Monday, November 28, 2011

Article | Digitalism | Balancing Act + mp3


Balancing Act

Digitalism's hybrid electro staves off boredom.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 08.10.11


Last year, as HARD, the annual electronic variety show from L.A., picked up and took its party on the road, we spoke talked to organizer Gary Richards about his goals for the festival. “I’ve been trying to break electronic music in the United States since I first heard it, and I’m not going to stop,” he said. What a difference a year can make. The barrage of beats and bass lines has won over American ears in the past 12 months, and dance music is more popular than ever—A theme we've explored heavily over the past year.

If Richards had concerns about the success of his tour last August, he set his mind at ease when HARD returned this year to nearly sell out Chicago's Congress theater during the summer. The headliner was German dance-rock act Digitalism, who we spoke to then and are sharing with you now—in advance of the duo's show at the Metro in Chicago tonight. 

With its brilliant sophomore album, I Love You, Dude, racking up rave reviews, Digitalism’s mix of distorted guitars, grinding electro beats and pop hooks is a pitch-perfect sound of now . And the pair shares Richards’s philosophy of offering diversity amid the onslaught of thumps and wobbles. 

Video chatting from Hamburg on Skype, the talkative Jence Moelle explains Digitalism’s development with an anecdote from his and Ismail Tüfekçi’s early days hanging out at record stores. “We’d take time to listen to each new vinyl of the week,” he says. “You get kind of bored after a while. All the customers—many DJs of course—they all bought the same stuff, always dependent on what the big names had in their playlist from the last weekend.” Going the opposite route, Moelle, 29, and Tüfekçi, 32, diversified, adding indie, breakbeat, electroclash and whatever else they were feeling into their techno sets. 

“We don’t really like what you’d call monoculture or monogamy,” Moelle explains jokingly. “It’s just not exciting for us. We like to combine lots of styles. At one end is definitely guitar music and the other is somehow electronic, and there’s lots of stuff in between as well.” 

I Love You, Dude plays out like a musical testament to their various musical tastes. It begins with the Daft Punk–ian cosmic electro of “Stratosphere” before launching into infectious lead single “2 Hearts,” which sounds like the electronic sister composition to Phoenix’s “1901.” Elsewhere, their punk side rears its head on “Reeperbahn,” with bouncing rock bass and Moelle’s distorted screeches. The album is so strong precisely because of this range of styles.


DOWNLOAD:

Digitalism "Circles" Dillon Francis remix | 192 mp3


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Article | New Fall Singles | Buddy System


Buddy System 

Pair up fall's hottest tracks and the trends behind them.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 11.09.11


Electronic music doesn’t sit still for long. This fall is no exception. So that neither you nor the season’s heaters get lost in the shuffle, we match up a handful of promising releases that turn up the bass, switch up the tempo, ramp up the sci-fi quotient, plug in a guitar or two and, together, capture the latest movements in electronic music. 

Kuedo “Salt Lake Cuts” (Planet Mu) + Martyn “Masks” (Brainfeeder) 
When Justin Bieber announces he’s working dubstep into his new record, it’s time to move on. That’s exactly what Kuedo and Dutch techstep innovator Martyn have been doing. Vex’d member Kuedo takes a page from the Vangelis songbook for his solo debut, Severant. Heading into Blade Runner territory, his experimental dubstep pairs eerie, celestial synthesizers with a Moroder-style bass line and skittish beats on “Salt Lake Cuts.” It’s bass music gone sci-fi, a snapshot of a promising future. 


Similarly, Martyn continues to blaze a trail that pushes bass music into unexpected places on Ghost People. With its mechanical stomp and gritty keys, lead single “Masks” owes more to Detroit than it does dubstep, but there’s still a synergy between the two. It’s a hybrid banger that boasts as much innovation as the latest Toyota Prius. 


