Cultural Bulletin
Cultural Bulletin is a quarterly magazine that provides an international view of creative work. We look to film, music, design and art as signifiers of our cultural moment.
Posts in Highly Recommended
In Review: Nate Young – Volume One: Dilemmas of Identity 
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Label: Lower Floor

The atonal nature of discordant electronics, lonely sounds and damage are increasingly serving as symbols for an emerging reality. Whether it is wandering around the supermarket or the post-apocalypse, there is a prevailing feeling that these places aren’t worlds away from each other. We will run out of resources, technology will enslave us, we’ll discover that we are actually software, Brexit, so on and so forth...

Instrumental music is a long established conductor of narrative form. Be it an orchestral movement or ambient sprawl, we are able to subjectively detect an emotional contingent within a piece of music and extract a story from it. The narrative can be as straightforward or as abstract as the listener feels compelled to imagine; a series of still landscapes, the arc of a globe over time or something as sedentary as a caretaker cleaning an old building at night. More dystopian stories, like Dilemmas of Identity, are monochromatic in their cynicism – a negative perspective opting instead, to convey the vividness and complexities of exactly how things might fall apart for the entirety of civilisation as we know it. 

Dilemmas of Identity presents us with a series of bleak scenarios for humanity. In fact, the song titles are the most organic aspects of the music – they provide an initial human image that is then set in opposition to an artificial counterpoint. It is not a stretch to extract a narrative from such song titles as ‘The Weeping Babe’, ‘Crumpled Body’, ‘Dribbling Insane’, ‘Flushing’ and ‘Pardon The Mess’ which already paint a picture of human suffering. Partnered with the music, it is clear that Dilemmas of Identity represents a total breakdown in the relationship between human and machine. 

This can be read in a number of ways, total breakdown of our systems, hostile A.I or some form of weaponry disaster. Whatever has occurred in Dilemmas of Identity, one thing for sure is that we are unequivocally fucked. Are these stories still science-fiction? Are we sleepwalking towards the apocalypse? Have we created systems of our own enslavement? Does anyone know where we are going? Is this music an early warning? AG

WATCH: Malick // Fire and Water - Kogonada
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Kogonada is a director and video essayist. Here, he looks at the role of fire and water in the works of Terrence Malick. Kogonada’s ability to compare and contrast themes without words is the reason he stands above most other video essayists and is the reason it comes Highly Recommended.

Enjoy the video below.

Of all the recurring signatures of Malick, his use of fire and water might be the most telling, in part because there’s a significant shift between early Malick (Badlands & Days of Heaven) and later Malick (The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life & To the Wonder). Early Malick favors fire. Later Malick favors water. In To the Wonder, Malick forgoes fire altogether for the first time in his career. Water reigns.

Music: River by Alexandre Desplat

 
SHORT FILM: FAUVE - Jeremy Comte
 
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Jeremy Comte is a director based in Montréal, Canada.

His shot film, Fauve, won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2018. Comte reportedly had a recurring nightmare that inspired the events of the film.

Watch this expertly tense and superbly acted film below.

Set in a surface mine, two boys sink into a seemingly innocent power game with Mother Nature as the sole observer.

 
IN REVIEW: Celine Gillain - Bad Woman 
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Label: Antinote

Maybe we know the truth deep down, and maybe that is the role of art — to articulate what we know but can’t express. As if a mirror, Celine Gillain’s record Bad Woman puts sounds to feelings of contemporary life. Last track ‘I’m Grateful’ seems to conclude that even if the mirror that reflects reality back exists virtually or is in essence an illusion it can still tell you something useful.

We live in a uniquely cynical moment in history that is both relentless and soft, so it is understandable that people should come from a naturally sceptical perspective: what do they want? Is that what they really think? What’s in it for them? Do people really live like this? The CGI glass of water is always half empty, to see it another way is a delusion. To be wary of drinking the water is appropriate, it is probably contaminated. So, what is sacrificed as a result of our contemporary perspective?

‘In the arena we meet each other, in the arena we eat each other.’  

Often perceived as a hyper competitive life, we are now keeping up with a billion Jones’ on social media and yet reluctantly talk to our next-door neighbours. Through the carefully curated fictional versions of our lives, we quickly see the fraud in others as perhaps a projection of our own disingenuous behaviour. We are bad.

