. the guard actually survived and was able to point out his attacker, leading to a lengthy trial and a life sentence for hoffman (since released in 2004 and living quietly in nuremberg, according to some fairly specious info on various websites). vajda stays true to the facts though, and spares no detail. even the addition of some exaggerated characters and details for effect don't distract from the austere portrait he creates, but ultimately seem pointless since hoffman's crimes were larger than life, anyway. heavy-handed but thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended to fans of the exploitation genre in general.
werner pochath (billed here only as "the man") plays kuno too well, with his intense eyes, kind face, and understated demeanor; he's exactly the kind of guy you'd expect to be waiting outside of an elementary school in a white van, only...he rides around on a moped (a real life fact that actually played a small part in his trial). vajda attempts to let the story speak for itself at first, as we watch kuno deal with life in his environment. while at work his boss sends a co-worker over to explain the fact that he's earned a well-deserved raise (establishing the fact that he's both deaf and mute), and he seems to understand (assuming he can read lips) and looks fairly content about the news. fortunately for him, he's unable to hear his co-workers gossiping about him behind his back shortly afterward, but kuno's proud moment is officially ruined for the audience. on the plus side, it's also the only moment in the entire film where you can really manage to pity the poor guy. after work he rides back to his apartment, and like a real life scene in any poor tenement, a woman hangs her laundry in the courtyard as her alcoholic husband gives their son a very public beating. their daughter (a quirky teenage girl who seems friendly with kuno) joins her mother in an attempt to help the boy, but the assault only stops when kuno tries to fight him and ultimately receives a good blow to the head. while kuno is dizzy from his injury, vajda takes the opportunity to insert one of about five hundred flashbacks to reveal something about his upbringing. obviously triggered by the incident in the tenement, he recalls being harshly beaten by his own deadbeat father as a teenager. kicked and punched until he's too injured to move, he's forced to watch his very young sister get molested just inches away as she rings a bell for help. probably one of the most graphic child molestation scenes i've ever witnessed in a film, and, although brief, it's just...pretty fucking shocking. the girl truly looks and seems all of eight years old, and although they're careful not to show her face at most angles, even as this older man pulls down her panties and rubs her, i'm kind of always expecting to see an older girl's body subbed in at the very least. i could be wrong, but i'd be interested to learn how they even pulled that off. anyway, she successfully struggles her way out of her father's grip and lies next to kuno on the floor while their father smashes her favorite doll in response to her defiance.
finally inside his apartment, we're given more insight into kuno's personality. now a collector of creepy porcelain baby dolls, he takes a moment to caress one as he stares at a portrait of what i'm assuming is his late mother. he then goes to the balcony with the intention of giving one of his dolls to the teenage girl next door, but accidentally drops it and they both watch as it falls to the ground and shatters (and he remembers his father laughing and stomping on his sister's doll again).
later that night he walks down a busy street and is approached by a big madame who sets him up with a fat, pushy prostitute (some favor) who for some reason isn't just satisfied with the money she's been given and feels the need to berate kuno (who's understandably hesitant) because she's in a rush to get it all over with, and "time is money" after all. kuno tries to rest between her saggy tits for a while but when he doesn't get around to putting out, she immediately chases him out and he ends up back at home, where he passionately tears one of his larger dolls apart. he then pours ketchup on his hands, and all over some newspaper, just to lick it off, afterward flopping down on his couch as if completely overcome with ecstasy. weird, weird stuff.
at work, one of his co-workers sees him playing with a doll under his desk and though kuno manages to hide it behind a locked drawer in time, the man brazenly runs up and pulls at the drawer creating a scene, insisting it's all proof enough that kuno is a weird pervert and that he intends to call his union so he won't be forced to work in the same office. his notions are easily dismissed by their boss and he's asked to go back to his desk before the union is called on him. kuno's co-worker does, however, manage to fuck up of kuno's work when a jar of red ink spills all over his desk as hoffman looks on in utter defeat, smearing the stuff all over his hands and mouth, allowing his co-workers to publicly witness his descent into madness. another flashback gives us further insight into what he's feeling at that moment - at a school for deaf-mutes he concentrates on school work at his desk, unaware that the children behind him seem to be plotting to embarrass him. a boy runs up and pulls at his work, overturning a pot of red ink and spilling it all over the desk as all of children in class quickly gather 'round to witness this, while their helpless teacher does nothing in kuno's defense.