Major Lazer “Original Don” (Mad Decent) + Dillon Francis “Beautician 2.0” (Mad Decent) 
If there’s any one camp that’s really expanding the boundaries of urban electronic music, it’s Diplo’s Mad Decent label. His latest release as zombie-killing cartoon commando Major Lazer sounds as if it were written for a Jamaican marching band until it morphs into a schizophrenic breaks banger with blaring horns, sirens, record scratches and a “run the track” call to arms. If ever there was a follow-up to “Pon Di Floor,” this is it.


A relative newcomer, Dillon Francis may have descended from the hills surrounding L.A. to win over his dinosaur-loving label boss with his dubstep and electro prowess, but it’s his recent forays into the midtempo reggaeton-dancehall-electro amalgam moombahton that are going to make this guy a star. With its ravey synth stabs and infectious melody, his latest, “Beautician 2.0,” is pristine, next-generation booty music. 


Chromatics “Kill for Love” (Italians Do It Better) + Bryan Ferry “Alphaville” Todd Terje remix (Virgin) 
Birthing the next dance subgenre isn’t always the key to success, or even to freshening up your sound. Johnny Jewel has been rekindling his love of moody ’80s dance rock for years, recording as Desire, Glass Candy and here, as Chromatics. The band scored major airtime on the retro-lovely film Drive, and it has followed that up with “Kill for Love” a pitch-perfect throwback to acid wash, new wave and teen angst. 


You won’t see Bryan Ferry, the same glam and new wave icon behind Roxy Music, working dubstep into his repertoire. But that doesn’t mean he’s out of step with the dance beat. For last year’s Olympia, he enlisted help from Groove Armada and Scissor Sisters, and over the course of this year he’s released a string of remixes. The standout comes from quirky Nordic talent Todd Terje, who stretches “Alphaville” with xylophone, parlor piano and Balearic bounce. There’s no pretense here. This is house music to the core, but it doesn’t sound like anything we’ve heard in years.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review | The Field | Looping State of Mind + mp3


The Field 
LOOPING STATE OF MIND
Kompakt Records

 chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n 

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine.

In Axel Willner’s world, repetition is a very good thing. He started hypnotizing fans with his ambient techno meditations as the Field on 2007’s From Here We Go Sublime, which even landed in Pitchfork’s top albums of the 2000s. From then on, he’s embraced techno’s simplistic formula of a few moving parts, expertly arranged and then left to shine, relatively unaltered for marathon runs stretching well over the five-minute mark. 

In that sense, nothing’s changed here. Willner’s looping bliss burns long and slow across all seven tracks on Looping State of Mind. Muted-beat pistons still chug inside a musical frame airbrushed with a synth-based pop sheen. On his previous output, this gave his tracks a vaguely trance-like drive. That model carried him through 2009’s Yesterday and Today, but with mixed results. Instead of opting for another tune-up, Willner has traded in on this latest. Now he’s cruising along with the top back, opting for breezy Balearic textures and more leisurely tempos, as he has on “Burned Out.” 

Set opener “Is this Power” also reflects these years on the road, literally. A touring schedule that has seen Willner sharing the stage with acts like !!! and LCD Soundsystem has left its mark. Live bass pops and rolling drum fills provide more prominent examples of the indie cred he’s always enjoyed. It’s as if the more traditional songwriting structure of punk-funkers the Rapture were stripped down to its bare elements, sampled, looped and built back up with the Field’s expert keys and deep atmospherics. 

The title track offers the most succinct example of Willner’s sonic shift. It still charges forth with his signature euphoria, but in less of a hurry. Bursts of bass repeat over the chatter of guitars and the rattle and click of a Plastikman-style techno beat. Before, it seemed as if Willner was expressly trying to find a perfect synergy of techno and indie-pop. Here, he’s no longer trying. 

