Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe made me giggle for 87 straight minutes. (Heh heh he said "straight.") Subplots are sorta rushed to the finish line (heh heh he said "finish"), but minor quibbles aside, it's the funniest movie I've seen in a long, long time. It does a lot with very little, generally over-delivering ("deliver") on a profoundly stupid premise.
Do the Universe confirms, though, that Beavis and Butt-Head movies have always had a sharper eye towards satire than the TV show. Case in point: the boys walk into a gender studies class on a college campus — the conceit alone was so rich and absurd that I started to snort-laugh as soon as I realized what was about to happen. But then Mike Judge does the thing he does best: as the class confronts and educates the boys on white privilege (with Tig Nitaro voicing the professor!) and a white dude in dreads interrupts a Black woman, the boys' takeaway is to abuse their white privilege. "Step aside, please! We have white privilege." The boys snatch fries and cake out of the school cafeteria, loot the campus store and attempt to steal a cop car before crashing. "We're subverting an existing paradigm!" Beavis exclaims in a self-awareness too smart for his character.
One reviewer called this scene "anti-woke," which is such a deep misunderstanding of, well, pretty much everything Mike Judge has produced. (Heh heh he said "deep.") Judge doesn't really pick sides (or "both sides" issues), but pokes (heh heh) at the absolute absurdity of social constructs while showing empathy for the persons at the very butt of the joke. (Heh heh he said "butt.") —Lars Gotrich
kojika, 堕落学 (self-released): Tokyo's kojika fits squarely in the midwest emo sound with a toe/tricot twist: slippery-but-hooky guitar work with a knotty-but-pop-punky drive. But then there's the singer — chirpy, clipped and, well, robotic because the singer is a robot. I consider myself pretty open to AutoTune and vocal manipulation generally when it comes to music — in pop, avant-garde, rap, whatever — as long as there's a strong bond between the source material and the effects made. Vocaloid, on the other hand, I've been slower to accept, so, of course, it'd take a Japanese emo/math-rock band featuring voice synthesis to change my mind. The thing kojika does, however, is lean into the software's limitations — in this case, Hatsune Miku — by pairing that uncanny quality with math-rock's own predilection for twittering rhythms, and even speed-running through tracks like "スペースリープ" to show off the Vocaloid's possibilities within the genre.
Nancy Mounir, Nozhet El Nofous (Simsara): The past is never past, as it's said, but still speaking to us, through us and with us. There are sympathetic specters within Nozhet El Nofous, an album that pairs 1920s Egyptian classical singers with Nancy Mounir's yearning arrangements, but the distinction between what's old and new isn't as simple as a gritty recording set to strings, piano and horns. In some ways, I'm reminded of the operas heard in another room on Graham Lambkin's Salmon Run, The Caretaker's deteriorating ambient music or GY!BE's slow-moving post-rock apocalypse — but none of that's right, either. Because these archival recordings come from a time before Western influence, the original microtonality lends an unending quality to these voices, and to the questions and desires that still linger.
Jumalhämärä, Of Enlightenment and Righteousness pt. III (Triumphant Transgressions): If you have ever wondered what David Sylvian would sound like fronting a progressive black-metal band while sinking into the depths of a psychedelic hell, well… clearly, you, too, have strange dreams. Finland's Jumalhämärä has been around since the mid-'90s; I don't know its catalog well, just that the band (like, say, Ulver) used to be straight-up black metal, then got weird, then kept getting weirder. This is a single, 18-minute track that, like fellow Finns in Oranssi Pazuzu, gets into some Pink Floyd territory — the stylistic transition about 7 minutes in, with the frenetic hi-hat drumming, is quite Dark Side of the Moon — but with a dramatic bombast that's both sublime and oh-so pretty.
Smoke Point, Smoke Point (Geographic North): There are moments on this record where you forget you're listening to music — you sail just above the rolling waters, in tune with the air gliding off your skin. Smoke Point is Brian Foote (Kranky, Peak Oil, Leech) and Sage Caswell (Spring Theory) in ambient-house mode, locked into minimally sparkling grooves, but uninterested in innocuous chill. The quietly noisy, bongo-pulsed "Spawn Point" is an excellent example of a deep vibe cultivated without sacrificing complexity. Vinyl version comes with four locked grooves! You want the vinyl version with four locked grooves!