‘Your friendship is like poison, paved with good intentions – I saw the fraud in you.’ 

What can be felt as an optimism across Bad Woman is the willingness look at our situation as someone who is complicit in it. There is no doubt that as reality changes with the increasing complexity of technology so will our perception of the world. With the limitations of the human mind laid before us by superior algorithms (that do our jobs), the idea of being factually certain will be laughable. 

Bad Woman is such a storied and yet abstract record that feels like a journey, the end point of which is as much a moment of happiness as it is a realisation or integration. The idea of the individual is absorbed into the collective multitude, as if realising you are less could be the only gateway to seeing that you are more. It is a contemporary kind of enlightenment that Gillain refers to, one we are still figuring out – together. AG

BUY THE RECORD HERE

IN PRINT: Footnotes - Issue B
 
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Footnotes is a type design periodical published by La Police.

Editor and designer Mathieu Christe opens the publication by explaining that Issue B is the second issue of Footnotes - the periodical bulletin of applied research into type design.

 
 

For newcomers, he states that Footnotes issue A (now sold out) included the first part of an article about the Haas Typefoundry Ltd. This saga is concluded by Brigitte Schuster in the opening act of issue B.

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The publication then looks at the jump from analogue to digital with Switzerland’s first generation of digital type foundries, a decade after Haas’ closure.

François Rappo is also featured - taking the reader through his practice, visions, impressions and projections. Christian Mengelt gives his perspective on the meaning and motivations of designing type in the context of today’s saturated, sometimes frivolous, market. We also get an essay from Adrian Vasquez - a designer at John Morgan Studio in London. Frank Grießhammer then shares his thoughts on the exploration of early vector fonts by Dr Allen Vincent Hersey.

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To conclude, we have Alice Savoie, Dorine Sauzet & Sébastien Morlighem researching Ladislas Mandel’s typefaces for telephone directories – part 1.

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Website Fonts In Use have provided a useful rundown of the typefaces displayed throughout the publication. They explain:

In order for the reader to discover the typeface(s) presented in each contribution, every essay is typeset with the related typeface(s). Some are unreleased, here’s their detailed list in order of appearance:

LP Jung is a still-in-progress typeface by La Police.
Detroit was available at Optimo between 1998 and 2000 in MM format.
Swiss Gothic is an unreleased revival of Gerstner/Mengelt’s Programm by François Rappo.
Antique is a private version of Helvetica by François Rappo.
Theinhardt Mono is an in-progress variation of the Theinhardt family by François Rappo to be released by Optimo.
AA Files Display Initials are a mix of styles drawn by Adrien Vasquez for the layout of the AA Files magazine.

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Buy your copy of the publication here and follow thier digital smoke signals on their twitter page.

 
WATCH: Caravaggio - Derek Jarman
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Now on the BFI Player is Derek Jarman’s wonderful film about the the 17th century Italian artist Michelangelo da Caravaggio. The film comes with a short intodcution from renowned British film critic Mark Kermode.

The BFI say:

Jarman struggled for seven years to get it to the screen. The result was well worth the wait.

It’s a freely dramatised portrait which conjures several of the controversial artist’s most famous paintings through elaborate and beautifully photographed tableaux vivants, and boasts wonderful performances from Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, and, in her first role, Tilda Swinton.

Watch it here.

IN PRINT: The Castle - Richard Mosse
 

Richard Mosse has spent the past few years documenting the ongoing refugee and migration crisis, repurposing military-grade camera technology to confront how governments and societies perceive refugees. His latest book The Castle is a meticulous record of refugee camps located across mass migration routes from the Middle East and Central Asia into the European Union via Turkey.

Using a thermal video camera intended for long-range border enforcement, Mosse films the camps from high elevations to draw attention to the ways in which each interrelates with, or is divorced from, adjacent citizen infrastructure. His source footage is then broken down into hundreds of individual frames, which are digitally overlapped in a grid formation to create composite heat maps.

Truncating time and space, Mosse’s images speak to the lived experience of refugees indefinitely awaiting asylum and trapped in a Byzantine state of limbo. The book is divided into 28 sites, each presenting an annotated sequence of close-up images that fold out into a panoramic heat map. Within this format, Mosse underscores the provisional architecture of the camps and the ways in which each camp is variously marginalised, concealed, regulated, militarized, integrated, and/or dispersed.