—Joshua P. Ferguson

DOWNLOAD: The Field "Then It's White" | 256 mp3


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shuffle | Austra + BBF + Escort + Lindstrom + Jaar + Scuba


Shuffle | New Music from our Inbox

Nicolas Jaar "Don't Break My Love" – Clown and Sunset
This year has been a major one for Brooklyn soundscapist Nicolas Jaar. If nothing else he's gained major fans over here at Dialogue Inc. We had nothing but good things to say about his Space is Only Noise LP for Circus Company and the kind words we have for his unique blend of IDM, slow burning house and brooding downtempo only continue on this latest EP. Clicking along with smooth Rhodes chords, skittish minimal beats and wordless vocal hums, "Don't Break My Love" is great because it works as a stand alone track, whereas many of the cuts from Space Is worked best in the context of the album listen. Just wait till the meat of the song kicks in at around the five minute mark. It takes a while to get there, but when it does, you'll be hard pressed to say you're not a fan.

DOWNLOAD: Nicolas Jaar "Don't Break My Love" b/w "Why Don't You Save Me" | 320 mp3s

 
NICOLAS JAAR / Don't break my love EP by Clown and Sunset


Brandt Brauer Frick "Pretend" Soul Clap remix – !K7
It's with minor reluctance that we post up this remix of German organic techno creators Brandt Brauer Frick. Not because we have a single bad thing to say about their classically-minded, orchestral dance compositions, but rather because we did an interview with them this past March and never got it posted to our site. Thankfully, you can read our conversation with drummer Daniel Brandt over at Time Out Chicago. Amazingly, this prodigious trio has already churned out a sophomore LP and enlisted our favorite sexy house duo from Boston, Soul Clap (pictured), to work their magic on it. The result is a deep, pulsing affair, perfect for early evenings and late nights. No surprise there.

DOWNLOAD: Brandt Brauer Frick "Pretend" Soul Clap remix | 320 mp3 (courtesy of XLR8R)


Escort "Makeover" – Escort Records
Even if you missed the hilarious mash-up of the intro to the Muppets and Escort's "All Through the Night," there's a good chance you've caught wind of the 17-piece Gotham City disco orchestra Escort. Their full-length has been a long time coming, so there was a twinge of disappointment when we heard "Cameleon Chameleon" a few weeks back. Basically, the four-plus years that have passed since the band debuted had left them sounding a bit cheesy and even more dated. Or so we thought. The group has thoroughly redeemed themselves with this poppy, '80s-tinged throwback that resounds with the same potency that make artists like Madonna or Rihanna so potent. "Makeover" sounds fresher than either of those two acts, but the comparison is a legit one. We think you'll agree.

DOWNLOAD: Escort "Makeover" | 256 mp3


Lindstrøm "De Javu" – Smalltown Supersound
Norwegian cosmonaut Lindstrøm has a habit of making songs that never end. His 2008 LP, Where You Go I Go Too, consisted of three songs, the shortest clocking in at more than 10 minutes, the longest at just under half an hour. Then he topped that with an epic interpretation of "Little Drummer Boy" that stretched on for near 45 minutes. While this teaser track from his impending album Six Cups of Rebel doesn't have the same stargazing aloofness of some of his other long-winded numbers, it still starts as if the needle were dropped in the middle of the record and ends as abruptly. This might sound critical—and sure, 45 minute space disco odysseys aren't for everyone—but we love Lindstrøm at two minutes a clip or at two hours, and this latest hints that he's funking things up and injecting some energy back into his output. "De Javu" sounds like Earth, Wind and Fire riffing with Weather Report in '70s Brazil. We don't know exactly what this means for the rest of the album.

DOWNLOAD:  Lindstrøm "De Javu" | 192 mp3

 
Lindstrom - De Javu by smalltownsupersound


Austra "Spellwork" Baron Von Luxxury's Space Cathedral remix – CD-R
Since we got our hands on Toronto trio Austra's Feel It Break we've been in love. A bit like a more electronic Florence and the Machine, Austra mixes '80s moodiness, potent indie-dance beats and swelling, emotional and yet danceable melodies into a soothing brew that'll get you drunk and moving like too much 18-year-old scotch. Our personal favorite is "Lose It," but we received this great sweeping electro-disco remix from quirky L.A. producer Baron Von Luxxury with the thumbs up for reposting, so here it goes.



