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The Nightingale Movie Review

Brutal 'Nightingale' Worth Listening To

Be wary of "The Nightingale," a powerful new movie worth seeking out should you choose to do so. It's a brutal and deeply upsetting film at almost every turn, but director Jennifer Kent ("The Babadook") handles the film's unsettling moments with purpose and conviction. Even so, be warned before entering the film.
Set in colonial Australia in 1825, Clare (Aisling Franciosi) has been enslaved by British commander Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin) for seven years. She is treated as a servant by Hawkins and his men, serving them food and drinks and being subjected to their crude comments and gestures. She is referred to as a nightingale because she serenades them on command as they sit around and get drunk.





Stereolab - Peng! Music Album Reviews

Today on Pitchfork, we are publishing new reviews of five important early Stereolab records, each one a rung on the ladder of one of the most exceptional and historically influential bands.

Stereolab could never have imagined how experimental, or influential, they would become. When Lætitia Sadier joined her then-boyfriend Tim Gane in his British jangle-pop band McCarthy, the two melted insoluble genres, like 1950s jazz and 1970s krautrock, into a singular style. In McCarthy’s wake, they formed Stereolab—the name taken from a Vanguard Records sub-label—with Sadier on synthesizer and lead vocals, alternating between French and English; Gane on guitar, organ, and synth; Martin Kean on bass; Joe Dilworth on drums. A year later, Stereolab released two 10" EPs and a 7"—Super 45, Super-Electric, and Stunning Debut Album—primarily on Duophonic, a boutique label they co-created with their manager. In 1992, after attention-grabbing Peel Sessions and in-store performances at Rough Trade, Stereolab released their debut full-length, Peng!, through Too Pure, an independent London label that was about to get its own big break the same year with PJ Harvey’s Dry.

Peng! is a blueprint of what Stereolab would become: a band experimenting with 1960s pop harmonies, teethy guitars, and the borderless world of analog electronics. It’s an incomplete picture of the band—two key members, singer-guitarist Mary Hansen and drummer Andy Ramsay, had yet to join—but it has an immediate magic to it, like being there in the studio beside them before their career kicks off. It’s also the closest Stereolab come to being an indie-rock band. Their songwriting chops are there, but they haven’t yet discovered all the instruments and techniques that could, and would, eventually make their music so dazzling. It’s a guessing game of empty spaces as the Groop lay the foundation for what would come.

With an eerie synth fade-in, Sadier beings her monotone singing. When the song, “Super Falling Star,” reaches its chorus, twinkling guitar cushions the two parts, establishing a moody, dreamlike first impression fit for a sci-fi film. Stereolab introduce their futuristic sound only to follow it with a string of more traditional indie-rock songs: “Orgiastic,” “Peng! 33,” and later “The Seeming and the Meaning.” All three chase a driving tempo with strummed guitar and peppy one-woman vocals. The songs are charming, straightforward, and just lo-fi enough to feel like gems waiting to be polished. (Perhaps it’s no surprise that Iron & Wine covered “Peng! 33.”)

Over this indie-rock foundation stretches an unexpected shoegaze veneer. Fuzzy guitars take priority over sharp electronics, giving listeners a chance to imagine who Stereolab could have been if they followed in the footsteps of My Bloody Valentine or Swirlies. “Enivrez-vous” opens with an anthemic drum roll and buzzing guitar reverb. From afar, Sadier reads a Charles Baudelaire poem about getting drunk, creating a blurry airport-announcement effect. A similar blanket of warm guitar drives closer “Surrealchemist,” while field recordings and a thundering Farfisa organ storm its sprawling ending. Shoegaze’s blend of hooks and noise feeds directly into the group’s evolution as a self-described “high-concept pop group.”

For a band that would eventually define itself as the cross-section of analog indie rock and experimental ’60s pop, Stereolab were, for a long period, tied to rigid beats and tight-knit motorik. On Peng!, they diverge from that metronomic timing to embrace flashes of imperfection. Gane breaks out a metallic, quickly strummed guitar solo on “You Little Shits” that misses several notes in its hurried movement. With the jazzy pop of “Perversion,” a Moog solo slowly wanders off beat, humming its way down its own path. In true Stereolab fashion, these moments just make their technological world sound more human. Stereolab claimed never to play live in the studio, yet Peng!’s strongest moments evoke jam sessions, whether it’s the slapdash blues rhythm on “Mellotron” or the manic guitar solo turned group noise session of “Stomach Worm.”

The band had yet to discover the knack for sequencing that would make later albums feel like such cohesive statements. The mood shifts abruptly and frequently, forgoing segues or fadeouts. The gentle hypnosis of synth lullaby “K-stars” is awkwardly sandwiched between the record’s eponymous pop hit and a similarly exultant rock number. These jumps in mood and tone are ironic, given how often the band was criticized for its “one-note” sound. And while with Peng! they began sinking their teeth into the staples of their songwriting—minimalism and repetition—the album’s tendency to move in fits and starts undercuts the power those techniques would assume on later albums.

Two years after its release, the band would release two studio albums, a mini-album, an anthology, four EPs, six 7" singles, and six splits with bands like Unrest and Nurse With Wound. Vinyl obsessives, Stereolab refused to let songs to go to waste. “From the very beginning of Stereolab, the idea has been to release as many records as possible,” Gane once said. “I want it to be hit and run.” Peng! was a floodgate bursting open, revealing a range of subgenres and influences—organ-driven krautrock, low-key lounge pop, cinematic noise—they could build upon moving forward.

Despite this spirit of limitless creativity, Stereolab didn’t feel comfortable promoting themselves unless asked. In early interviews, Sadier and Gane shuffle around as though unsure how to control the narrative of the band on camera. But on paper, they confidently toyed with expectations, choosing a 1969 Swiss political cartoon for their record sleeves and provocative song titles. Stereolab were still figuring out who and what they wanted to be. Peng! was a trial run for a decade of subverting expectations. They didn’t need promotion, their work said it all.

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