Compendium No. 1

The year is almost at its halfway point (how?) and as an act of remembrance, I’d like to talk about some of the things that I’ve greatly enjoyed for the past months. They need not have come out in 2022, this is after all just a collection of works from any medium that have piqued my interest and enriched my life in any way.

Ants from Up There by Black Country, New Road

A picture of the 7 members of Black Country, New Road sitting on the grass

The British art rock scene has been very lively for a while now and as a result produced everything from the ear grating to the mediocre to the mind-blowing. There’s a few stand-out names that anybody minimally interested will be familiar with and Black Country, New Road is definitely among them.

Their debut “For the first time” may have taken a bit to grow on me (I’m in love with it now) but “Ants From Up There” clicked immediately. It’s not as much of a complete departure from their previous sound as it is a deeper exploration of genres they already had affinity with, namely post-rock and chamber pop, and this change is by no means to the detriment of their music.

This album is filled to the brim with emotion. It’s equal parts despair and beauty, a machine so intricate and yet so close to completely falling apart. The idiosyncratic lyrics, the unrestrained vocals, the complex and devastatingly gorgeous instrumentation… It’s all so earnest that I couldn’t help but find a place of permanence in my heart for it.

Listen to ‘The Place Where He Inserted the Blade’ here

MetaL MetaL by Metá Metá

A picture of the trio Metá Metá standing in front of a black background

A few years ago I had the immense pleasure of seeing Metá Metá live and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Their sound oscillates between lightness and utter cacophony with an unbelievable dexterity and getting to hear it in the flesh was something I’m never gonna forget.

Ever since then I’ve taken a liking to their music both as a group and as individuals (Juçara Marçal’s latest solo record being my favorite album of 2021) and MetaL MetaL has been on heavy rotation as of late. It’s one of the finest records to come out in the 2010s, a fantastic blend of afrobrazilian rhythms sung in both Yorubá and Portuguese and a clear showcase for why Metá Metá and its members have a never-budging seat at the forefront of the Brazilian avant-garde movement.

Listen to ‘Oyá’ here

Worse than Hitler essay by Louis Allday

Ebb Magazine article titled ‘Worse than Hitler: Nazi revisionism in the service of US foreign policy’, published on March 15, 2022 by Louis Allday

A very well-written articulation on the West’s hypocrisy and constant minimization of Nazism and essential reading at a time when liberals and conservatives alike have been so brazen about their unquenchable bloodthirst and commitment to the whitewashing of the Empire’s warmongering appetite.

There’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently by Allday, and I think it’s very important for anyone with real commitment to anti-capitalism to heed his words.

“Testament to just how disingenuously and cynically this emotionally manipulative framing has been used is not just the vastly different character, circumstances and political direction of those leaders to whom it has been applied over time, but how the label appears to have been used for everyone except the rulers of the very states that actually inspired Hitler’s vision: the US and Britain. What then unites this disparate group of states and their leaders is that, one way or another, they have either directly resisted or somehow stood in the way of US-led imperialist hegemony and of the penetration of Western capital wherever it desires. Putin, who has previously made no secret of his opposition to the US’ repeated undermining of international law and checks and balances, is a case in point in this regard.”

– Louis Allday

Read the full essay here

Dying Light 2 review by Jackson Tyler

Paste Magazine article titled ‘Dying Light 2: Stay Human Is A Terrible Waste’, published on February 2, 2022 by Jackson Tyler

It’s no secret that the video game industry is one the most nefarious examples of how horrid the state of worker’s rights is across a world that is being held hostage by imperial desires. With workplace toxicity, low wages, exploitation and insalubriousness at every corner, it’s impossible to talk about games (especially AAA games) without considering the industry to which they belong and the horrible conditions under which they are created.

All of that – the suffering, the abuse – gets transplanted into the final product. And that’s the word, isn’t it? Product. We’re witnessing an entertainment industry that is obsessed with providing an endless stream of “content” for people to “consume.”

Interweaved movie franchises half-baked out of a cookie-cutter that occupy every theater screen and everyone’s free time, formulaic video game campaigns that take hundreds of hours to sift through, both of them costing and making so much money that even if we were to collectively slip into a coma we wouldn’t be able to count sheep that high. Art and creativity get masticated by capitalism’s lancinating teeth and turned into something easily digestible, marketable and reproducible.

