Japanese Breakfast, “Something Wild,” Against Me!, Palehound, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 28
What Is The Matter? Central Library, 7 p.m. (free)
Photographer and installation artist Jennifer Bastian has made several distinctive marks on Madison’s art community this year. Her June exhibition at Arts + Literature Lab, Between, turned part of the east side gallery into something approaching a literal blanket fort, crammed with bedding and other lovingly worn-in domestic objects. Bastian created a zine this summer to pair with Half-Stack Sessions’ efforts to make Madison’s music community more inclusive. She contributed to the Makeshift Festival’s outdoor installations in August, and is currently the artist-in-residence at the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler space. Her Bubbler project shares some of Between’s saturated coziness, but also centers around literal problem-solving, inviting visitors to try and work out problems in their lives through conversation, hands-on artwork, and even cards where people write down problems and solutions. A Bubbler residency is always technically an open house to some extent or other, but at this event, Bastian will continue to explore the themes of the residency by inviting visitors to participate in a potluck dinner. —Scott Gordon
A Clockwork Orange. Central Library, 6 p.m. (free)
As part of the annual Banned Books Week in September, which celebrates a free press and open access to literature, the Cinesthesia Series is presenting Stanley Kubrick’s iconic classic A Clockwork Orange (1971) on Blu-ray. The film is based on on Anthony Burgess’ linguistically innovative 1962 novel, which uses the backdrop of an oppressively bleak England to satire society’s obsession with behavioral psychology and its facile arguments about goodness and morality. Kubrick’s avant-garde direction adds yet another layer to Burgess’ lurid and subversive story with a fourth wall-breaking opening zoom that introduces viewers to the sadistic indulgences of the anti-authoritarian Droogs gang, posed as mannequins and anachronistically dressed in white collared shirts, false eyelashes, blonde wigs, and black bowler hats. With a thrilling menace, leader Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) narrates, in Nadsat slang, their threatening conduct and warped code as they down glasses of “milk-plus” laced with LSD and mescaline, pick “ultra-violent” fights with rival Billyboy (Richard Connaught), and raid the home of dissident writer F. Alexander (Patrick Magee). These and other terrorizing acts in the film, committed by or against Alex and his cronies, are ironically scored with rousing classical music (from the likes of Beethoven and Edward Elgar), demonstrating Kubrick’s taste for the absurd and his belief in pushing the bounds of cinematic language. To further stress the urgency of his adaptation and vision, Kubrick himself once called the film “a running lecture on free will,” which peaks when Alex is captured by the authorities and forced to endure a comparably cruel rehabilitation (or aversion therapy). As with Thomas Pynchon, the cunning brilliance of Burgess helped to usher in postmodernism, and Kubrick helped bring this dystopian tale to a wider audience a decade later. Today, amid an alarming resurgence of fascism, A Clockwork Orange is simply vital viewing. —Grant Phipps
OTHERsound: Librator, Cap Alan. Art In, 8 p.m.