His images point to the glaring disconnect between the brisk free trade of globalized capitalism and the dehumanizing erosion of international refugee law in European nation states. Named after Kafka’s 1926 novel, The Castle prompts questions about the ‘visibility’ of refugees and the erosion of their human rights.

The book comes with a separate book of texts, including a poem by Behrouz Boochani, the journalist, novelist and Iranian refugee currently held by the Australian government in confinement on Manus island, an essay by Paul K. Saint-Amour, associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, an essay by philosopher Judith Butler, and a text by Richard Mosse.

BUY FROM TWELVEBOOKS HERE

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REVISITING: Jon Gibson - Two Solo Pieces
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It seems that everything in the known universe is a vibration, an interplay of opposing forces - some refer to it as a dance. What a strange outcome it is, that this vibration should produce beings with the conscious ability to consider their own existence. Depending on whether this phenomenon of human consciousness is viewed from a micro or macro level, it could be considered that we are aliens in this world or that we are a manifestation of the universe exploring itself. 

It’s a gift to the human experience that we should be able to manipulate sound in a way that presents us with an intuitive grasp of the nature of our own place. John Gibson’s ‘Two Solo Pieces’, (released in 1977) captures the tension of this universal vibration, revealing to us the strange reality that we are, through our consciousness and form, a component of this vibration. That we look for order, patterns and the rhythm in things is in itself a strange reality.

When chaos aligns to produce a harmonious moment we stop. Something essential has occurred - what innate intelligence guides us to recognise this? There is every possible manifestation of meaning to be derived but Jon Gibson takes a step further back, creating an attentiveness of the miracle itself. That we should even be in a position to derive meaning from music in the first place is a surreal outcome. Two Solo Pieces provides the listener with a portal to explore these themes intuitively and subjectively - in any way they like. AG

SHORT FILM: All These Creatures - Charles Williams
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Last year, Australian director and filmmaker Charles Williams created the wonderfully powerful and thought-provoking short film All These Creatures. The 13 minute film - shot on 16mm - deservedly picked up the Short Film Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. It revolves around an adolescent boy who attempts to untangle his memories of a mysterious infestation, the unravelling of his father, and the ‘little creatures’ inside us all. 

Cultural Bulletin will be speaking to Charles about his film in an excluse interview for Issue B. In the meantime, enjoy a director’s statement, stills and the trailer for the film below:

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Director's Statement

I think we all reassess the memories we have of our parents as we get older. This is especially true if we have a parent that was volatile or destructive – our memories of these giants can take on an almost mythic quality. 

Over time, we can we try to seek a deeper understanding. Who were they? Were they tormented themselves? Or mentally ill? What is the story we tell to understand these people? 

Where a destructive parent is concerned, there is also a child's fear of inheriting that damage, and what control, if any, a person can have over that. 

With 'All These Creatures' I wanted to explore these themes in a way that was immersive and visceral. To follow the memories of someone trying to understand a parent and the damage caused and, in the process, examine their own potentially unreliable experience of the world. 

My hope is that the film can deliver some sense of understanding for those volatile creatures who cause harm in our lives. Is it possible to see them outside of just who they are in our memories? 

Even if there are tragic consequences, can we still find some compassion for their struggle - and our own?

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CAST

Tempest Yared Scott

Mal Mandela Mathia

Winta Helen Hailu

Isabella Melody Demessie

Narrator Melchisedek Nkailu

Tempest’s Friends Mohammad Shahid Zada, Nejeebullah Muhummad, Louis Savage, Breanna Ruwoldt, Corey Kirk, Jamal Taylor

Woodwork Student  Leah Maric

Teacher Katherine Muir

People on the Street Dennis Petropoulos, Lucas Petropoulos, Karl Fernando, Walter Kajer, Sade Aroha Waaka, Llewellyn Michael Bates

Students Lachlan Anderson, Joshua Burgess, Megan Elliot, Siennah Ferris, Yasmin Issacs, Isabella Heffernan, Elma Jelacevic, Richard Mezei, Aqueel Abdul Karem, Georgia Neilson, Medhi Jafari, Lennon Moons, Ben Evans, Sara Demessie, Bemenet Melaku, Hunter Vaughan

Dog Buddy

MUSIC: Agnarkea - Black Helicopters

Label: Natural Sciences

Black Helicopters is Anarkea (Keaton Transue) - a 20 year old producer from Richmond, Virginia. 