To see companies brag about this kind of thing as though it can in any way be considered positive feels like rubbing salt in an already infected wound. This Dying Light 2 review by Jackson Tyler very succinctly echoes my feelings about the current State of Things and the underlying sadness to it all. I’d like to highlight this paragraph, specifically:

“It is easy to think of AAA games as soulless, the contributions of the countless workers crushed into something unrecognizable by a cruel production process that discards those workers and rewards those who abused them. Certainly that describes the reported development process for this game. But the final product leaves traces where systems do cohere into engaging cascades of quick-fire decisions, or platforming obstacle courses where simple movements tell a story guided by the level designer’s careful hand. To play Dying Light 2 is to stumble aimlessly through a graveyard of countless better games that will never get to exist. To experience fleeting moments that remind you this is a game made by people; talented and passionate people trying to communicate something that genuinely excites them, before those sparks of life are crushed one by one by the unquenchable content machine.”

– Jackson Tyler

Read the full article here

Drive My Car (2021) dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

A still from the movie Drive My Car with both main characters surrounded by bright white snow

This movie needs no introduction, I think. It’s been talked about relentlessly. I’ve seen the phrase “it’s not for everybody” being passed around a lot and like, thank god? The worst kind of art is one that tries to please everyone, that desperately latches onto the concept of being all-encompassing and dilutes itself, renders itself tepid in the process. This isn’t that. Thank god.

What it is, is a 3 hour long meditation on grief and relationships and human connection. It carries so much empathy and patience that it almost made me want to avert my eyes. My own relationship with grief runs deep, the capillary cracks reverberating through my body still, and this film just completely devastated me only to then pick me up the floor and tell me that opening yourself up to people is still worth something even if questions remain unanswered and if the wounds never fully heal.

Also, I’m not a car person but Drive My Car implanted a desire to own a red Saab deep into my soul, the same way the slice of life anime Super Cub made me want the eponymous vehicle. I’m guessing this is some sort of ploy engineered by automobile companies that is targeting me, specifically, and I’ll be sleeping with an eye open from now on.

Stop Making Sense (1984) dir. Jonathan Domme

A still from the movie Stop Making Sense with all members of the band performing in front of screens that say ‘Before You’re Awake’

Probably some of the most joyous 88 minutes of my life. So effortlessly cool and engaging and ALIVE! You can feel the power of music surge through your body, every molecule vibrating with this banging ass music. Everybody looks like they’re having the time of their life, four decades into the past, and you can palpably feel it, hear it, see it through the screen.

There’s few things in this world capable of energizing me and brightening my day quite like Stop Making Sense and call it blasphemy but the live versions of the Talking Heads songs present here easily top the studio recordings. Beyond incredible.

Vampire Survivors by poncle

Videogame Vampire Survivors, with the player character amid a mess of pixels and light beams

Okay, first of all this game is literally a serotonin factory.

Corporate overlords have been for years trying (and, admittedly, kinda succeeding) to turn their playerbases into gambling addicts by stuffing their shit with microtransactions and every other kind of predatory practice you can think of, but nothing they ever attempted can come close to the sheer thrill of opening a special chest on Vampire Survivors. And you don’t even have to pay a single additional cent for it. Nature is healing, etc.

This is the most video game to ever video game and I love it. Sometimes you want to think critically about the pixels in front of you; sometimes you just want to see how many projectiles your computer can render before it explodes. This game delivers the latter and the world is better for it.

Hyper Light Drifter by Heart Machine

Videogame Hyper Light Drifter featuring a view from above that oversees the entire game map

Speaking of thinking critically about pixels, this game got into my head and stayed there for a really long time. It’s a really fascinating piece of abstract storytelling and manages to convey desolation extremely effectively despite never exchanging a single intelligible word with the player.

It’s hard, but satisfyingly so. Mastering movement and learning enemy patterns feels so accomplishing but never in a way that makes you feel at home in this foreign place that’s marked by a decay and instability that directly mirrors the main character’s relationship with their illness.

The soundtrack of Hyper Light Drifter is also quite amazing, and was composed by Disasterpiece, whose portfolio also includes the horror movie It Follows and for that reason alone he has both my respect and appreciation.

Overall, this game is very enigmatic, from the way it sounds to the way it operates, and is not at all concerned with explaining itself, but never to the point of being frustratingly incomprehensible. It’s quiet and lonely and extremely personal in ways that can easily alienate but never do. And even if you strip all of that away, it’s also just an excellent Action RPG and I’ll forever be a sucker for those.

This has been a roundup of some of the things I enjoyed for the first 4 months of the year. I’m thinking of doing this regularly, if anything to have something to write about so that my remaining brain cells don’t wither away completely (or something similar that’s within the realm of scientific possibility). Until next time.