The OTHERsound series highlights various “world” musics and genre-defying, adventurous projects. The first two OTHERsound installments have featured dancehall artist Jimmy Sugarcane and experimental math-rock project Maratek, as well as a number of local artists including Asumaya (the project of Madison musician Luke Bassuener, who books the series) and Rob Lundberg. OTHERsound III features Gambian Afrobeat artist Librator. Currently based in Detroit, Librator writes catchy, rhythmic West African pop songs, often collaborating with various African producers, such as Rwanda’s YangP on the track “Grace.” Local duo Cap Alan play here as well with glitched-out processed drums and tangled, modular grooves. The night will also feature a fashion show from local clothing line African N American Fits. —Emili Earhart
Ran. Union South Marquee, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 film Ran, made when the legendary Japanese director was 75, transposes the bold strokes of Shakespeare’s King Lear to medieval Japan, where a warlord delegates power to this three sons as he descends into senility and delusion. Except that it’s sons and not daughters, Ran faithfully channels a lot of King Lear‘s strangeness and paranoia, but around all that Kurosawa also crafts a gritty, stately, and lavish war epic. Running nearly three hours and gripping throughout, Ran (the title roughly translates to “chaos”) drips with madness as any good Lear adaptation should, but it’s also a testament to the tenacious craft and bold vision Kurosawa brought to his later works. It screens here in a new 4K digital restoration. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 29
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
People love to debate where exactly Twin Peaks went off the rails. Fresh off the conclusion of Twin Peaks: The Return‘s finale earlier this month—marking the end of another season and maybe the cessation of the series—this screening of 1992’s Fire Walk With Me is either an opportunity for fans to revisit their cartography skills for those age-old arguments or to do as David Lynch intended and let it all just wash over them in a fog of ominous uncertainty. There’s a certain irony here in returning to the dawn of Lynch’s 25-year saga, as this movie was intended to be the make-good for the show’s abrupt cancellation from network television in 1991. As its then-coda, Fire Walk With Me left fans feeling baffled and betrayed: It side-stepped expectations of closing the gap on the original series’ many cliffhangers and chose instead to focus on the events of the week leading up to everything we had seen before. At the time, Fire Walk With Me was infamously panned, but as the new and similarly expectation-disregarding Showtime season demonstrates, it’s never satisfying to be vindicated by narrative art like it’s some sort of checklist your subconscious wrote last summer. Lynch has always been about taking viewers for a ride (interpret that however you wish, as it’s true in all ways) and reminding them it’s better to wonder than to know. Those who are open to it recognize this movie offers a few glimpses at the Lynchian Rosetta Stone —this movie contains new ways to decode the Twin Peaks mythos, even if its most trying moments and stunt cameos are intended to jar you from your suspended disbelief. Even if Fire Walk With Me doesn’t stand up to the high-water mark of what you think Twin Peaks should be, just know it’s a better movie than, like, Sing. —David Wolinsky
Ryan Adams, Emmylou Harris. Breese Stevens Field, 5:30 p.m.
Count me among the assholes who can’t deal with 90 percent of Ryan Adams’ post-Heartbreaker discography. If I hadn’t been teased with that gorgeously heartfelt country album in 2000—boasting the heart-wrenching ballad “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and the timeless bummer Americana of “Come Pick Me Up”—I wouldn’t be so frustrated when he shits out records like 2003 copycat project Rock N Roll (the LP where each tune imitates the style of a different artist or band), 2005’s Grateful Dead-worshipping and mercilessly boring 29, or that self-titled, hobbyist “metal” album he made as Orion in 2010. Also, let’s not forget the throwaway Taylor Swift cover album from a couple years ago. But hey, Adams must be doing something right, because even with this pockmarked track record, legendary country crooner and one-time collaborator Emmylou Harris will be opening for him at this show. (Harris’ previously booked headlining show for this date at the Capitol Theater was canceled to make this possible.) Agh! Well, let’s try to look on the bright side here. There’s always the chance that Adams will pull out a bunch of material from actual great albums like his 2005 collaborations with The Cardinals, Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. And, if you don’t want to risk hearing Adams’ “Wonderwall” cover to find out, Harris plays first, so you can always catch her set and dip the hell out. —Joel Shanahan
Palehound, Pile, Trophy Dad. Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9 p.m. (free)