Originating out of the WaistDeep Clique (a cell of emerging hip-hop crews operating out of the Southern United States) and recorded on budget equipment, across it's near two hours and extended 23 tracks, the project seeks to un-package homegrown “conspiracy theories” (MK Ultra, Black Helicopters, The Deep State, Black Sun, Waco Texas) and use this web of extended source material to make sense of day-to-day life in Trump's America, police oppression of black neighbourhoods and the systematic suppression of mind-enhancing drugs.

BUY THE RECORD VIA BANDCAMP HERE

IN REVIEW: An Impossible Love

Director: Catherine Corsini

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In this intensely powerful and brilliantly acted film (based on the book of the same name written by Christine Angot) we are shown how the promise of a whirlwind love affair can descend into life altering toxicity. Director Catherine Corsini also asks us to consider the complexities of a broken family and, towards the end, much darker and more disturbing themes.

It begins in Châteauroux, central France, with the heady haze of a summer romance. Rachel (Virginie Efira), who at 26 has ‘capped St. Catherine’ (a term used in the ‘50s for unmarried women who have turned 25), is living with her mother and sister after a failed engagement. A very different time this was; the expectation of family and marriage were a constant force. It’s no wonder, then, that when the handsome and enigmatic Philippe (Niels Schneider) begins making eyes at her across her work canteen, she falls for him - hard.

As the two spend more time together, Rachel sees that Philippe is intelligent and exciting – he speaks multiple languages, travels and quotes Nietzsche. She is seduced and charmed. There is, however, a moment where a brief and cutting comment is made. It is a warning - a fluttering red flag - and a break from his usually suave demeanour. She silently accepts it, worried that speaking out will contort their growing relationship.

These moments become painfully more frequent – we see Philippe state he will never marry (although, he might have considered it if she ‘were rich’). We see him make anti-Semitic comments about her Jewish father. For the viewer, his unctuous nature quickly becomes tiresome. For Rachel, though, she is in love. And soon, just before he is to return home to Paris, she falls pregnant. From this point on the actions of Philippe are critical to the happiness of all three: mother, father and now, daughter Chantal.

The emotional depth of the film is increased because Corsini allows the narration to come from Chantal. And, although we are taken through the film from the child’s view of it all, it is Rachel who we are most invested in. Nor is it an understatement to say that Virginie Efira is exceptional. She manages to display both hope and pain: hope that her daughter will know a father and pain as that very man steadily goes to work on enervating her. An impossible love.

The look of the film is a real strength. Cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie paints the couple’s first summer in such a way that it oozes nostalgia and a deep sense of connection – it is a vital step in allowing us to understand why Rachel holds onto the feelings she has towards Philippe. The costumes are also tailored exquisitely - helping to acutely recreate each of five decades that the film moves through.

It’s a shame that the trailer to An Impossible Love gives too much away – don’t watch it first. It’s best to go into the rest of the drama not knowing how it may play out. What results is a challenging and heart-breaking work that showcases highly memorable performances. TS


 

WATCH: Solar Quadrant - Luis Lechosa
 
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This Video Essay is another joint project of MUBI and FILMADRID International Film Festival.

Solar Quadrant reflects on the gaze of the sun in cinema. The film, in a cyclic and diagrammatic way, articulates dialogues between twenty-four authors. A montage that, like a clock, superimposes the images with the sun as its central axis.

The film was created by Luis Lechosa who works in the world of graphic design and digital animation.

Find out more about this outstanding contibution to their already impressive Video Essay collection here.

Watch Solar Quadrant below:

Archive material:

Rose Lowder. Bouquet 7 .

Stan Brakhage. Creation .

Igman Bergman. Tystnaden .

Eric Rohmer Le rayon vert .

Jonas Mekas. A s I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty .

Chris Marker Sans Soleil .

Akira Kurosawa Rashmon .

Jennifer Reeves The Time We Killed . 

Stephen Broomer. Spirits in Season .

Naomi Kawase Katatsumori .

Larry Gottheim. Flying Mouches .