aside from a few factual accounts of kuno's personal perversions here and there, the first fifteen minutes of this film seem more interested in exposing the plight of the impaired through the eyes of one man, perceived here as an overgrown child too inept to achieve any adult aspirations. a deaf-mute just trying to get along in a harsh, unbearable reality with no shelter from the cruel discrimination he endures every day from anyone who might cross his path. vadja explains away kuno's every odd impulse as a necessary outlet, even as these impulses intensify and manifest themselves in the form of nightly, almost religious, rituals with his dolls (another real-life fact stemming from a purported obsession with the occult), hinting at violent tendencies just beneath the surface.
it seems as if this man's world is a hopeless one, but his relationship with his neighbor's daughter seems to mature and it's possible to see a different life shaping for kuno, after all. she's the only person who shows him any kindness (to her mother's dismay), unable to sense any strangeness about him; even his unhealthy affinity for dolls seems more like the fixation of an average hobbyist. she looks to be about kuno's age but she appears to be somewhat stunted herself, acting much younger than she looks. her only passion is an all-consuming love for twirling around in circles, and in that way seems a perfect match for kuno. her warmth and sensitivity, among other things, certainly appeals to kuno but he makes no attempt to consort with her. in fact, one might think she was bothering him. the nervous manner that seems to make everyone else afraid to deal with kuno, attracts her to him more and she finds little ways to engage them in "conversation" (which mostly consists of grateful looks and small gestures). her mother suspects kuno's true feelings but the girl seems either too immature or too spacey to share them and professes only to loving clouds; her life's dream an intangible, childish wish to "dance over the rooftops and caress the whole world".
having a space cadet for a neighbor actually works out in kuno's favor when she allows him to raid the family shed, as he finally has access to the tools he needs to break into a church and defile a corpse. yay! unfortunately, he finds that indulging his whims hardly helps to curb his urges, and begins paying visits to the recently deceased on a nightly basis, dismembering and playing with their body parts. aside from the film's exploitative international title, referring to kuno's actual experiments with necrophilia, little allusion is made to any sex acts with corpses, but werner polchath's glacial performance throughout the film is so genuine that his obvious signs of arousal and excitement over his actions provide some of the best (and scariest) moments in the film (certainly creepier than the cheap, absolutely fake looking corpses he's consorting with). kuno names himself "mosquito" and his crimes are reported in the local newspaper, causing some panic around town (or at least a lot of water cooler talk at the office) and kuno is thrilled with his new-found fame, even when it makes it increasingly difficult to break into the church, forcing him to choke a guard in order to carry on with his business. kuno does manage to gain some confidence from the situation and he's able to ignore his co-workers' mean-spirited antics.
he won't be the only one successfully pursuing his goals, though, as the neighbor girl gets her big break when she puts on the new dress her mother gave her and climbs up on the roof of their tenement for an inspired and fairly impromptu dance performance for the entire neighborhood. either unwilling or unable to hear her family warning her to stop, she twirls to the edge and falls straight to her death. a trip to a whorehouse fails to comfort kuno as he hallucinates about his long lost beloved while two paid hookers go at it in front of him.
wrought with grief, kuno visits the girl's grave, removes her body and when he's finally able to physically express his true feelings for her, he realizes he is just embracing a cold, lifeless shell of her (formerly) lively self. unable to commit, he thrusts himself into the arms of another dead woman, taking the perversity up a notch as he sucks her blood through a glass straw.
i've had this argument before, and i've seen it mentioned elsewhere as a criticism of this film in particular, that this sort of act is nonsensical as the body would be commonly embalmed before being set out for burial, but natural burials (apparently a very environmentally stable alternative to more modern burial practices) explain that away pretty easily. the rest of the film plays out with basic re-enactments of the events that helped kuno earn his place on obscure goth girl vampire blogs when his rampage culminates in the murder (and exsanguination) of two innocent lovers, quietly humping out in the woods. a minor variation of note, instead of the gun, kuno uses a tool borrowed from the neighbor girl's shed to beat the couple to death with, which is a considerably more violent way to go.
a passport dropped at the scene leads detectives straight to kuno's office, where he's ultimately arrested (a markedly abrupt but realistic ending). aside from some slow pacing, and an obnoxiously 70's soundtrack which is better suited for a softcore porn, it's a great, surreal, piece of eurotrash i'd recommend to fans of jörg buttgereit's work (nekromantik, schramm), since it involves many of the same themes and may have been of some inspiration to him.

"maybe a bit to slow for some people but remember, it were the seventies. so it's not only watches and cheeses that comes from swiss."- trashgang (imdb).
:: posted by skirt, 1:44 AM | link | 0 comments |

go, go second time virgin (1969)
mondo weirdo (1990)
badi (1981) / e.t. de vagina (1995)
mosquito the rapist (1977)


bobby soxx - learn to hate in the 80's 7" (1981)
trumans water - the singles 1992-1997 (2003)
neva - individu (1987/2009)
feederz - jesus 7" (1980)
mr. airplane man - self-titled ep (1998)
nothing people - late night (2009)
come - don't ask, don't tell (1994)
the tights - bad hearts 7" (1978)
cheveu - like a deer in the headlights 7" (2009)
esther venrooy - shift coordinate points (2006)
the trashies - space jam (2011)
mutter - du bist nicht mein bruder (1993)
minimal man - the shroud of (1981)