Our favorite things this week include "GLOW," DJ Doctor! Doctor!, and Kool Keith picking up an old identity with his original co-conspirators.
Kool Keith has adopted a few personas, and he’s never been one to sweat consistency. His Dr. Octogon identity and 1996 album Dr. Octogonecologyst is his most acclaimed, but two subsequent releases without collaborators Dan the Automator and DJ Qbert were very different, less satisfying projects. His use of the Dr. Octogon name in the titles The Return of Dr. Octogon and Dr. Octogon 2 likely stems from commercial concerns since the beats and lyrical topics share little with the first Dr. Octogon project. Dr. Octogonecologyst’s beats are psychedelically spare sharing aesthetics with dub, and the nodding tempos gave Keith relaxed contexts to go down surreal, psychosexual holes with a hint of horror. The beats were so self-sufficient that 1997 saw their release on Instrumentalyst.
This week, Kool Keith announced that he’d put the band back together for Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation, due out in April. The lead track, “Octogon Octogon,” can be heard as reflection on the outsized role Octogon has come to play in Kool Keith’s career, as well as his response to it. His flow sits beautifully in an Automator groove that picks up where the first album left off, complete with a fidgety Qbert scratching showcase near the end that turns Keith’s words into incomprehensible utterances from a fragmented mind. If “Octogon Octogon” is representative of the upcoming album, it will be nice to have him return to form. (Alex Rawls)
In episode three of the Netflix comedy GLOW, at a party at G.L.O.W. (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) producer Bash's house, Bash (Chris Lowell) opens up his costume closet, inviting the cast to pick out outfits as inspiration for their own wrestling personas. Among the slapped-together ensembles are a beekeeper, a bear, and a proud pimp/queen. Once everyone is dressed up and convened downstairs, though, it's clear Bash's visions for (of?) the ladies are very different: "You're a jock, you're an Arab, you're a big black girl." The women stand around the room, pissed (though, among the women of color, not that surprised) that this rich white dude effortlessly matches each of them with a one-dimensional stereotype despite their strong personalities, handpicked ensembles, and uh, humanity. Bash remains unapologetic. "It's not a judgment. It's just what I and the entire world see with our eyes."
Ughhhhhhh thisissoawkwardwhyishetalking you cringe as you lie on the floor surrounded by dirty laundry binge watching a show that came out six months ago. Even for the '80s, he's being an asshole! But Bash's tone deaf statement hints at one of GLOW's strongest themes--that when we don't know what's going on, our mind fills in the blanks, which is a shame because the truth is usually way more interesting.
Take the opening scene of the pilot. A young woman (Alison Brie) in teal business attire stands in an office, giving an impassioned speech: "You see that name on my door? It's my father's name, son of a bitch, but this isn't about him. This is about justice. This is about holding on to what's ours. This is about my company, and my name, and I will not be bullied into submission." She's a tough, take-no-prisoners executive. Until the camera pans, revealing her audience to be not a rapt boardroom but two blasé casting agents and a tripod camera. We then find out that the actress, Ruth, was defiantly reading the juicier man's part (her actual line: "Sorry to interrupt, your wife's on line two."). And a few moments after that (in Netflix time), she's hiding in a bathroom stall for an hour like a sad Sméagol to accost her casting agent while she's peeing and ask why she isn't getting any roles. This is all within the first five minutes. Clearly, show creators Jenji Kohan, Tara Herrmann, Carly Mensch, and Liz Flahive are very eager to show us how wildly off-base first (and second, and third) impressions can be.
But the occasional bout of whiplash is fine, since trying to get to know the characters is a delight. Besides Ruth, the wrestlers include Sheila (Gayle Rankin), who wears a fur top and Taylor Momsen eyeliner to express her inner wolf (and hides a dead animal in Ruth's bed), Melrose (Jackie Tohn), a Madonna-esque party girl who calls herself "the Cézanne of bullshit artists," Carmen (Britney Young), the daughter of a wrestling legend who wants to follow in the family business, and Justine (Britt Baron), a 19-year-old punk kid with no clear motive for being here. In fact, the entire show is pretty light on backstory, instead offering subtle hints at psychological depths that are never fully explored. Sometimes the shot lingers silently on someone's face for 10 seconds or more, as their expression shifts and eyes shine with fears, bursts of recognition, and longings we can only guess at. Other times someone will throw out a line--"My son goes to Stanford" or "I guess you can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can't…"--that gives us a faint whiff of insight into what their lives are like outside the G.L.O.W. universe.
Like when Bash, who we also first meet in an all-teal outfit, gently sweeps on some red eyeshadow before his on-camera debut as the G.L.O.W. announcer and you realize it's probably not a coincidence that a guy who lives with his good-looking childhood-friend-turned-butler has a costume closet full of Bob Mackie gowns. This is a man who knows of what he speaks. The world usually won't see you as you see yourself. Most of us aren't even getting 10-second close-ups, boo-boo. Sometimes all you can do is put on a beekeeper hat, hold your head high, and wait for the world to catch up with you. (Cara Lahr)
DJ Doctor!Doctor!, who goes by Doc, is a Los Angeles transplant and music supervisor for NCIS: New Orleans moving away from remixes and into creating original tracks here New Orleans. His sound is a return to the dance music of the '80s that's untethered by the pop beats of today. Authentic in its reject of preplanned drops, his tracks are curious and dive into an upbeat trance style with an undeniably British underground vibe. His track "Wasteaway Road" is eight minutes of escalating and building layers that feel lighter than the average DJ set, but are irresistible dancey. Doc describes his work as "a tribute to '80s pop, '90s techno and '70s funk that led to the EDM Music we see in New Orleans today."