David Perlov Diary .

Paul Clipson. Feeler .

Nathaniel Dorsky. Variations .

Eric Pauwels. The deuxième nuit .

Andrei Tarkovsky. Solaris .

Joris Ivens. Une histoire de vent .

Peter Hutton. At Sea .

Guy Sherwin. Messages .

Werner Neues. Diwan .

Bill Viola. The Passing .

Tacita Dean. The Green Ray .

Sarah Pucill Blind Light .

James Benning. Ten Dkies .

 
IN PRINT: MAX CREASY - CASUAL RELATIONSHIPS

Publisher: InOtherWords
Design: OK-RM

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Casual Relationships explores the mechanisms at work in the construction of visual culture. By carefully curating and simulating photographs from contemporary vernacular sources, Max Creasy identifies the way these images are endorsed within social groups and norm circles. The sequencing and design of the publication articulate the associations and patterns discerned from this promiscuous collection of images.

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Max Creasy is a half-Australian half-Norwegian visual artist living and working between London and Berlin. His photographic practice explores systems of meaning through architecture, the archive and still life.

His work has been widely exhibited at commercial and institutional galleries including the Centre for Contemporary Photography, West Space and the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

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Publisher:

InOtherWords creates books and editions in close collaboration with artists and other cultural protagonists. Publications are crafted to the highest standard and with the utmost care. The imprint was established by London-based design studio OK-RM as a platform for its collaborative book projects. 

Buy the book here.

IN REVIEW: Chihei Hatakeyama - VOID XVII
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Label: White Paddy Mountain

Much like Chihei Hatakeyama’s earlier release of 2018’s Afterimage, VOID XVII presents us with sounds and abstract imagery that glow subtly across an undefined expanse. As the name suggests, VOID XVII looks to the formless, whereas Afterimage had within it the subjectivity of the performer. VOID XVII can be understood to occupy the spaces in between, whether that be the space between the physical (objects and air molecules) or the ethereal (thoughts and memories). 

Ambient music is useful in its ability to reduce these elements and states of being onto the same plane. Continuing this line of thought, the idea of ‘the void’ is a non sequitur - inevitably any conceptualisation of ‘nothing’ will be made of something. VOID XVII speaks to that fact, embodying what conceptually is beyond what we can experience. 

So what is it and why do it? Hatakeyama ascribes the notion of the void as the humanly imperceptible order or connection of things. This could be as much a belief system as anything else, many call this god, others call it karma, enlightenment or the divine. Reading Trappist Monk, Thomas Keating’s obituary (who died aged 95 on 25th October, 2018), he dedicated his life to contemplative prayer and the power of silence. He saw this as the only way to god, citing St John of the Cross who said: “God’s first language is silence.” 

Whatever belief system the listener carries, VOID XVII dramatises the relationship to our sense of the self and the unknown. Silence is a contrivance in that it is not something we ever really experience. Much like ‘nothing’, its existence is debatable in that it exists outside the realm of human perception. Instead, it is an ideal that we strangely have such a clear notion of. Therefore, characterising these ideas with sound is a useful way to contemplate them, when immersed in the music or listening to the sound of a room, it’s as if we enter a collective portal of shared experience - a way to remember. AG

Buy the record here: https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com/album/void-xvii

WATCH: Blue - Derek Jarman
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Blue protects white from innocence
Blue drags black with it
Blue is darkness made visible
Blue protects white from innocence
Blue drags black with it
Blue is darkness made visible

Blue (1993) is a film by the British artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman which features a single static shot of the colour blue with a voiceover and musical soundtrack by Simon Fisher Turnerand and Brian Eno. Andrew Wilson, who is senior curator, modern and contemporary British art and archives at Tate Britain, eloquently wrote the following summary of Blue in 2013. Find the original source of the text here.

SUMMARY

The voiceover, written by Jarman, consists of a diaristic and poetic text documenting his AIDS-related illness and impending death at a time that he had become partially blind, his vision often interrupted by blue light. The film is Jarman’s last feature and was completed only a few months before he died.

The visual language of Blue – an unchanging blue screen – directly references Yves Klein’s (1928–1962) evocation of the void and zones of immateriality through his use of the colour ‘International Klein Blue’. The film’s voiceover is spoken by Jarman alongside long-term collaborators Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry and John Quentin. The text – often spoken as a form of verse – is augmented by music and sound by Jarman’s regular composer Simon Fisher-Turner, as well as Coil, Momus, Karol Szymanowski and Eric Satie.