SCUBA "M.A.R.S." Machinedrum remix – !K7
Last but not least, we thought we'd let you down easy with a frantic finale in the form of Machinedrum's remix of SCUBA's "M.A.R.S.," the tech-step producer's original contribution to his recent DJ-KiCKs mix. Somehow understated and manic at the same time, it pulses with synth stabs and a quietly chattering beat, building up over time to lift your ears up in a driving sonic crescendo. As one half of Hotflush act Sepalcure, Machinedrum has been making waves all over 2011 so we couldn't resist getting in on the conversation.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Article | Trax Records | Playing House


Playing House

Trax Records looks back on its 25 year history.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 10.12.11

TOC | Trax Records 

It has many names: acid, boompity, jacking, but in the end, it’s all house music. And house began with Chicago’s Trax Records. Evolving on the storied dance floors of South Side clubs like the Warehouse and the Muzic Box in the early ’80s, house music came into being as DJs like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy were amplifying the rhythms and low end of disco and upbeat soul with stripped-down beats-and-bass backing tracks. 

Recognizing the music’s potency, youthful scenesters like Jesse Saunders, Vince Lawrence and Rachael Cain gave those minimalist tracks their own voice, seeking out a pressing plant, Musical Products, and its owner, Larry Sherman, to help release them. 

Chatting from the dimly lit room four of CRC Studios, where many of Trax’s hits were recorded, Cain, the “Blondie on a beatbox budget” better known as Screamin’ Rachael, has remained a central figure in the label. “We recorded a couple songs, ‘Fantasy’ being the first,” she says. “I’ll never forget when I heard it on the radio because this friend of mine had said, ‘There’s this new record, it sounds really cool, and this chick has this unique style.’ It came on the radio when we were together and I went, ‘That’s my record!’ ” 


It was 1986 and those minimal four-four beats hadn’t yet been dubbed house, but this trio (with financial backing from Sherman) had started releasing the “Chicago sound” through Trax. Soon, artists like Adonis, DJ Pierre and Marshall Jefferson were signing their groundbreaking work to the label.

 Last month, the label commemorated its legacy with Trax Records: The 25th Anniversary Collection, a two-disc set that includes more than a dozen hidden gems from its catalog and a documentary covering Trax’s early days, the sound’s explosion overseas, and the hope of Cain, the label and its artists that Chicago will get proper recognition for birthing house music.

Continue Reading

Jorge Cruz, the label's creative director, commissioned Hercules & Love Affair's Kim Ann Foxman to do a DJ 'mixtape' featuring selections from the 25th Anniversary comp. He's kindly given that out at a free stream and download, which you can grab below:




Thursday, November 10, 2011

Album Review | Toddla T | Watch Me Dance + mp3s


Toddla T
WATCH ME DANCE 
Ninja • Tune 

dub \ dub \ n + pop \päp\n 

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 09.21.11

Stateside, the average teen’s obsession with reggae begins and ends with Bob Marley’s Legend. Across the pond, sound-system culture is so prevalent that no one thinks twice about a fresh-faced youth from Sheffield making potent Jamaican music. Toddla T has been doing exactly that since age 14. 

His 2009 debut, Skanky Skanky, was grimey, reverberating with sub bass and perfect for clubs like London’s Fabric. It gave Toddla his identity. Now 26 and signed to Ninja Tune, the producer and DJ is back with a new batch of blue-eyed dancehall beats, this time aiming for the Billboard charts. 

Polished but still filtered through the THC haze of a Kingston studio, Watch Me Dance sparks up with the title track, a disco-dance-rock romp featuring the inimitable flow of Roots Manuva. Bleeding into the ’90s house piano and rolling breaks bounce of “Take It Back,” Toddla feels destined to break free of the underground—and his backbeat trappings—and these opening tracks give him the right momentum. 

