The sequel of the 2001 film Friend. The gang member Joon-seok is sentenced to 18 years in prison in connection to the death of Dong-soo, his childhood friend and a member of a different gang. Joon-seok meets Dong-soo’s son Sung-hoon in prison, but keeps his relationship with Dong-soo a secret. Joon-seok proposes to Sung-hoon to join forces with him when he’s out of prison in order to grow in power, but the table is turned suddenly when Sung-hoon finds out about the connection between Sung-hoon and his father.
The timeline-jumping script is often a challenge to follow even if you’ve seen the first installment. But the bigger problem is a movie preaching violence as a solution to all of a gangster’s problems yet never going for the jugular.
Writer-director Kwak Kyung-taek—who helmed the original—somewhat atones for this with a story that offers some fascinating insights into the world of organized crime in Korea, with honour, custom, loyalty, and respect being recurring themes. The film also has sequences that are outright operatic in their execution (see the slow-mo revenge scene on a hospital floor set to Luc Baiwir’s gorgeously orchestral “Genesis”). For five minutes, it’s hard to argue with the artistry of Friend 2, even if it’s still a geyser of blood or two away from something great.
Please don’t let these comments dissuade you from checking out Friends 2 if you’ve already seen its predecessor. Even with all the complications, auteur Kwak Kyung-taek’s delivers some undeniable and simple pleasures — one being the joy that comes with witnessing how much better an actor like Yu has gotten (which isn’t to say he wasn’t good before) and how much sexier he’s gotten too; the other is getting to see a new, young talent like Kim glower in scene after scene with one of the best ’50s style Elvis coifs to hit the screen in many a day. This movie has left me with a serious care of hair envy.
When making movies out of fiction, most of the time it doesn’t work, unless the original text is purely telegraphic in style. If it’s good prose, it’s not usually the larger actions that we see that make it good – it’s something more ethereal within the style itself that give it quality. William Gibson’s noir-influenced techno-satire would seem perfect for adaptation, but anyone who’s suffered through (or even enjoyed) JOHNNY MNEMONIC suddenly realizes that the characters’ tough-guy dialog sounds utterly preposterous when actually voiced by a human being.
In NEW ROSE HOTEL, director Abel Ferrara finds the emotional heart of a very spare Gibson short (one of the best things Gibson’s ever written, and blessedly short on actual dialog) and creates a recognizable near- future world and characters who seem as comfortable with this subtly accelerated reality as we of 2005 are with plasma-screen TVs and mobile phones. The structure of the film can be extremely off-putting to those without enormous patience – it’s very slow-paced, and halfway through we see the almost the entire story over again, but very slightly changed. As far as I can tell, most of the scenes were shot twice from different angles. The entire point of Abel Ferrara’s approach is to visually represent the phrase, “If only I knew then what I know now”. NEW ROSE HOTEL really needs to be seen at least twice to be understood, and only lets go of the intelligence and daring of the direction and the performances after repeated viewings.
Christopher Walken plays Christopher Walken, under the guise of the character “Fox”, but I’ve rarely seen Walken so simultaneously comfortable and affected in any other role. Willem Dafoe has to play younger than he looks, and we get to watch his character learn what a fool he’s been, writhing with embarrassed disgust and fear as he discovers that the source of his predicament is his own stupidity and sentimentality. A very young-looking Asia Argento plays Sandii with more depth than she is regularly given credit for – her style is so subtle and genuine that she hardly seems to be acting, and as far as I’ve seen, she isn’t, but she’s so sexy and vulnerable that I’m more than willing to watch.
Even though we never see what happens to Dafoe’s character, one can assume what happens to him. He has nowhere to go but inside the coffin he’s created. The movie is a serious character study about not knowing what you could have and how greed and stupidity make a dangerous combination. I found this movie to be very deep and moving as well. But it’s not for everyone. It’s a shame this film is so under-appreciated; it’s definitely my favorite Ferrara film, and one of my top two Christopher Walken films. And lots of Asia in her underwear – what’s not to love?