The genesis of Blue dates back to 1987 when Jarman conceived of a film – initially tentatively titled International Blue (alternative early titles include Blue is Poison and My Blue Heaven) – that directly engaged with Klein’s painting and underlying philosophy. Jarman’s initial proposal was for a film that might explore: ‘the juxtaposition of sound and image that exists in The Last of England [a feature film made by Jarman in 1987], but unlike this film to produce an atmosphere of calm and joy. A world to which refugees from that dark space may journey.’ (Derek Jarman, ‘proposal for Blue’, August 1987)

The film, even at this very early stage of development, was always conceived to be an imageless projected screen of International Klein Blue complemented by a soundtrack that would tell the story of Klein ‘in sound and jazzy be-bop’ (Jarman 1987). However, because such an approach would have inevitably rendered the film virtually impossible to fund, he then planned for the film to be a masque set in a blue room.

By the end of 1992 Jarman returned once again to Blue as he had originally conceived it, with a blue screen devoid of imagery so that nothing would detract from ‘the admirable austerity of the void’. The film became a meditation on colour, the void and his disease. Jarman felt that he had previously failed to address AIDS through film in the way he had done through his late paintings. By accompanying a field of blue with a richly layered soundtrack, he finally succeeded in addressing this subject with film by creating an elegiac journey towards a zone of immateriality. Jarman explained in a late proposal for the film: ‘The monochrome is an alchemy, effective liberation from personality. It articulates silence. It is a fragment of an immense work without limit. The blue of the landscape of liberty.’

Andrew Wilson, 2013

You can find a full transcript of Blue here.

MUSIC: RECORDS OF THE YEAR (2018)

When looking back over a year of music in 2018 it’s hard to rank order the best records. Some we’ve had time to live with and others we’re just getting to know. Below is a breakdown (in no particular order) of the records that have made the biggest impression on us in 2018.

See our 10 favourite records below and listen to our playlist featuring a track from each release.


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STEVEN JULIEN - BLOODLINE

Label: Apron Recordings

A deftly crafted and addictive record that traced Julien’s own musical ‘bloodline’ whilst simultaneously paying tribute to Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi (Taro).

Following the release of Bloodline, Julien also put out a ‘Slowed Down’ version of the album which can be heard here.

Read the full review


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BLOD - KNUTNA NÄVAR

Label: Förlag För Fri Musik

It is not a forgone conclusion that a Förlag För Fri Musik release will be available to hear digitally. For those who didn’t get chance to buy the vinyl version, there is currently for a full version of the record on YouTube.

Listen to the full record.


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JENNY HVAL - THE LONG SLEEP

Label: Sacred Bones

The Long Sleep looks to the transcendent and uplifting aspects of pop whilst exploring more of the subversive aspects of the consumer age. Finding a place for liberation whilst also using the vernacular to feel the limitations of our cultural landscape is what made this record resonate so deeply.

Listen to the The Long Sleep here.

Read the full review


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H.Takahashi - Low Power

Label: White Paddy Mountain

When talking to Architect and Sound Designer, H.Takahashi he explained that the title for his record Low Power referred to ‘a light so bright that it hurts’. No record has captured the relationship between 21st Century comfort and the deep malaise of contemporary life better than Low Power.

Listen to Low Power here.
Read the full review.


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Marie Davidson - Working Class Woman

Label: Ninja Tune


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Accolytes - Rupture

Label: A L T E R


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Chihei Hatakeyama - Afterimage

Label: White Paddy Mountain


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RAIME - Am I Using Content Or Is Content Using Me?

Label: Different Circles


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VANLIGT FOLK - HAMBO

Label: Kess Kill/Kontra-Musik


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ARV & MILJÖ - SVENSK SOMMAR I STILLA FRID

Label: Omlott

MUSIC: Blod - Knutna Nävar

Blod’s 7 track record Knutna Nävar is a truly unique record, perhaps best summarised as ‘Abstract Folk’. Surreal, unique and beautiful, Knutna Nävar is very much a favourite of Cultural Bulletin.