Ultimately, though, he settles back into what he knows best and gets carried away with the pipe cleaner while he’s at it. Running the gamut of reggae styles, the LP boasts the easygoing bashment soul of “Cherry Picking,”which could easily find airtime next to Nicki Minaj, and the smoldering dancehall-step of “Streets So Warm,” a shoo-in for a Major Lazer DJ set. But while the X-rated swagger of “Body Good,” the conscious reggae of “How Beautiful It Would Be” and the lover’s rock of “Lovely Girl” sparkle in production quality, they lack a discernible Toddla T stamp. Like Diplo and Switch, the dubwise youth excels at making the rough urban sound of Jamaica hip and palatable, but too often here, palatable steals the show. 

—Joshua P. Ferguson

DOWNLOAD:




Monday, November 7, 2011

Interview | deadmau5


Interview | deadmau5

Dance music's biggest star takes off the mask

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 08.03.11 

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Frequenters to this site know that the mega-club world occupied by masked electro sensation deadmau5 isn't really our preferred coverage. With the producer's oversized mau5 ears and track record of selling out every venue he enters, the toronto electro kingpin doesn't exactly need the press. That said, we were given the opportunity to interview him for Time Out magazine in advance of his Lollapalooza appearance. He's just wrapped up the remainder of the tour he began in Chicago this summer and he's got a new tune climbing the iTunes club charts, so we thought we'd share a bit of our chat with the musical rodent, just in case you didn't catch it the first go-around.


“How much does your head weigh?” asks Joel Zimmerman, mockingly throwing me the question he gets asked all too often. It's the end of our conversation and he's done talkinb about himself. When Zimmerman dons his much talked about mau5head, as he did for thousands of screaming ravers at Lollapalooza back in Auguest—and on the subsequent Meowington's Hax tour which he just wrapped up—he becomes deadmau5, the biggest dance act since Tiësto. Without the cartoonish rodent head, the tatted-up, nail-biting chain smoker looks more like the computer proframmer he once was rather than the club-music rockstar he is now. The 30-year-old is a frantic ball of energy when we reach him by phone in his Toronto studio. He’s knee-deep in all the gadgetry that became  the laser-light show for his fall tour, and we’re dying to hear about that, and more.

On being a gearhead 

 Talking with Zimmerman, it’s easy to tell that the techno-toys trump the techno itself. Has be been a dance music fan since an early age? No. “I’ve been converted. I grew up a little metalhead; Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, that kind of shit. I was a bandwagon jumper. If everybody in high school listened to it, so did I.” More so than the classic rave-informed tech-electro he makes, it’s the futuristic spectacle of the performance—and the requisite gear—that fuels Zimmerman. “I’m just a little artsy-fartsy computer dude,” Zimmerman says. “It’s not an alter ego. It’s not, now it’s time for crazy time, put on a mouse head—adventure! I’m the same guy in and out of it.” 

On the evolution of the mau5head 

“Oh wow, if I had a nickel for every time I had to tell this fucking story,” Zimmerman mumbles. His most recognizable attribute, its worth one more telling. The mau5head has seen seemingly endless permutations: red with bugged-out white eyes, solid black with a glowing mouth, chrome. Most recently it’s become a glorified LED screen with pixilated lights for its eyes and mouth. “It was a 3D model years and years before it was anything else,” he explains. Then a friend convinced him to turn it into a mask. “I wore it out for my first official deadmau5 gig, and everyone was looking at me like, what the fuck? It was a combination of that, the big brand identity, and the music, that pushed it all forward. It was so tongue-in-cheek, it’s like no fucking prisoners. Fuck it, if I do this, I do this. If I fail, I’ll go 3D model my head off till I’m old and gray and still sitting behind a desk. I’m happy either way. Now I can’t take the fucking thing off.” 