As a kid, Sonny lost his mother on their trip being smuggled to the US. The Snakehead Lady, leader of the smugglers, gave him to a new family thus he became brothers with Stephen. One day Stephen went missing and returned as a Green Dragon gang member. Sonny went with him and they grew up that way. One day the Dragon’s leader Paul has his relative Teddy and Teddy’s daughter Tina from Hong Kong. Sonny takes interest to Tina. But as they talk, men from rivaling White Tigers come and open fire on them, serious wounding Stephen with eight bullets in his chest. The Dragons exact revenge by kidnapping and killing a Tiger. Paul take Sonny to visit Ah Tai, the Tiger’s leader to make peace and propose a new business of smuggling heroine inside mooncakes, which Ah Tai agrees to.
Sonny arranges Teddy for the run. Teddy succeeds but as he deliver the powder to the Tiger’s base, cops storm the place. Paul closes the door on Ah Tai and Tina hates Sonny for Teddy going to jail. One day Sonney and Stephen collect tax from a car workshop owner, which deliver less from his part. A Tiger jumps on them but Stephen kills him quickly. Finding money shortage, Stephen tells their gang captain Dai Lo about his uncle having money stashed. They then rob the place and the captain let the Dragons rape the wife and daughter, which stuns Stephen. One night Sonny and Stephen went to teach a lesson to a restaurant manager who harassed the Dai Lo’s girl. When the manager finds out who Stephen is, he mocks him. Stephen shoots him repeatedly, also shooting a white man out of reflex when the man stands up.
This means Stephen breaks one cardinal rule of gang killing: no whites. Tina makes a deal for Teddy’s sake on info implicating the Dragons, enraging the gang. But after Tina dropped her case, Paul instructs the captain to kill Stephen. Paul leads the Dragons to execute Tina, in front of Sonny, with Paul giving Sonny another chance to “find his way back home”. Paul then goes missing as the six Asian gangs convene with Dai Lo as the Dragons’ leader. He kills the Tiger’s leader, instilling fear to the other gangs and uniting them in a drug running operation. Sonny rats on them so the police easily cracks down the operation, even arresting Dai Lo. Sonny followed Paul to Hong Kong. But as he’s about to kill Stephen, the Asian detective Tang whom Sonny ratted to comes and shoots Sonny dead.
The story is a fresh take on the gang war and violence scene after the scarce of such stories for quite a while. It’s hard boiled, tough and raw. To some degree it can capture the ferocity of the violent and rivaling gangs and their turf wars. However it’s kind of unbalanced as those violent scenes mostly take place indoors. I kind of grew up watching Hong Kong triad movies, especially the ones with Andy Lau or Ekin Cheng in them, most of which has some of Andrew Lau’s work. They sure have some nice fight or brawl scene outdoors. The acting overall however feels like it’s missing something. Justin Chon tries his best at an action-crime role, but being known as the Asian dude from Twilight sure doesn’t lift his status on this movie. The other casts just barely kept the acting going with no real effort on the expressions. Having Ray Liotta didn’t really help the acting overall. For me the movie overall feels like a Martin Scorcese movie about street gangs with Hong Kong standard acting.
Armed with a ponytail and a beret, Steven Seagal marches on with corny lines and his own particular brand of justice. Despite the usual Seagal trademarks, this film had enough to recommend it. In this one Seagal plays Gino Felino; some of his childhood friends joined the mob; he joined the New York Police Department with the intention of keeping the old neighbourhood clean. One day his partner Bobby Lupo is gunned down in broad daylight by wannabe gangster Richie Madano. Gino has no idea why his partner was killed nor do the mobsters he asks; one thing is certain though… he is out for justice!! Over the course of the film Gino comes up against a variety of gangsters and street punks; those that try to attack him end up severely damaged, those who try to kill him or those close to him end up dead. Ultimately Gino will face Richie mano-a-mano and there are no prizes for guessing who barely breaks a sweat and who ends up with a corkscrew in his head!
If you enjoy violent action movies and aren’t too bothered about a strong plot then you should enjoy this. Seagal might not have the greatest emotional range but he does great fight scenes… and lets face it that’s what you want when sitting down to watch one of his films! The action is pretty grueling with bones being broken, teeth getting knocked out and one guy getting his foot shot off… and this was on an old VHS copy with almost a minute cut out; I dread to think what the uncut version is like! William Forsythe puts in an enjoyably over the top performance as Richie; a gangster so vile that even the mob want to eliminate him. Richie is clearly a psychopath; this is illustrated by the way he shoots a woman in a fit of road rage… Gino is clearly a nice chap despite his desire for bloody revenge because he stops to rescue a puppy some sleazoid has thrown from a car.