It’s now available to listen to in it’s entirety on YouTube and has sold out of it’s very limited run. No doubt one of the highlights of the year and another fantastic offering from Förlag För Fri Musik.

IN REVIEW: Roma
 

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

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Through the lens of his own memories as a child, Alfonso Cuarón has created a film that achieves with great power the blending of domestic intimacy and epic grandeur, sorrow and joy, conflict and union. The film aches with nostalgia, landing in the middle of where real life meets art: a rare feat that gives its audience an emotional relatability whilst also telling us a story we never knew. 

Set in Colonia Roma in Mexico City - to the backdrop of the Mexican Dirty War - the film follows Cleo, a maid in the house of Sofía (Maria de Tavira), her husband (the doctor Antonio, played by Fernando Grediaga) and their four young children. Antonio’s departure to Quebec for work is more damaging than anticipated and the rest of the family are left to cope without him, all under the peripheral gaze of Cleo. She has a strong bond with the children which is more backfooted than their mothers but feels central to their growth and support. 

On the discovery that she is pregnant, Cleo tells her boyfriend Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a young man who has come from very little and is now channeling his resentment into learning martial arts. He deserts her in a movie theatre, leaving her with the prospect of raising the child alone. Each suffering their own abandonment, Sofia and Cleo navigate their relationship and the care of the children. Their differences are clear: as Cleo later attempts to reach out to Fermín - who is training with the revolting left wing ‘Los Halcones’ - he calls her a ‘fucking servant’. Meanwhile, Sofía deals with her pain by drunkenly smashing up the family car, quickly buying a replacement in an attempt to keep her children from the reality of their increasingly strained financial situation. 

The film is beautiful in black and white. Cuarón’s shots tend to be wide and each one is full of detail and scope. One in particular shows the children with their cousins playing outside in the fields amongst the Mexican wildlife. It is epic in its nature yet so believably real, a perfect example of the dichotomy that makes this film masterful. 

The acting is uniformly brilliant, especially from Yalitza Aparitizo as Cleo, who makes her debut here after training as a teacher. As Sofía, Maria de Tarva darts between tender and cold, as her suppressed emotions manifest in outbursts towards her loved ones. Drunkenly she takes Celos face and says between laughs: ‘No matter what they tell you, as women, we are always alone.’

The fallout of a particularly traumatic event leaves you feeling moved in a way you wouldn’t expect. A reminder of the potential that cinema has to tell a story that resonates with the universality of human experience and emotion, Roma is easily one of the best films of the year that holds huge power in both style and substance. SC

 
WATCH: Kubrick // One-Point Perspective - Kogonada
 

Kogonada is a South Korean-born American filmmaker. In 2017 he directed his outstanding debut film Columbus (read our review here). Before this, he created a range of astute video essays which analyse the content, form, and structure of films and television series generally through narration and editing. Here we take a look at Kubrick // One-Point Perspective.

Enjoy some stills and the video below.

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IN REVIEW: ROBERT ASHLEY - AUTOMATIC WRITING

One of the great albums of the 20th Century. Automatic Writing is a tender expose of the human voice, revealing the softness and radiance of abstract verbal pronounciation. Its strangeness/uniqueness can easily lead the listener to view the record as only this - an avant-garde experiment in speech patterns. However, the composition, textures, scale and musicality of the record all contribute to the whole experience.

Ashley had a mild form of Tourette’s which is interesting as the record communicates a release, an absolute inner expression fundamental to the male voice that duets with a more assured female counterpart. It is a vocalised liberation that is vulnerable in its strangeness and ‘automatic’ in its seemingly natural and unconscious delivery. How would we express ourselves verbally if we forgot social convention? Are there sounds inside you that you don’t let out? If so, why?

Depending on how the record is engaged with, a narrative emerges between the homogenous interchange of the male and female voices. They sound like friends, lovers, parent and child, fictional and real or invisible to eachother. There is an ambient stasis that emerges in moments of the record where this relationship peter out and we are left with tranquil space. The distant faded sound of music sounds more like a memory desperate to the voices whilst linking beautifully. 

It’s a bit like ASMR made in the 1970’s (and without the cringe). The sounds of tongues and mouths are clearly audible. As lips are moistened and breath is uninciated around warm speech, a close intimacy is established that comes only with proximity between two people. AG