On the Disney rumors 

In May, spoof conspiracy-theory blog tropiganda.com ran a story claiming that Disney bought the trademark to deadmau5. “Dude that is such bullshit,” Zimmerman bellows. “Disney fell asleep at the fucking wheel when I trademarked my shit. I have a thing with a big grin and mouse ears. If you blacked it out, everybody would be like, oh, Mickey. Someone over at Disney was taking a nap.” The only interaction deadmau5 has actually had with Mickey is a gig in Orlando. “I’m thinking that I’m gonna go into the dressing room and the door is gonna slam shut and Goofy and fucking Minnie are gonna come out and I’m going to get a beat down.” He came home bruise free.

Continue reading




Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shuffle | DJ Mixes from Aeroplane + Artwork + CFCF


Shuffle | New Music from our Inbox

We've had a few choice DJ mixes piling up so instead of the usual mp3 business, we thought we'd help you soundtrack your next few days at the office, and possibly even your Saturday morning coffee routine.

Here goes.

Aeroplane In Flight Entertainment — Eskimo Records
This one is an official release, so you'll have to pony up if you want the full mix. We can reassure you that it's worth it. The now-solo pilot Vito let's everybody know he's got friends in high places, commissioning 12 exclusive tracks for the mix and providing one of his own as well—and probably the best we've heard from Aeroplane in some time. Look out for tracks from Poolside, DJ U-Tern's Oliver project and even one from Chicago's James Curd. 

Go here for more info on the release: Eskimo Records

Since we did promise free listens, here are two to choose from:

Aeroplane In Flight Entertainment mini-mix (drops the needle on each song from the full release)

 
In Flight Entertainment Minimix by Aeroplane (Official)

and the latest in Aeroplane's ongoing mixtape series, the September edition:

Aeroplane September 2011 mix

 
Aeroplane September 2011 Mix by Aeroplane (Official)

Tracklisting: 
1.Toro Y Moi - All Alone 
2.Arnaud Rebotini - Another Time, Another Place ( Gucci Vump Remix ) 
3.Ron Basejam - Looter 
4.Runaway - Chapter IV ( Tensake Reinterpretation ) 
5.Moonboots - Off My Mind 
6.NSFW - Coconut ( Cosmonauts Remix ) 
7.Edwin Van Cleef - Triton 
8.Spank Rock - Energy ( The Glimmers Remix ) 
9.Jazzanova - I Can See ( Filippo Moscatello Remix ) 
10.Mercury - Sweetness 
11. Fifteenth - My Fantasy ( Part Deux ) 
12.Beni - Someone Just Like You ( Villa Remix ) 
13. Nero - Crush On You ( Brodinski Remix ) 
14.Mickey Moonlight - Close to Everything ( remix by Mickey Moonlight in London )



Switching gears entirely, Artwork the third of three dubstep forces behind the supergroup Magnetic Man dropped a 30 minute promo mix today to help promote an upcoming Fabric takeover on 11.11. Artwork heads up one room while Croydon brethren Skream and Benga head up another. There's also third room of pure bass and across the three, Londoners can also look forward to sets from Hatcha, N-Type, Seiji and the Scratch Perverts. 

And yet, considering the heavyweight dubstep selectors involved in the night, Artwork has turned in a surprisingly soulful 4/4 mix that rockets its way through house, acid, classic Chicago tracks, booty house and bit of U.K. Funky. 

Listen up:


DOWNLOAD: Artwork | FabricLive promo mix




Last up we have some rainy day chill-out in the form of a new mix from CFCF. Embodying his usual strains of cinematic, ambient, stripped-down R'n'B, the mix cruises through Vangelis, Alicia Keys, Biggie, Fever Ray and Autechre, and it does it all at a brilliantly slow burning, syrupy pace (This may be the mix for your coffee session). 
DOWNLOAD: CFCF | NIGHT BUS II