Seagal vs Dive Bar. One man enters, one man leaves. Unlike a lot of flashier martial arts, Seagal isn’t about looking good, he’s about breaking limbs and throwing people about the place and he does it very well. Actually this fight is the film’s highlight because the final fight scene is so implausibly one sided, it is funny to watch Seagal spend the best part of five minutes beating up some overweight guy.
The overweight guy in question is William Forsythe, who I only recognise as the gravel voiced sheriff in The Devil’s Rejects but here looks like a psychotic child, shooting people for no reason and being menacing and unpleasant to everyone he meets. Needless to say, Seagal and his mob connections are back to find Richie and make him pay. Seagal is on better form here, both with the fighting and the acting but the film still is bordering on self-parody, but without knowing it. A particular highlight is near the beginning when the opening credits begin, the camera freeze frames of Seagal’s face through a broken car window that he’d just thrown a pimp through. It’s funny and again, it doesn’t mean to be a lot of the time.
A grisly yet derivative horror flick set on a border post between North and South Korea. The Guard Post turns out to be a very familiar journey in its depictions of the terrors, both real and imagined, that befall a group of soldiers living in an ultra-remote and dangerous locale. The film it most resembles is R-POINT, another Korean movie with a very similar background, and if it isn’t quite as good as that film then at least it makes the effort.
The Guard Post offers a neat blend of psychological fear and in-your-face graphic horror. It opens with a massacre (wisely kept off-screen) and we subsequently follow the fortunes of a group of soldiers sent to investigate what happened. What exactly did happen won’t really surprise anyone – the theme is extremely familiar these days in plenty of horror films – but it’s handled in an efficient way that maximises the various scare scenes to strong effect. There’s physical horror present in the film too, but rather than dwelling on it, it’s presented in brief, jarring visions which add to the viewer’s disorientation.
One flaw prevents The Guard Post from being a great film: the disjointed editing. The decision was made to tell both the back-story leading up to the massacre and the present, investigative story at the same time, with rapid-fire editing between the two time frames. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for the viewer to tell whether what’s going on is happening at present, or in the past. It doesn’t help that only a few of the main characters are given any kind of depth, and trying to distinguish one huddle of soldiers from the next is a difficult process. If it wasn’t for this, then The Guard Post could have been a truly great viewing experience; as it stands, it’s something I enjoyed but wouldn’t bother with a second time.
It’s an unusual, but immensely unpredictable military horror/mystery story covering its bases in an interestingly progressive non-linear narrative that constantly moves between present time and flashbacks in a very muddled fashion. At times it was confusing adjusting to which period was which, as they replay scenes over and over again of the lead up to eventful bloody massacre of the original team of G.P. 506 where they would try to reach the correct conclusion. A sense of deja vu really seems to creep in with the actions of the newly appointed team with there investigation. Even then the jadedly slow-grinding and over-long plot leaves you questioning some story devices and knotty developments, but this extremely cold and dread-fill atmospheric tale manages to pull you in as it constructs a threatening environment from its dourly tight bunker quarters, confronting paranoid friction and grippingly suspenseful exchanges that mostly ignited in graphic slabs of twisted violence. There’s authentically poignant make-up FX brought across. Su-chang Kong’s sleek direction is visually crisp, while maintaining a stark punch and the camera-work fluidly covers many angles. The music is emotionally stirring in its arrangement by adding to the creepy air and the sound effects have that chilling imprint. The starch performances by all are reliably solid and convincing.
Akiko da Silva is an amazing creative currently living in the town of Karuizawa in central Japan. She is a multi-faceted artist experienced in brand development, advertising, and print campaigns for clients ranging from small startups to multinational corporations. We talk about her passion for creative communication, her admiration for Wong Kar-wai, and her 2015 calendar that is making waves online. Read below for the full Q&A…
What were the early instances in which you found yourself engaged by great design?