Touccan, Full Sentimental (Ripcord Record / Hell Vice I Vicious / Seaside Suicide / Sleepy Dog): Pro tip: When a cool band announces an album released by several labels at once (usually to offset vinyl costs), follow them all on Bandcamp immediately — your Bandcamp feed will thank you! Anyway, Touccan (with two C's?) is an instrumental guitar-and-drums rock duo from France that favors intricate-but-propulsive (mostly) wordless narratives — think early Maserati, Tristeza and Unwed Sailor — but also Pedro the Lion in bummergaze mode and Touché Amoré at its most euphoric. It's pretty messy! But has a roughly sewn-on jacket patch charm.
Fina China, Trees at Night (Velvet Blue Music): Fine China has always been in smart conversation with '80s pop music, expanding and evolving classic sounds with an ear towards refraction, not reflection. Trees at Night is essentially an extended single — one of the band's most dense, landing somewhere in the cosmic desert lands of New Order, Alessandro Alessandroni and used copies of Environments LPs — laying up melodic themes for the dreamy, Windham Hill-inspired instrumental that takes up the B-side.
V/A, Subliminal Skull Palace (Utech): You know, back in my day, we bought absurdly-long comps of out-there music and let our brains bake for hours on end! (See: Time-Lag's By the Fruits You Shall Know the Roots, Last Visible Dog's Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box). Utech Records gets back in the game, though it trims down to one CD of Japanese guitar music. The inspiration and the tracklist owes much to P.S.F.'s Tokyo Flashback series, so you've got old-schoolers like Tetuzi Akiyama doing blitzed guitar noise, Up-Tight's Aoki Tomoyuki laying down a feedback blues, and two sides of drippy psych-folk via Acid Mothers Temple members Kawabata Makoto and Mitsuru Tabata. But there are some new-ish names, too, like Changchang from the heavy psych-rockers Hibushibire with an ambient-folk zoner that wouldn't be out of place on an early Six Organs record or, my personal fave, a drone-doom boogie featuring Dhidalah's Ikuma Kawabe and Rollo. It's cool to hear these different generations of Japanese guitar contextualized in a psychedelic continuum, but, admittedly, now I want a sequel with the young scene coming up! Fingers crossed.
Stream the Viking's Choice playlist via BNDCMPR. Tracklist below:
kojika, "SUMMER BOY"
Touccan, "Sta Piangendo"
Nancy Mounier, "Wallah Testahel Ya Albi (with Hayat Sabry)"
Jumalhämärä, "Of Enlightenment and Righteousness pt. III"
Smoke Point, "Spawn Point"
Fine China, "Trees at Night"
Ikuma Kawabe & Rollo, "Nijyu-Rasen"
Kim Myhr, "Up to the Sun Shall Go Your Heartache"
Wrecking Crew (feat. Bruiser Wolf), "Piranha Hands"
The Veldt, "Check Out Your Mind"
Placid Angles, "Stormy Angel"
Black Knife, "Satanic Commander"
Heart of the Ghost, "Summons"
Judah Warsky/Gilbert Cohen, "Tout le temps tout le temps"
Extra Life, "Diagonal Power"
Lou Turner, "Microcosmos"
Sarah Davachi, "En Bas Tu Vois"
Mofungo, "El Salvador"
Lande Hekt, "Gay Space Cadets"
M(h)aol, "Bored of Men"
Defy, "Declare War"
Extermination Day, "Be the Consequence"
Lifeguard, "I know I know"
Bloodz Boi, claire rousay & More Eaze, "阴天 - Overcast"
Julien Baker, "Guthrie"
Steve Bates, "Destroy the palace"
Jawbox, "Consolation Prize"
Kudaranai 1nichi, "Red Eyes Alternative Black Dragon"
Insect Factory, "Infection Chain"
Kali Malone, "Living Torch II"