Boston’s Pile play a strain of rock that sits loosely within the realm of post-punk, while centering much of their sound around strong songwriting. On their 2017 release A Hairshirt of Purpose, Pile maneuver through periods of intensity marked by abrasive guitar tones and brutal drum lines, and stages of stretched-out, humid haze. The track “Rope’s Length” begins with a long snare roll, viola tremolos, and dual guitar lines operating in odd time. One might expect this cinematic rev-up to ascend climatically. But instead the band opens up, allowing a considerable amount of space that only pushes the energy into the chorus. Palehound’s Ellen Kempner’s vocal style sounds somewhere between conversation and singing to herself. It isn’t an outward power in her voice that commands you, but the feeling that what you’re hearing is just the tip of the iceberg––that the emotion is pent up, working itself out internally. Kempner is unrelenting, though. Her candid lyricism has an edge that juts out between the summery sensibilities of her three piece, especially on Palehound’s latest album, A Place I’ll Always Go. Madison pop outfit Trophy Dad play here as well behind their 2017 EP Dogman. —Emili Earhart
Against Me!, Bleached, The Dirty Nil. Live On King Street, 7 p.m. (free)
The Majestic will celebrate its 10-year reopening anniversary with a powerful punk show. The Dirty Nil starts the night with a fuzzy approach to punk. The Hamilton, Ontario band’s 2016 full-length Minimum R&B features stark, unhinged songwriting that bleeds into noisy feedback. LA band Bleached is no stranger to distortion, but they play a more melodic and dreamlike strain punk. Their newest release, Can You Deal?, features poppy choruses and an aggressive drive in tracks like “Turn To Rage.” Headliners Against Me! have been putting out records since 1997 and have toured all over the world across small bars, sold-out arenas, and even an acoustic performance this last spring at the UW-Madison Memorial Play Circle for a very intimate Q&A hosted by frontwoman Laura Jane Grace. Grace’s talk at that event ranged from her activism in the LGBTQ community as well as her autobiography, Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout. On their most recent album, Shape Shift With Me, Against Me! stick with their signature honest lyricism, bold approach to punk, and Laura’s folkish delivery on tracks like “333” and “Dead Rats.” The album is drenched in authenticity and a cut-throat sound, something that Against Me! always brings to the table. —John McCracken
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 30
Dylan Moran. Capitol Theater, 8 p.m.
If other comedians have acidic wit, then Dylan Moran is fucking muriatic acid. Moran is maybe best known for the cult TV show Black Books, in which he starred as an antisocial bookshop owner dead set on smoking, and drinking, getting involved in his employees’ personal lives—but not so much on selling books. It’s a bit difficult to see where Moran’s character on Black Books ends and his stand-up begins, being that Moran’s stand-up is pretty rambly, pissed at society, and reads as pretty sloshed in general. But Moran is also hilarious, sentimental, and deeply watchable. Here’s an Irishman whose perspective and stand-up (which, on this tour, is inexplicably labeled Grumbling Mustard) is not to be missed. —Chali Pittman
Something Wild. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
There are a lot of oddly shaped little boxes you could try to smoosh Something Wild into: a road movie, a cult film, or (most dubiously) one that invokes the phrase “manic pixie dream girl.” Jonathan Demme’s 1986 offbeat neon-bubblegum-pulp-powerpop-psycho-violent paean, though, doesn’t fit any one of those genre identifiers. Demme, who passed away earlier this year, followed up his shaggy and sublime Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense (which screens Sept. 23 at Cinematheque) with this tense tale of a free-wheeling woman, Lulu (Melanie Griffith), who turns the life of bland banker Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) on its head and pulls him into her giddily chaotic lifestyle. Everything is all fun and games until Lulu’s ex, Ray (Ray Liotta), shows up—and then things take a dark and decidedly unhinged turn. Something Wild is a hip goddamn movie, with music by Laurie Anderson and John Cale, and a memorable prom scene in which The Feelies hold court. Clock watchers will thrill to the incredible cinematography from Tak Fujimoto, who got his start working with Terrence Malick before applying here the lessons he learned from lensing better-known ’80s classics Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty In Pink. If you only caught this still underrated gem when Criterion put it out six years back, now is an excellent time to revisit it. —Chris Lay
SUNDAY OCTOBER 1
Frankie Cosmos, Ian Sweet, Nice Try. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Tender indie-pop still has some juice left in it, to judge from New York band Frankie Cosmos’ 2016 album Next Thing. Greta Kline (who began Frankie Cosmos as a solo project) writes gorgeous vocals melodies and channels them through a voice that’s got just the right balance of vulnerable and airy, especially on the chorus of “On The Lips.” Kline also writes lyrics that deftly walk a line between triviality, sadness, and self-awareness: “Feeling pretty far from home / so I sit to write this down / I guess it’s not really brave / I know I’m not a lake / I haven’t written this part yet / will you help me write it,” she sings on “Outside With The Cuties.” Fellow New Yorkers Ian Sweet add a noisier take on oddball pop to the proceedings here. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY OCTOBER 3