I think my earliest memories of being hooked in by design are all food related! Without understanding it was “design”, as a kid I remember being fascinated by packaging and logos. The classic polka-dotted wrapped Calpis bottle, the Coca-Cola logo, the Milky candy and Morton salt girls, the shape and wrapping of Hershey’s iconic kisses… it’s incredible how design can be so interwoven in memory and personal history!
How did you latest project, an illustrated 2015 calendar featuring the daruma, come about!?
A little south of where I live now is Takasaki city, which is the capital of the Daruma doll. The Shorinzan Daruma Temple there is where the doll originated. We got some dolls at the huge Daruma market they hold there every year and I found that having this physical embodiment of my goal was really helpful as a constant reminder to keep working at it. I became really fond of the tradition and thought it would be a fun challenge to put my own spin on it.
Yet, Japan is known for a lot of New Year customs and traditions. One of my favorites is eating soba buckwheat noodles to wish for a life that’s as long as the long, skinny noodles they’re eating. Are you going to explore other customary trends surrounding different holidays?
Hmm, I do love Children’s day and seeing all the colorful koinobori carp streamers swimming in the wind across rivers and in people gardens. Never thought about it before, but it would be pretty cool to design unique koinobori.
So you are given an assignment for a small startup, and an assignment for a huge corporate company. Both involve brand management. Do you treat each assignment differently or do you dive into them with the same creative process?
I think I do approach every project, whether for an individual or large company, basically the same way and using the same process. Every client wants to connect with an audience and I see it as my job to help form that communication. I feel that a message is embodied in every fiber of a brand, from the smallest icons to the typeface used in the humblest of communications. The design process refines this message until the client and I, as a team, have arrived at a solution that hopefully elevates their company and engages their audience in a meaningful way.
A few years ago you worked as a Senior Graphic Designer for Forever 21 which is primarily a United States based company who wanted to reach an international audience. How were you able to successfully take an existing brand and marketing towards an entirely different group of people?
Forever 21 has a pretty defined identity, and that’s all about youthfulness and having fun with fashion. Luckily in the markets I worked on, all big cosmopolitan cities, there were already large populations of consumers open to the idea of shopping as a means of self-expression and as entertainment. I wanted to make sure we stood out among the competition by presenting an image of a unique retailer that was really fresh and fun while highlighting the great variety of fashion the store has to offer.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
I love just about everything from my favorite Asian directors Koreeda Hirokazu and Wong Kar Wai. Koreeda’s films are beautifully understated and have a very quiet aesthetic that can nevertheless profoundly shake your soul. Nobody Knows is simply stunning. Wong Kar Wai just creates magic, doesn’t he? In the Mood for Love is just impossibly beautiful.
What would you say are the aesthetic common threads that communicate your style brand to clients and customers?
Modern minimalist design is really appealing to me, but I naturally tend toward the colorful, exuberant, and playful. I have tried to fight this tendency of mine in the past, but I’ve just come to accept it now. Incorporating more of my illustration into my work is part of that. I think clients come to me now wanting to incorporate these qualities in their projects, so it’s a good thing!
What is it like working with your husband? Good times?
[Laughs] Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to work with my husband, who’s a photographer, just a few times. I would really love to be able to collaborate with him a lot more. While I can take any kind of commentary from a client, I find it really hard to take critique from my own husband! It’s a little problem I’ll be working on.
Ok, so, it’s January 1st, 2015 and you have a Daruma doll sitting in your lap. You fill in one of the eyes. What is your first goal you are setting out for yourself?
Ooh nice question! I’ve been working on developing my surface design skills— basically patterns and graphics for textiles. Developing a surface design portfolio is definitely a goal for the new year. If I could successfully sell a pattern collection, that would be just awesome, and I would fill in Daruma’s other eye and give thanks for his help!
Digital ad spending, up 17 percent year-over-year in 2013, continues to grow at a fast rate. Are you still a firm believer in print? Or do you look to the future?
The digital universe and particularly smartphones are undeniably changing our culture in really exciting ways. I enjoy designing for web and am actually working on icon designs for mobile apps. Good design is definitely essential to good digital experiences. That being said, I’m also looking forward to a future where print and the unique tactile and sensory experience it offers is still very much desired!
