It is September 18th, 2013 and you have caught me at a disadvantage. Awaiting the publication of the first Spinegrinder Movie Book (December apparently), suffering from a bit of celluloid poisoning that has put a bit of a pause on new film reviews (bound for Vol. 2), even thinking of maybe abandoning this website as a place to preview new reviews and reinventing it as something else, and rehearsing most days for a play (Emlyn Williams' Night Must Fall) that i`m doing for Tokyo International Players in December). Also I seem to be undergoing a personal renaissance, in which the watching and reviewing of films is taking a bit of a back seat to my renewed interest in literature, music and the arts, and I have a whole new passion for history, theology, philosophy and just knowing every little thing about things that appear everyday and mundane (i.e. think of a car park...pretty boring right? But really think carefully about the whole process of planning, preparation, engineering, red tape and physical labour that went into to transforming a field or abandoned lot into a car park, and you suddenly have a potentially fascinating documentary mini-series or book on the creation of but one car park. That's kind of where my head is at right now). All of this is no bad thing, but it does mean that you're wasting your time checking here for new reviews for a while (the existing database will remain however). I may not even update this blog too often, if at all (the sound of a thousand suicides across the globe is heard), but rest assured the evil machinations of the all-conquering Spinegrinder Empire are churning away quietly underground (like the Chinese in that BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH movie). Just when you least expect it, when the world has forgotten, i shall once again pounce, like a resurrected Fu Manchu (i'm sensing a Yellow Peril theme here. Maybe i am the Yellow Peril for the 21st Century!).



Dub. Similar to the appeal of a good kung fu movie, minor alterations within its seemingly narrow framework can lead to a world of sonic delights. And once you get addicted to the sound of dub, there seems no going back, with an endless supply of great records to hear. Here are some that have recently impressed me.
Dennis Bovell is a Barbados-born London dub legend who's been recording since the late 70s. He supervised the soundtrack (which included early cuts of Aswad back when they were good) for the underrated UK reggae movie BABYLON (1981). Anyway, his Mek It Run (on Pressure Sounds) from last year may not be pushing at any boundaries, but is a solid modern dub classic from start to finish.
Similarly non-progressive but a charming, rocking record (also from last year) is The Observer In The Star House (released by Cooking Vinyl to little fanfare), a collaboration between The Orb and Lee "Scratch" Perry. A lot of fun.
From 2003, the 2CD set Dub Solidarity (released by Dubhead). 29 tracks, almost every one a winner (a Zion Train remix is one of the best recordings of theirs that i've heard).
And finally, the very obtainable Dan Dada Records compilation Echo Chamber: Around The World In Dub Vol. 1 & 2 (also from last year). 25 tracks and over two hours of modern dub magic (some crossing over into the dubstep realm), with some real class acts (Bandulu Dub, Dubmatix, Ratapignata, Volfoniq and Trevor "The Technician" McKenzie from The Dub Funk Association offer memorable cuts). And you can download it for free from the generous people at Dan Dada records.
Books: Hal Gold's Unit 731 Testimony (published 1996) is a sobering and almost unbelievable look at "Japan's wartime human experimentation program". You may be familiar with the notorious exploitation movie MAN BEHIND THE SUN (1987), but this book is a more balanced if no less depressing account of the same events. Essential if harrowing history.
More cheerful, awkward segue dept: Fans of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's terrific comic The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen would do well to obtain uber-fan Jess Nevins' book of annotations, Heroes & Monsters (published in 2003 by Monkeybrain Books). More than simply pointing out the myriad references to be found in the comics, Nevins offers some genuinely illuminating and entertaining essays to deepen your knowledge of fantastic literature (even making a convincing argument for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to be included in the Yellow Peril canon). Nevins also offered supplement books for Vol. II and The Black Dossier of LXG (and i'm sure there will be one for the collected Vol. III when that is ready), and they seem equally essential. If collecting these oop volumes is beyond your bank balance, visit Nevins' website for the free online versions (he has also annotated other comics there, and once I get my head on straight about comics, this site may prove an invaluable resource yet). He also (and here comes a request) compiled the wonderful-looking, obsessive Encyclopedia Of Fantasy Victoriana, a hardcover going for silly money on Amazon. If anyone knows where I could pick up a copy for under $100, I would be most grateful (and reimburse the cost, including any postage fees).
My final delight of late has been to finally catch up with Andy Murray's Into The Unknown: The Fantastic Life Of Nigel Kneale (published in 2006 by Headpress, the people who are currently working very hard to make the Spinegrinder Movie Book a reality). In case you didn't know, the late, underrated Kneale was the forward-thinking brains behind Prof. Quatermass, and so much more telefantasy goodness. Here is his wiki entry, and I highly recommend this book that was not written by some fucking tennis player.