Dumb Vision, Big Eyes, Proud Parents. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
New York band Big Eyes, led by guitarist/singer/songwriter Kait Eldridge, makes some of the most catchy, cutting punk around. Big Eyes’ 2016 album Stake My Claim is proudly rooted in the meeting of punk and pop, just without the cliched connotations that usually come along with “pop-punk.” Songs like “Cheerleader,” “Just Not Right,” and “Count The Pegs” work a lot of swing into their tough, charging rhythms, and Eldridge’s voice brings a no-nonsense edge to even the most sugary melodies. The band’s guitar work is often twangy and melodic, punchy but never hemmed in by worn-out chord progressions. You could think of Big Eyes as a supercharged take on Cheap Trick or Flamin’ Groovies, but it’s a bit more distinctive than that, with a sharp, witty, perspective of its own. —Scott Gordon
Future Islands, Jenny Besetzt. Orpheum, 6:30 p.m.
Following their explosive 2014 album Singles, Baltimore’s Future Islands have put out a record that tests their ability to blend synth-pop with indie rock. The Far Field, released in late January, is a record that prides itself in pulsing basslines and booming synthesized choruses, but there is a new quiet washing over these tracks. Songs like “Ran” use soft chords, slapping snares, and frontman Samuel Herring’s growling and grandiose singing to plant a familiar seed. A benefit of this record being on the more sentimental side of Future Islands’ discography is its ability to tell a clear story. “Beauty Of The Road” uses plucking instrumentals, bright keys, and a gritty bassline to explain heartbreak caused by living on tour. Future Islands’ tuned-down and simplified approach to songwriting has its drawbacks, as some tracks tend to bleed together with similar-sounding melodies, but the tracks that stand out on the record allow for a more emotional experience. Indie-rock group Jenny Besetzt will open the night with their dark, thunderous, and hypnotizing strain of synth-pop.—John McCracken
Japanese Breakfast, Mannequin Pussy, Spirit Of The Beehive. Union South Sett. 8 p.m. (free)
This well-curated bill presented by WUD Music features three up-and-coming Philadelphia-based acts. Ahead of Mannequin Pussy’s dynamic art-punk, the boisterous noise-pop of Spirit Of The Beehive will open the show. Perhaps the broadest appeal of the lineup, though, is in headliner Japanese Breakfast’s nostalgic, bittersweet dream-pop. Having toured with contemporary indie darlings Jay Som (who recently visited Madison) and Dead Oceans labelmate Mitski last year, lead songwriter (and award-winning gourmet essayist) Michelle Zauner similarly wears her influences on her tattooed sleeve; but Soft Sounds From Another Planet, her project’s new LP, offers a surprising sonic palette with a myriad of production styles and lithe embellishments. True to its name, the record is at once ethereal and tempered, existing somewhere in-between the gauzy, hypnotic guitar tones of turn-of-the-century Blonde Redhead (“Soft Sounds From Another Planet” and “Body Is A Blade”) and the chamber-minded, yet artful synth-pop of Bat For Lashes (“Machinist”). On “Till Death,” one of the album’s most intriguing experiments, Zauner layers a field-recorded sample with a sweet melodic lullaby before a steady rhythm section takes over. As the tune is further developed by intermittent horns and strings, the lyrics delve into personally vivid nightmares that pull from the restlessness, longing, and grief of modern living. Japanese Breakfast’s live configuration promises a split between guitar-centric and synth-heavy material; each approach embraces the intimacy and catharsis crafted when Zauner unites her aching voice and penchant for dark, confessional subject matter with a warmer, shimmering pulse of instrumentation. —Grant Phipps
Best Of The British Arrows. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Though it happens in spring, the Wisconsin Film Festival already has something close to a year-round presence on Madison’s screens—WFF programmers also curate UW Cinematheque and other film events, like the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Spotlight Cinema series. Still, the festival is branching out a little more with a new monthly series of screenings at the Marquee, Tuesday Night Movie Club, which will draw on audience favorites from past festivals. The annual Best Of The British Arrows, a compilation of award-winning TV ads from the UK, has popped up in several Wisconsin Film Festivals, so Tuesday Night Movie Club will kick off with the 2016 edition. European TV ad-makers sometimes get away with weird or risqué stuff that wouldn’t wash in the States, and some of the selections are heart-wrenching PSAs. But in general, it’s a good break from the beaten-to-death absurdism that currently dominates American TV ads. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 4
Ryley Walker, Mike Mangione & The Kin. Shitty Barn, 7 p.m.