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Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh film, Inherent Vice, is a surreal, kinky, and stoned epic of mammoth proportions. The fact that Anderson decided to be the first director adapt the wild prose of Thomas Pynchon is an achievement in of itself. Set in Los Angeles in the early Seventies, Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) awakens from his stony stupor when his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) tries to find sanctuary from her real-estate mogul boyfriend, his wife, and her boyfriend. In traditional noir fashion, not all is simple as it sounds as a bigger presence is involved with a cavalcade of characters thrown into Doc’s world; a heroin-addicted sax player from a surf-rock band (Owen Wilson), a coked- up dentist with the libido of a rabbit (Martin Short), and an LAPD officer/failed actor (Josh Brolin) busting anyone with long-hair and forming a strange love/hate bond with Doc.
The film is a hybrid of comedy, romance, and mystery inspired by the major film-noir flicks of the 1940s, such as Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep and Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear, except that rather than having Sam Spade chain smoke cigarettes and drink gimlets, you have Doc Sportello smoking endless joints and drinking tequila zombies. Anderson’s perspective of Los Angeles in the Seventies has been shown before in Boogie Nights in all its hedonistic glory, but in the case of Inherent Vice, he manages to capture the mood of L.A. in an earthy, yet naive glow that mirrors the energy and fear that erupted in the wake of the Manson murders and the rise of Nixon’s silent majority. No matter how you slice it, Anderson’s film fits in the tapestry of other L.A. noir classics like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, but with the comedic antics of a Cheech and Chong film or an episode of Gilligan’s Island.
Joaquin Phoenix gives a brilliantly-nuanced performance as Pynchon’s anti-hero private eye. Unlike his last collaboration with Anderson on The Master, Phoenix reigns in his eccentricity with a relaxed, yet stoned, approach and manages to not make Sportello into a clichéd character of the counterculture thanks to the sharp wit and dialogue of Anderson’s screenplay. Josh Brolin’s performance as Bigfoot Bjornsen is brilliantly comical and tragic as he tries to walk amongst the Indica-smoke streets with the power and authority of Jack Webb from Dragnet. Katherine Waterston gives a remarkable performance as Doc’s former flame as she gives a raw and naked performance that is both sympathetic and mysterious. Despite being on film for only ten minutes, Martin Short gives a performance of comedic gold with the eccentricity and insanity as equally as funny as his alter egos like Ed Grimley and Jiminy Glick. Among the other actors who fill out the film, Reese Witherspoon as an assistant D.A. and Doc’s part-time love interest, Benecio Del Toro as Doc’s confidant and Owen Wilson each give solid performances.
Jonny Greenwood, in his third collaboration with Anderson as composer, creates a score that mirrors the Noir-fashioned sounds of Jerry Goldsmith mixed with the psychedelic sounds of the Laurel Canyon music scene of the early Seventies. Also, the music of Neil Young’s Harvest album adds an emotional depth to the romantic interludes between Doc and the women in his life. Robert Elswit’s cinematography is as excellent as his previous collaborations with Anderson as he manages to capture the long, strange trip into the underbelly of Los Angeles. Inherent Vice may be at times incoherent and somewhat dense as Pynchon’s novel, but it is one hell of a trip!
With episode #375 we feature a definition of hustling, motivation, and talent. After majoring in International Economics and working in finance for a few years, Trebles and Blues started making music. If you follow his musical journey you can literally see the evolution of his progress. ‘From My Father’ is a journey that takes you through the life of Trebles and Blues father. He intermixed jazz with samples of Korean folk music that his father used to listen too. If you take a look at his current project, Seasonality, dropping on Tuesday, it exclusively uses Brazilian music as its source. We chat about his life before music, his involvement in community music programs, his new sound and more! Read below for the full Q&A…
A few years back Sessions LA no longer had the financial means without crowdfunding to continue. Why do you think community music programs always seem to be hard to maintain?
Before I delve into your question, I just want to state that Sessions LA is still going on, but the details of its duration are still being explored. I’m currently a music production instructor for an 8-week long, once-a-week collaboration between Sessions and Inner-City Arts (another great non-profit organization here in LA), but from my understanding, Sessions as a standalone program will continue once again in early 2015.