A Study In Sherlock is a rather enjoyable one-off BBC tv documentary on the film and tv adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's evergreen sleuth that was originally broadcast as part of the Timeshift strand (in 2006 I think, before the recent major hit SHERLOCK series). Presented as an excerpt from the writings of Dr. Watson, it does in fact come from the pen of the always-interesting Kim Newman, author of a great many things, including the recent re-release (and major expansion) of his brilliant book Nightmare Movies. It is on YouTube. I know nothing of award-winning mystery writer Minette Walters (her books may be superb as far as I know), but does she not comes across as a bit sniffy here?
Finished reading Michael Eury's amusing and exhaustive study Comics Gone Ape! The Missing Link To Primates In Comics (2007, from Two Morrows Publishing). Everything you could possibly need (and honestly, probably more than you would ever want) to know about monkeys and gorillas in comics.
Following the template of the aforementioned volume on the best crime novels is Science Fiction: The 100 Best Books, by David Pringle. An interesting (and surprisingly critical) list that stretches from 1949 (Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four) to 1984 (it was published in 1985, more on the sequel in a future blog) with William Gibson's Neuromancer. If you're needing to know about the pre-50s Golden Age, Victorian (and even earlier) stuff (and a whole lot more that will keep you busy for decades), I point you in the direction of the monumental The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction (released in 1993) by John Clute and Peter Nichols. It resides in my toilet library (don`t ask) and is an invaluable resource indeed.
I had never read any of "Ed McBain" (a pseudonym for the late Evan Hunter, who wrote Hitchcock's THE BIRDS, among other things)'s massively popular (and long-running) 87th Precinct novels (set in a fictional Manhattan police district) before, waiting to begin at the beguine. And I finally did stumble across a cheap second-hand copy of the first in the series, Cop Hater (from 1956). The mystery itself didn't really do too much for me, but McBain's gritty street-smart dialogue and black humour is pitch-perfect, bridging a gap between Hunter's influence (the Dragnet tv series) and later 70s cop movie classics (i.e. THE FRENCH CONNECTION, THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN) and episodic tv a la Hill Street Blues and Law & Order. I have already ordered a copy of the next in the series, The Mugger.


Just to follow-up on an earlier post, I did eventually listen to the Complete Recorded Works of Clifford Gibson, and heartily recommend these 1929-31 country blues recordings (23 tracks) to those of you with a bent in that direction.
While rooting around in a cupboard, unearthed four lovely volumes by one Hajime Miyoshi, each devoted to vintage advertising in various forms. The Poster In Japan, The Label In Japan, Advertising Matchbox Labels In Japan and Matchbox Labels in Japan offer a window into a different era (sometimes with alarming images of propaganda and racial stereotypes). Searching for more online about these books I discovered this obsessive website. You might want to check out the galleries.


The mighty Skull Disco label may have closed its doors in 2008, but the music survives. Been listening to the awesome double CD compilation Soundboy Punishments from 2007. I say comp, but it's mostly Shackleton, with a scattering of Appleblim and one Gatekeeper track. But no matter, because Shackleton is no doubt one of the handful of genuinely visionary producers who emerged from the dubstep scene, and who has grown to absorb more elements skillfully into his sound, leading the field in a post-dubstep world. As for this release, head-nodding bassheads (myself included) take note: chill out and open your ears to the tribal sound, rather than brace for more a thudding, dancefloor-moving ruckus.
Just finished reading Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books, by H.R.F. Keating (it says Edited By, but Keating clearly wrote all the reviews here). I have never read a Keating novel, but his name is now on my (unspeakably long) "to read" list, along with most of his recommendations, stretching back to Edgar Allan Poe's Tales Of Mystery And Imagination (1845). It was published in 1987 (the final entry is P. D. James' A Taste For Death (1986), so the scary thing is that leaves another quarter century since of quality reading unaccounted for. Keating kicked the bucket back in 2011 (at the age of 84), but will someone please serve up a sequel? It also put me in mind of the excellent, and thoroughly terrifying (as in, more unmissable fucking books to read) Horror: 100 Best Books, Edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman. They unmercifully followed up with Horror: Another 100 Best Books, so I had to kiss all my free time goodbye. It is indeed a sickness, and the worst part is that I do not wish to be cured.


Been listening to synth-pop duo Bney Hama (from Jerusalem i believe) for the first time today. I'm not sure why, their eponymous debut album is neither innovative or particularly exciting, but I quite like them. Could it be that their sound reminds me of Infotainment Scan-era The Fall? Listen to the track Mitoch Shena on their MySpace page. Shades of Glam Racket, no?


Today watched the massively depressing CONCRETE (review is here). If you're interested in reading more about the Smiley Kikuchi incident that I mention, you can go to this blog here. The Junko Furuta murder is covered in some (grim) detail here. Books on the case don't seem to have been translated into English.
And on a lighter note (courtesy of the Crunchingly Bad Segue Dept.), finished reading Japanese Fairy Tales, an interesting collection of children's stories adapted from old legends, translated by Sadanami Sanjin, compiled by Yei Theodora Ozaki, and charmingly illustrated by Kazuko Fujiyama. A favourite is The Jellyfish And The Monkey, in which we discover why jellyfish are the way they are, and involves the proposed extraction of a monkey's liver (by a fish no-less)! Read it here!


