This has been sitting in my drafts all year. I couldn’t bring myself to hit publish until today.
We returned to Sydney in November, and the few months since I couldn’t face and relive the emotions I went through in Hong Kong. The five or so months have been like ringing ears after an intense gig. I’m still waiting for it to settle down.
It was extraordinarily painful and bittersweet. Polarising, with some of my biggest highs and lowest of lows ever confronted. Limits were challenged and baselines were reset.
Putting together this year’s belated mixtape is probably the closest I’ll get to both express and recollect the rainbow of emotions. Even though at times it makes me wince, I’ve learnt a tremendous amount about myself.
With ongoing Sydney lockdowns, the festival was conducted online and on demand. Challenged myself with a 4-Film pass; my shortlist for this year, and their two line reviews:
1. Sleeze Lake: Vanlife at its Lowest & Best
A glimpse into a specific place and point in time of a one-off DIY hedonistic weekend that didn’t see a well deserved encore. Debaucherous, and definitely something you can’t get away with nowadays! ****/5
2. Wonderful Paradise
Two hours of mild non-sequiturs. Absurd, intentionally incoherent and OMG A BOY TURNED INTO A STICK WUT ***/5
3. The World’s Best Film
A film that’s really disguised as the film maker’s diary and canvas to figure himself out and express his gratitude for life. Cute, but left with wanting to dig in a bit more ***/5
4. Alien on Stage
Ambitious, humbling and self-deprecatingly fun; suspend all judgement and it will surprisingly win you over. I am converted – Alien on Stage makes brilliant sense! ****/5
2020 was a year-long exercise of resolutions in the face of consistent adversity. Soundtracking farewells spanning several months, we said goodbye to the characters we grew to love, the harsh grit of the city, and ourselves.
The flowerman downstairs who rarely fails to wish us a good morning every morning in the four years we were there. The culture pals we saw at every festival, led by asian Dora the Explorer. French Jesus and his insatiable appetite to keep live music accessible in the city. A crew that doesn’t know how to say yeah, nah. The jovial filos. The goth. Central plastic bag lady. The Boundary St fuckboy. A best mate made from a Facebook marketplace sale. And many, many, many more beautiful characters.
Thank you for taking care of us and showing us around. 深水埗 will always be a spiritual second home, in chaos and in harmony. Despite how prolific it is globally, there is something in the water in Hong Kong that makes dim sum there the original, and the best. And the complex history and situation that Hong Kongers have found themselves in that has shaped their sense of pathos and defined the way they carry themselves day in, day out. It’s sad and pretty amazing at the same time.
We’re immensely humbled by our experiences, both the great and the ugly, and can say with pride and gratitude that “we were there.”
2019 saw me take a slight mental and emotional backseat following an extraordinarily challenging 2018. Living and working in Hong Kong, you’re constantly starved for introspection. Without it, there is limited time to properly confront your emotions to heed whether you’re still in the direction you want to go: that the values you hold continue to ring true and how many more compromises can you continue to make before it renders your value system almost worthless to uphold.
Do I need to stop making decisions based on what I feel is better for the greater good and start looking out for myself more? Can I continue doing what I’m doing, knowing that I am taking steps back away from making the world a better place? Why can’t I find a decent chicken schnitzel around here?
This is what is reflected in 2019’s mixtape – an exploration of individual value systems and how willing we are to bend or to defend. This year’s releases have been fantastic and an absolute joy for those in this corner of the music world, and served as the soundtrack as I shut down for the year to figure things out.
We capped off 2019 with a pilgrimage to Wonderfruit in Thailand (absolutely amazing!), so it was fitting to end the mixtape with a track from Rival Consoles (Ryan Lee West) who was my favourite that weekend (maybe second to the legendary Molam Bus stage). The experience was cathartic.
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A couple of favourite 2017 releases picked up along the way during the course of the year – nerding out in Tower Records Tokyo (Indian Wells), checking out Sonar (Clark), trying to “figure out my feelings” in HK (Telefon Tel Aviv), reacquainting with old friends (Slowdive, Four Tet) or simply wanting to dance away the negative vibes (LCD Soundsystem).
Werner Herzog’s take on the impact the internet has had on the world via ten short stories. Great subjects which were mostly explored on the surface. Light entertainment for potentially heavy subject matter – ***/5
Unexpectedly tense and riveting exploration into an unusual company behind an online tickling fetish empire. Unbelievably insane and brave – ****/5
3. Under the Sun
A rare inside look into the everyday lives of North Koreans through the guise of a propaganda film shoot. Great for those fascinated by the whole “North Korea” thing. HAIL GREAT LEADER KIM JONG-UN – ***/5
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater’s 80s “Dazed and Confused” follows a college freshman getting up to what college kids get up to as he moves into his baseball fraternity house the weekend before college starts. Fun and surprisingly profound – ****/5
5. The Man From Mo’Wax
Follows Mo’Wax record label boss James Lavelle signing DJ Shadow and the ups and downs of his ambitious UNKLE project. A little self-indulgent but great for those keen for an insight into a chapter of the trip-hop/ progressive hip hop scene. ***/5
6. Winter At Westbeth
Follows three aging residents of Westbeth Artist Housing in NYC still pursuing their artistic ambitions and dreams. Inspiring and heart-breaking – ***/5
Must-Haves Finitribe – 101 Remixes
Jesus & Mary Chain Psychocandy live @ Barrowlands
Jon Hopkins – I Remember (Nils Frahm remix)
Machinedrum – Vapor City Remixes
Oneohtrix Point Never – Commissions II
Slowdive – Blue Day
Spaceape/Kode9 – Ghost Town/ At War with Time
Various – Continuum
Air – Playground Love
Brian Eno – My Squelchy Life
Daughter – Winter (War Paint Remix)
Goldfrapp – Felt Mountain
KC & The Sunshine Band – Get Lifted (Todd Terje remix)
Of Montreal – Snare Lustrous Doomings
Swans – Swans (EP)
Had to be a bit strategic this year with how I fit everything into the schedule; frontloaded the interactive program considering there was some work-related stuff and had to consider a few colleagues who joined me, then catching up on all the films in the second half of the festival once I had some time to myself. By then, it was already challenging trying to start and fit a lot of the films in and had to really let go of a few I really wanted to check out – hopefully they’ll get showings or distribution locally or online.
Sad tale of the arrest of the guy behind the Silk Road – similar in vein to the Internet’s Own Boy, but probably not as noble…
Cute recount of a American-Korean girl finding and connecting with her separated-at-birth twin sister. Nice fluff piece, and great for the younger generation.
Following the nuances and tales of a barge crew – beautifully shot and extremely intimate.
All Things Must Pass (AKA the Tower Records Documentary)
Trailer isn’t available – solid recount of the rise and fall of Tower Records. Can see where Australia’s JB Hi-Fi came from…
For the Record
Stenotyping. That is all.
Following the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado, The Denver Post launches the first editor dedicated to the subject matter.