That’s great to hear! Do you feel creativity isn’t rewarded enough in formal education?
In regards to your insightful question, I think art as a whole is just not fostered as much within our traditional educational system. Math and science continue to remain top priorities at the high school level, with music, graphic design, and fine art all falling staunchly into the “extracurricular activities / hobbies” bucket. If this is the structure that our youth have to fit into, the role of community music programs is to expand that foundation and reaffirm our students’ beliefs that their passions are indeed important. Programs such as Sessions LA exist to emphasize the fact that growing your artistic craft teaches you just as much (if not more) about the principles of dedication, persistence, and patience, as being a student of any other subject matter. I think formalized education still has a ways to go, but I feel that our current generation of entrepreneurs, musicians, and other independent/creative minds are being rewarded for their efforts. I hope that this can eventually be an agent of much-needed change within our educational system.
And you are another brave soul who worked and ventured out into a career but decided it wasn’t for you. Did it take a certain amount of courage for you to transition to music full time or were you pretty gung ho?
At the time, it really seemed like a no-brainer. I do want to preface that I currently am working in finance once again, but when I decided to make that initial leap about three years ago, I just knew that it needed to be done. I was in a place where I was unsatisfied with the pace of work and how purposeless it all seemed, but my passion for beatmaking was so prevalent. After realizing this, it wasn’t a move that was done with courage, but more so out of necessity.
The interesting thing is that the risk of making that sort of move is essentially one thing: the concern of money. The rewards, however, are countless. I originally left finance to do just one thing: make music. During the process though, I met so many incredible people and made some good stuff all at the same time. I joined Sessions LA, connected with the youth, worked on From My Father, performed in Japan, worked with Absolut Zero (an independent Japanese label), executive produced an album with Gowe, toured colleges with him, and so much more.
In the end, it’s ultimately all about balance. I think that for some, the lack of money really motivates them to make better art, but for me, I didn’t like the fact that I had to focus on selling my stuff. I’m not sure how my views may change over the next few years, but as of now, I’m working on balancing my work as a finance professional with my work as a musician.
So, you worked in finance for three years, and its been slightly over three years since you’ve released your debut project to the masses. Comparing each three year life event, what do you think is the biggest contrast between the two in how it has affected your life?
Being a musician has really taught me what it feels like to be empowered by your art and of the artistry that surrounds you. I am fortunate to have found an artform that I’m passionate about, and I am so thankful for that. However, I feel that as an artist, it also becomes easy to doubt yourself because art is such a subjective thing, and knowing what its worth is at any time (both monetarily and emotionally) is very challenging.
When it comes to areas like law, medicine, finance, things of that sort, the value of your profession is pegged to a hard value, whether it’s in the form of a salary, bonus, benefits, whatever. Things are much more defined and structured in that realm, and many of the roads have already been traversed. Music has allowed me to go on this wonderful path of self-discovery, where I long to stay determined and continuously build my identity as an artist, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. The opening up of this gateway has been the largest effect that it has had on me to this day.
Is ‘Days of Contrast’ a peek into a bigger project for you? Perhaps a gateway into the direction of how you want future projects to sound?
It’s interesting you ask me this, because No Alias (the other half of Days of Contrast) and I just got back from a “beat retreat” in Joshua Tree this past weekend, which means that new music is on its way! Days of Contrast is simply our way of linking up as an official duo to have fun and release music together as a collective. I’ve made music with No Alias for a little over four years now, and everything that we’ve made together has been part of an ever evolving, organic process. I honestly think that we put out an amazing project in March titled When Life Was Simpler, which also has some beautiful artwork that was created by my girlfriend.
In regards to your questions, since Days of Contrast is not a solo effort on any part, I personally don’t know the precise direction it’s going to go in because we kind of just go with the flow. It’s awesome because we’re amazed at just how different our stuff is when we compare it with our individual work. I would like to say that we have a certain style, but man, the stuff we created this past weekend is sounding great, and has a really different tone than what we have made in the past. Hopefully we will get to share it with everyone soon!
If people follow your Soundcloud they are given daily offerings of some sweet instrumentals. Will your next full length album be using Kickstarter as well or will you go another route?