The late Angus MacLise was a pretty interesting fellow, a member of La Monte Young's Theatre Of Eternal Music, and early drummer for The Velvet Underground (before being replaced by Moe Tucker of course). I've been listening to Brain Damage In Oklahoma City, a very interesting collection of primitive folk rock drone pieces (recorded between 1967-70), first released on the excellent Siltbreeze (in conjunction with Quakebasket) label back in 2000.
This evening had a nice trippy experience sans the ingestion of drugs. Was walking at the running track near my house, wearing a surgical mask, my breath rising to steam up my glasses. The light from the street lamps was refracted through the moisture, turning every light into big, staring eyeballs in my field of vision! I felt like Ray Milland at the end of X-THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES! You certainly don't really register how many lights are in this city until they are all represented by big peeping eyeballs. My soundtrack for this experience was Chocolate Weasel's Spaghettification (on Ninja Tune), which I hadn't heard since it was new back in the 90s. Still sounds good to me. That said, it couldn't really compare to dropping real acid, so if there are any impressionable teenagers reading, I should stress that banging a tab is much better. Or even better wait until next 'shroom season to go picking. Happy trails & Trip Easy.


Felt the blog was lacking some juicy links, so will start to do that henceforth (underlined means there is a link, it may be to Wiki, or YouTube or something else, that be the surprise, just like a Kinder Egg). Have backtracked last couple of days to fill in said gaps. If any of these links fail, do me a favour and KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! Also, a recommendation from the tail end of last year: went to see Fushitsusha play Super Deluxe in Roppongoi on December 21st. An awesome, truly hypnotic 150 min set, hard to believe Keiji Haino is 60 years old. Anyway, if they are still about touring their latest album in your area: GO!
To today's business: Learnt a nice french phrase today, L'esprit de l'escalier. Shall be attempting to shoe-horn it into conversations from now on.
James Gunn is a somewhat underrated talent of recent years, having directed both SLITHER and SUPER! (both recommended), among other things. I only just stumbled across his series of web shorts from a few years back, PG PORN, on YouTube. Not all funny, but when it is good it is quite hilarious, I direct your attention to Helpful Bus and High Poon.
Finally finished reading the first volume of the late George Sansom's three volume tome, A History Of Japan (Part 1 up until 1334, just after the invading Mongol hordes attacked, that is to say Mongolians of course, not some retards). Dense and somewhat overwhelming, but an absorbing, completist gem. Time for a trip to the local library for Volume 2!
The Valley Of Fear was Sir Athur Conan Doyle's fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel. Needless to say it is excellent, and with one sole Watson ejaculation for a bonus giggle.
Music: The Blues Of Alabama (or Alabama Blues) 1927-1931, a nice collection of obscure blues sides from lesser known artists (Barefoot Bill, anyone?) released on the Yazoo label in 1968. Most familiar guy here is Clifford Gibson (he was in Robert Crumb's lovely Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country book). My favourite here is Jaybird Coleman's Coffee Grinder Blues (Jaybird was also featured in Crumb's book).
Also: Burial & Four-Tet's single-sided 12" single Nova, released on Text Records last year. When I first started listening to Burial a few years back, I must confess it took me a while to get into. But once you do, the man rarely puts a foot wrong (even is this particular release is not amongst his best, and feels a little like treading water). On the Discogs page (that's where that link just now goes), user "gunark" (I suspect not his given name) comments : "This is not the sound of the future but this is a sound only bourne out of London and makes the most sense in London" and "take the nightbus round until it makes sense". I'd say this is pretty much on the money.
Beaches & Canyons, a 2002 release from Black Dice accompanied me on my night walk. I was only familiar with their more recent, and quite excellent glitch-funk (the Mr. Impossible album is top notch), more dancefloor-savvy than the alternately wooing and aggressive ambient noise on display here. Experimental soundscaping that at times put me in mind of Neal Campbell's Astral Social Club project (this is of course a very good thing).

On the Walkman: Love God Love One Another, the 1982 sole LP from Black Humor, a San Francisco duo who created warped, misanthropic experimental post-punk oddness. Good stuff, on Fowl Records. Also: had never really listened to Steve Hillage before, but his L is fine 1976 vintage prog-lite (that's a whole lot better than it sounds).


Am currently working on a second volume of Spinegrinder, while laying the groundwork for a third. Still awaiting the publication of Volume 1, putting the finishing touches on last minute corrections and addendum. What with all this activity, and other projects and obsessions in gestation, have decided to start this frequent blog as a diary alternative, to spew out day-to-day cultural digestions and to avoid or at least alleviate backed-up blockage, more for my own sanity than for anyone's entertainment (like we need another self-obsessed blogger in the world). Still, it may amuse some of you some of the time, so......
Today finally finished Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's stunning graphic novel From Hell. Enjoyed the movie adaptation many years ago, but now understand why fans of the novel may have felt short-changed. Need to watch again with this in mind. Listened to the last of The Bunny Striker Lee Story 4CD set. Superb collection, including one of my favourite reggae tracks, Jackie Edwards singing Ali Baba.