Tracklisting: 
01 wait for me intro (vangelis) 
02 this city never sleeps (eurythmics) 
03 stranger (jhene aiko) 
04 demons/behind the bank (asap rocky/oneohtrix point never) 
05 keep the streets empty (fever ray) 
06 aventurescence/addiction (beaumont/cassie) 
07 here in heaven/one more chance (elite gymnastics/notorious BIG) 
08 tongues (d'eon) 
09 sappys curry/body count (underworld/meek mill) 
10 lowride/unthinkable (autechre/alicia keys)




Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review | The Rum Diary


Review | The Rum Diary

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Hunter S. Thompson isn't for everyone. I consider myself a fanboy, and I can't even keep up with all the guns, politics and angst. But the Hunter that lies at the heart of Paul Kemp, Johnny Depp's character in The Rum Diary, is a Hunter at his mildest—for most of the movie he hasn't yet been stricken with the fear or the loathing. The best and the worst of that is yet to come. When Kemp arrives in old San Juan, he's still bright eyed (when not hung over) and feels a sense of idealistic duty to the field of journalism (when he musters the motivation to actually write). He's the writer, still blossoming, who's yet to discover all he comes to hate about the country he loves. He's also yet to discover his voice, something all writers, artists and musicians can relate to. It's the prequel to   Hunter S. Thompson at his height, the Hunter of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, already showing us all things that do make him appealing.

This is, of course, what makes Paul Kemp appealing as well, so long as you remember that Kemp is really just a thinly veiled Thompson. Given the film's mixed reviews, I feel like this fact is getting lost in translation. Critics seem to get caught up in the story without applying it to Thompson. When they do focus on the connection, they complain that it hasn't got the wild antics and poison-dart-tongue wit of Thompson's other work. The criticism isn't entirely unjust. It's a long movie that's sure to lose the Thompson uninitiated and even the mildly interested at points, but taken as a whole—especially with a third act that goes beyond the book's original plot to become a clever tribute the author—the film is a highly amusing romp and in time, it will reach the same cult status of the man it's based upon.


The plot, taken by itself, is the story of a man with strong ideals and love of a strong drink who travels to an island to search for himself while he writes horoscopes for a mediocre newspaper. He makes a few drunken friends, has a few drunken exploits. He also makes a few powerful friends and proceeds to piss them off during his drunk exploits. Feeling burned, he tries to exact some form of revenge. This doesn't go as planned. So he leaves. He also meets a girl.

It's a lot to try to tie together, and it's not fair of a movie to ask you to do your homework before viewing, but in The Rum Diary's case, it'll help bring those loose ends together and make the movie that much more worth it. Thompson has always been an anti-hero. His book The Curse of Lono has shares this theme. It doesn't end with him sticking it to the man. He practically gets chased out of Hawaii, but he lives to tell the tale and it's another classic Thompson fuck you. Even Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is no more than a series of drug-addled antics but they lead to telling, scary and hilarious observations about the American Dream and our country's greed.



To expect Kemp to succeed is to misunderstand Thompson. If he had exposed the wrongdoing he witnessed in Puerto Rico in a fit of gonzo journalism befitting a Pulitzer it might have given audiences the sort of story arc they expect from a movie, but it wouldn't have been true to the character's inspiration. Kemp doesn't save the day, but he learns a lot about himself in the ordeal, and when he sits down at the typewriter to write, "I want to make a promise to you, the reader. And I don't know if I can fulfill it tomorrow, or even the day after that. But I put the bastards of this world on notice that I do not have their best interests at heart. I will try and speak for my reader. That is my promise. And it will be a voice made of ink and rage," Kemp finds his voice and his purpose in life, and therefore so does Thompson. 

Stepping into the world of Hunter S. Thompson, one can't expect anything resembling normality. There's no such thing as traditional plots, vanquishing the bad guy and saving the day. But the void where those qualities would have been is filled with fire breathing, cockfighting, rum, LSD trips, Hitler speeches, rum, fast cars and a talking lobster who waxes philosophical and tells you something worth knowing. Nothing changes, but at least you understand why. And as Kemp sails away at the film's end, you're left knowing that this is only the beginning for Hunter S. Thompson.