My next project, Seasonality, will be released via my Bandcamp on December 16th (next week Tuesday), and it will be a digital-only release. As a result, I won’t be using Kickstarter for this project. I’ll touch a bit more on Seasonality later!
As a fan of Nujabes who contributed heavily to the OST of Samurai Champloo, we wanted to ask you if you could construct a soundtrack to any anime of your choice, which would you choose and why?
I actually don’t watch much anime; the only one I was ever really into was Dragonball Z (and just the manga, the TV shows were just way too slow for me to follow regularly). However, you bring up Nujabes, and I have seen some episodes of Samurai Champloo. I remember watching this scene where they played “Counting Stars”, and it just fit so well. Nujabes was really somethin’ else man. It’s funny, I hardly listen to his music now, but when I first heard his stuff back in 2008, I immediately fell into this deep phase where I connected with his music so much. To be honest, I really long for that feeling again, where I was so enamored with someone’s art that it became the soundtrack for my life. There’s a lot of good music out now as well, but I don’t think I’ve ever connected that much with an artist’s music like I did with Nujabes’ artistry a little over six years ago. So with my limited knowledge of anime, I’d answer your question with Samurai Champloo and try my hand at it. The only other thing I’d say is Dragonball Z, but I’d probably have to find a ton of psychedelic rock samples to make songs for the million times they need to power up before they finally fight the dude.
How do you approach a remix, taking an existing tune and putting your own spin on it while keeping the integrity of the original?
I usually would already be in the process of making a beat, then I’d listen to it and think, “Hey, this would sound dope if so-and-so was rhyming or singing on it.” I did that for the Biggie remix I put out a few months ago because the beat I was working on had this really dark tone to it already, so I thought that putting one of his acapellas over it would sound great.
The only time I remixed something purposefully was a lagrima track by DJ Phatrick, which was fun to do.
To be honest, I don’t really do too many remixes; I enjoy listening to them, but I’m not an active participant in creating them at this point.
As a fan of 9th Wonder, Dilla, 60s and 70s soul music, etc. How important is crate digging to you? Also your thoughts on the renewed interest in the vinyl medium?
Digging in the crates for samples is very important to the longevity of hip hop culture, and is something that I enjoy doing as well. However, I’m not one of those purists that believe that you need to find your samples in the form of a vinyl record, because at this point, the resources are so vast that it would be a shame not to tap into what technology has been able to provide to us. I enjoy digging for records, but a majority of what I sample has been obtained online.
I think the renewed interest in the vinyl medium is awesome! I either read or heard someone speak on how music was consumed before the Walkman came out; since vinyl was the primary method of music consumption, people would actually set time out of their day to listen to the record, from start to finish, in one sitting. It was really an experience for them. When the Walkman came out, music became portable, so it kind of became just background/ambient noise for other primary activities, and everything changed. Now that vinyl is having a resurgence, I think it allows people to just sit down and simply listen to the record as one great experience.
Looking back on your career, do you think ‘Blue Note’ will ultimately be your ‘Illmatic’? Are you not so much concerned with outdoing the last record as you are crafting a new experience?
Each project is essentially a snapshot in time of what I am feeling, what I am inspired by, and where my life stands. The Blue Note was a culmination of all my primary influences at the time, from Nujabes to 9th Wonder, and it was my way of personifying that through my own art. I don’t think that The Blue Note will be the benchmark of my work, as I continuously strive to do different things with my music because inspiration arrives in so many different genres and formats. Even with Nas, he has made phenomenal music outside of Illmatic, and it isn’t Illmatic alone that has moved his career forward for so many years. I know Nas gets a lot of flack for his music “not being as good as his first album”, but I think it’s a little blown out of proportion. I mean, what about “If I Ruled the World”? “Nas Is Like”? “Ether”?!?! These are career-defining songs he has made well after Illmatic. Anyway, without getting too off-track [laughs], I feel that my own craft has definitely evolved since 2011, and I am proud of where It is going.
In regards to your second question, at this point in my career, I really want to craft unique experiences with each project. The Blue Note (2011) was my homage to that soul/jazz vibe that initially captivated me to make beats. From My Father (2013) was a very personal project that allowed me to use a completely different medium (Korean folk music) to create an experience about my parents.