When Chicago jazz-folk adventurer Ryley Walker released his second full length and Dead Oceans debut, Primrose Green in the spring of 2015, everyone who dug it experienced the breezy, humid start of summer a little early. A proficient finger-picking guitarist, Walker opens the album with a simple subject that sets the track in cadence and allows for Walker and his collaborators to explore, giving his group the freedom to incorporate drifting piano lines, straying counter melodies, and rambling vocals. He sticks with this approach throughout most of Primrose Green, but twists it a little on 2016’s Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. After a short intro, Walker sets the album’s pace with “The Halfwit In Me.” The entire ensemble locks into a larger-scaled, through-composed structure of uneven phrasing, sometimes abruptly truncated or deceptively expanded. Unlike Primrose Green‘s title track—a simple, swaying structure with room to freely explore—”The Halfwit In Me” tightens the rope around the ensemble, challenging the musicians to find smaller pockets in which to meander. The listener hears an equally summery, but segmented assemblage of ideas: Walker’s fleeting finger-picking, slow and subtle organ oscillations, richly resonating electric guitar, meandering bass lines, colorful splashes from the drums. Both albums yield a sense of warmly inspired freedom and auditory adventure—a stoney sweetness to feed the sonic wanderlust. —Emili Earhart
Spotlight Cinema: The Unknown Girl. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 7 p.m.
Counterpart to the Wisconsin Film Festival’s spring programming, the autumn Spotlight Cinema series at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art aims to highlight the most prestigious, boundary-pushing documentaries and art cinema that have recently made the international festival rounds. Although the eight films in this Wednesday series (running through November 29) will all screen just once, their availability in the radius of downtown is encouraging in a city where new theatrical exhibitions are often limited to the far corners of the east and west sides. Curator Mike King has selected Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s new film, The Unknown Girl (La Fille Inconnue), to kick things off. This intriguing follow-up to their gracefully urgent Two Days, One Night (2014) finds the two Belgian neo-realist masters looking to the templates of film noir and the crime drama to reinvigorate their unequivocally humanist approach. After refusing to answer a late-night call for help at her Liège clinic, Doctor Jenny Davin (Adèle Haenel) is informed by police that an immigrant woman has been found dead without any means of identification on the banks of the Meuse. Clinging to the victim with a sense of moral responsibility, Davin takes on an obsessive quest to uncover her name and history. While the noir angle of The Unknown Girl is steadily present as Davin metaphorically sheds her lab coat for a sleuth’s trenchcoat to dive into the urban underworld, the film feels more emotionally connected to the intimate paths of Kenneth Lonergan’s intelligent, involving drama Margaret (2011), in which a complicated and inquisitive teenager, Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin), goes to great lengths to placate her guilt after a tragic event. In both films, the protagonists’ personal concerns are transformed into something altruistically universal. The Dardenne Brothers’ latest stands as yet another potent, empathetic comment on the struggles of the working class. —Grant Phipps