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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.

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A Whale Of A Tale Movie Review

A Guppy of a Tale

In 2009, Louie Psihoyos's "The Cove" was an Oscar-winning documentary. It was an exposé about dolphin capture and slaughter in Taiji, Japan that was as bloody as could be, causing revulsion for most of its audience.

Now we have another view of the same situation with Megumi Sasaki's "A Whale of a Tale." Mostly meant as a repudiation of "The Cove," it really isn't. What it is, is more of a travel brochure to come visit Taiji, Japan. It presents the view that slaughtering whales and dolphins is a cultural issue, not an issue of unnecessary cruelty.

The film does make some valid points, however; primarily, how can a culture that slaughters cattle, pigs, chickens, etc. tell anyone that killing different animals is somehow so much worse? The net effect can cast doubts into the minds of carnivores, like myself. What right does one culture have to call another culture cruel because they slaughter different animals?

One of the arguments used by Sasaki is that "The Cove" was a result of bullying of the Japanese locals. The hero of "A Whale of a Tale" is Jay Alabaster, an American journalist who has lived in Japan for 20 years. He comes across as a nice, gentle soul, and his love for Japan, including for the people of Taiji, comes through loud and clear.

While "The Cove" focused almost entirely on bloody dolphins, this time we are treated to festivals celebrating whales and dolphins, including schoolgirls singing and dancing about their love for the animals of the sea. All of the people of Taiji are presented as sweet and huggable and everything is festival-like. Meanwhile, the slaughter goes on.

The biggest overall problem with all of this is that it feels more like an ad for Taiji, Japan than a documentary. Of even greater concern is that its attempt to smooth over the bloodiness results in a pretty boring watch.

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