My next project, Seasonality, which comes out in a week, is completely different. It is constructed solely using Brazilian samples, with an emphasis on that funky and groovy vibe that makes you want to dance. It’s really my first venture into uptempo music, and it sounds nothing like my first two projects. It’s interesting also because I know folks have flipped Brazilian samples before, but I think the way I approached them is quite different. I dropped a single titled “Your Move” it last Tuesday, so you can get a taste of what to expect!
Lastly, any advice for any aspiring beatmakers?
If you truly love making beats, then be really grateful that you have found a passion. It’s something that goes a long way, and something that will act as a great outlet to channel your emotions and experiences you have throughout your life. With that said, there will be challenges to face too! You might have creative blocks, doubts, and uncertainties as to where this will ultimately go (which I do as well), but the only thing I can say to that is to keep pushing. I’m also trying to figure it out too, but as long as I keep creating, I think clarity will develop as a result of that effort. Keep at it!
Thanks to Marcello from Japan Cinema for the insightful questions. Remember, Seasonality drops on Tuesday, December 16th, at http://treblesandblues.bandcamp.com. I hope y’all enjoy it!
There is a scene, about two thirds of the way through, in which an older woman, mother to three children, sits down with her eldest daughter and the boy she has fallen in love with, and for about five minutes, they speak to each other. These are hard times – all three know it. At the beginning of the scene, the mother is sceptical. She treats the two as children, with their heads in the clouds. But the conversation develops, and gradually, we realise a change in the mother. She cannot back down – in practical, surviving terms, she is in the right. But she softens her approach, and by the end, even has a kind of basic respect for the two, behind her frosty exterior. For she has seen the love that these two have for each other, and recognized it. It was then that I knew I was watching a great movie…
Zhang Jingqiu is a student sent to do research and write a report for her school on a small village in Yichang City. She stays with the head of the village and his family. While there, she meets Sun, a geology student. What follows is inevitable. But how delicately rendered it is: Jing is the most beautiful, innocent young woman Sun has ever seen, and Jing, emotional and vulnerable, is amazed by him. Love at first sight! But this isn’t as whimsical as it sounds. Yimou hasn’t completely forgotten his political ideals and ability for scathing criticism: with this latest endeavour, he explores just how stifled and suffocating Mao’s regime was for everyone under his power, and the emotional deadlock that threaten to destroy his protagonists at every turn. Frolicking, even in the most innocent sense of the work, was risky; Sun and Jing are from different classes, exacerbating the issue. Were they to be found out, her life and ambitions to work as a teacher would be ruined.
I was unsure, during the first half of the film, what to think. Yimou makes some interesting structural choices as regarding his narrative – many of the scenes are divided by inter-titles, telling us of an event we are not allowed to see, and then moving on to its aftermath. Most directors would die before doing this – especially in a film requiring the emotional impact this needs – and, I admit, I doubted its benefits at first. But instead of hindering the drive of the plot, Yimou has used it in such a way – not to cut the film into a digestible running length, but simply to avoid over melodramatics, and focus (almost entirely) on the couple in question. Supplementary information is given to us by other means – the filmed scenes are belong exclusively to Yimou’s exploration of our two protagonists’ relationship. It works perfectly.
Of course, we all know the rules. Both lovers are alive at the beginning; the same cannot be said after the end credits begin to roll. What makes this movie so wonderful isn’t its startling originality; it isn’t going to revolutionise cinema as we know it, or spark off long lasting controversy. Rather, what we are offered is a little less prestigious, but by no means less special. What we find is emotional honesty – when we start to cry at the end, we don’t feel cheated; instead, we revel in the director’s success. More importantly, though, we have felt for his characters, having engaged with them completely, and have a kind of renewed respect for the kind of pure, unconditional love we have been shown. The film is yet another example of Yimou’s mastery of the ‘anti-melodrama’ – much like his early work, this is incredibly restrained, beautifully measured and patiently observed, shot through with a warmth and tender humanity that shouldn’t inspire anything but admiration. Cynics – stay away. But for all the romantics out there (of which I, admittedly, am one), I couldn’t recommend this more highly. Simply put, it’s exquisite.