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House of Tudor 

Plane old new wave/speed metal, the visualization of sound, an African update of Carmen, and the über-proto-feminist lifestyle-radical

Wednesday, Jan 1 2003
Equipped with a synthesizer that sounds as if it has rusted and a drum kit that clearly fears for its life, the Portland, Ore., duo Point Line Plane twitches along the lonely, jagged crevice between new wave and speed metal. Where that particular pit resides I can't be sure, but it's definitely not inviting. Vocalist Josh Blanchard conjures, at turns, a pill-popping poofter circa 1982 and a slavering, gravel-crusted hellhound. Either way, his voice is riveting, and the music -- crashing, funereal organs, electric warbles, atonal repetition, storms of cymbals, and relentless, rattling bass drums -- falls together with an eerie precision found only in great pop songs. This might be how PiL would have sounded had the organist Quintron been on board. Point Line Plane supports the Phantom Limbs on Friday, Jan. 3, at the Bottom of the Hill, with the Holy Kiss opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.

In 1999, having risen from the trip-hop ether of Sukia, DJ Me DJ You began to funnel its studio experience with the Dust Brothers into its own creations, cutting and pasting samples from Indian B-movies, old Italian opera, and instructional records into Simplemachinerock, a sort of proletarian's sonic ode to Kurt Schwitters. After producing music for Beth Orton, Beck, and Fantastic Plastic Machine, DJ Me DJ You followed up Simplemachinerock with the ridiculous and delightful Rainbows and Robots, on which the duo added live drums, sitars, and some old keyboards. Can You See the Music takes the whole silly, sexy, sensory plaything a little further. Inspired, perhaps, by Oliver Sacks' book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat or other tales of synesthesia, DJ Me DJ You has chosen to visualize the sounds it was creating and has added a DVD to the package, so that we can see them for ourselves. Since DMDY's Ross Harris has directed music videos for Beck and Elliott Smith, and Craig Borell is a graphic designer by trade, the two are more than qualified, and their signature goofballery is most evident on the DVD. Musically, Can You See is an exploration of blaxploitation movies more than of Bollywood. Heavier on the funk and completely devoid of the dated instructionals that made their previous albums amusing, it's less enjoyable, maybe because it's playing on more familiar turf. Only "Trouble," a song inspired by the group's decrepit equipment, really made me grin, with a tiny electro-hustler singing excitedly, "You got the fur/ You got the bitch/ You got the money/ You got the itch," while a big-soul snackdaddy intones, "You got trouble," amid grunts, greasy guitar riffs, and a plethora of plings and boinks. DJ Me DJ You opens for Paradise Island, Dance Disaster Movement, and Gravy Train on Sunday, Jan. 5, at the Bottom of the Hill at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.

Carmen, which began as a short novella by Prosper Mérimée and a life-threatening failure for Georges Bizet, is now the most widely performed opera in repertory. Fueled by jealousy, desire, infidelity, passion, and fury -- fashionable muses, one and all, during the French Romantic era -- Carmen is the story of Don José, a corporal in the Spanish cavalry, who crosses paths with the ultimate femme fatale, a "fiery" Gypsy woman whom he is ordered to imprison. Of course, he falls madly in love (in the Spanish sense of the term), deserts the army and his virginal bride-to-be, and runs off with Carmen to become a smuggler in the Andalusian mountains, where he must murder her rugged thief of a husband, Garcia de Borgone. So far, so good. Except that Carmen is still Carmen, and, soon enough, she's batting eyes at a swarthy picador named Lucas, so José stabs her to death, buries her body, and surrenders himself to the firing squad. And it's all Carmen's fault.

Now, there's a movie; in fact, there have been nearly 50 movies based on Carmen since Cecil B. DeMille's somewhat faithful 1915 adaptation, including Otto Preminger's wonderful Carmen Jones (1954, with Dorothy Dandridge as the temptress and Harry Belafonte as Joe) and Radley Metzger's go-go-era sexploitation flick Carmen, Baby. In 2001, there were two new additions to the ever-growing list: Carmen: A Hip Hopera, starring Beyoncé Knowles of Destiny's Child as a somewhat-less-than-smoldering Carmen who enthralls a member of the LAPD, only to throw him over for a Top 40 rap star; and Karmen Geï, which opens with our stunning bête noire (played by Djeïnaba Diop Gaï) in Senegal seducing her female warden. Both movies would, no doubt, have kept Mérimée awake at night, but for different reasons. Gaï's dancing at the beginning of Karmen could certainly rival the very best of Mérimée's fevered imagination; and as for a bisexual Carmen, Mérimée and his sometime lover, proto-feminist and lifestyle-radical George Sand, would scarcely have raised an eyebrow. The vivid use of color, texture, and an original soundtrack of sweltering Afro-pop and jazz further heightens the sensuality of Karmen Geï; sadly, after Gaï flees prison into the strong-arm of a government policeman, the movie fails to maintain the same passionate focus on its story line. Karmen Geï screens on Monday, Jan. 6, at the Red Vic (1727 Haight at Cole) at 7:15 and 9:40 p.m. Admission is $6.50; call 668-3994.

Speaking of proto-feminist lifestyle-radicals ... Nina Hagen lands in the Bay Area just a few weeks after the release of her 500-page autobiography, That's Why the Lady Is a Punk. While as yet published only in German, the book is mostly comprised of photographs -- weird and wonderful photographs -- and letters written by Hagen's friends. Still, anyone who has seen Peter Sempel's memorable punkography Nina Hagen = Punk + Glory knows that the Electric Diva has a lot to say. An avid supporter of animal rights, UFOs, and God, Hagen has been involved with causes larger than her own larger-than-life personality since 1976, when her stepfather, revolutionary writer Wolf Biermann, was deported from East Berlin. Most recently, she took a camera to India, co-directing Om Gottes Willen, a self-portrait and flamboyant profession of her deepening faith in Hinduism, which was followed by the release of Om Namah Shivay and Sweet Lord Concept Album (the latter only in Germany), two CDs of spiritually inspired chanting backed by an Indian band. There are few voices in the lexicon of modern music that are strong and strange enough to both suit and startle a Hindi mantra, but Hagen's is such a one. While I'm told the singer reserves her more esoteric fare for intimate settings, there's little doubt the "Cosma Shiva" who created Nunsexmonkrock in 1982 is going to get a little spacey. Be on board. Nina Hagen performs on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 7-8, at the DNA Lounge with Love and Rockets' David J performing and DJs Skip and Shindog opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18-20; call 626-1409.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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