23 August 2020

Levitating

Levitating
The Dua Lipa song Levitating has been remixed by The Blessed Madonna (DJ Marea Stamper’s stage name), and features guest vocals by Madonna and Missy Elliot. The remix was released earlier this month as a one-sided 12;" single on The Blessed Madonna’s record label, We Still Believe. It also appears on Dua Lipa’s digital remix album Club Future Nostalgia.

Madonna and Missy Elliott previously collaborated on Into the Hollywood Groove, recorded for clothing store Gap. (While Madonna sang excerpts from her singles Hollywood and Into the Groove, Elliott was reduced to rapping about how much she loved her Gap jeans.) They also performed together at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.

16 August 2020

Radflection

Thesis Exhibition 2020
Radflection
Radflection, a short documentary about Rap Against Dictatorship, was shown yesterday at Lido Connect in Bangkok, as part of Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology Thesis Exhibition 2020. The event, titled สุดขอบคุณ (‘thank you’), continues today.

Rap Against Dictatorship’s anthemic single and music video My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี) perfectly encapsulated the frustrations of anti-military protesters. Radflection, directed by Patchamon Khemthong, also includes an interview with Neti Wichiansaen, director of the controversial documentary Democracy After Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย).

29 July 2020

Absolute Coup

Absolute Coup
Absolute Coup
Absolute Coup
Future of Cunt
Artist and musician Pisitakun Kuantalaeng’s new album Absolute Coup, released today, features seven tracks, named after seven sectors of society that, according to Pisitakun, created the conditions for Thailand’s many coups. The album is available on a gold-coloured, bullet-shaped USB drive (limited to fifty copies), symbolising the Thai military’s vast wealth and lethal force. It’s also available on cassette (limited to eighty copies).

The album’s first three tracks are also the most controversial: MoMoNarNar!!Chy, ArArMyMy, and ConConStituStitutionalCourt. (Disregard the repeated syllables, and the subjects become clear.) There are laws protecting each of these institutions from criticism in Thailand (namely lèse-majesté, article 44, and contempt of court), so Pisitakun is walking a legal tightrope.

MoMoNarNar!!Chy (and the album itself) begins with the Thai royal anthem played on a traditional phin (a type of lute), in a rare (and perhaps unique) appropriation of the anthem. ArArMyMy features samples of a speech by junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha, and a roll call of cadets such as Phakhapong Tanyakan who died during military training. The album also comes with seven highly provocative stickers, based on paintings by Pisitakun, representing the subjects of the seven tracks as bug-eyed monsters.

Pisitakun’s work is currently on show at WTF Gallery as part of the group exhibition Conflicted Visions Again. His 10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic] box set (limited to fifty copies, available at WTF) commemorates the tenth anniversary of the military massacre of red-shirt protesters in 2010. The first issue of his Risographed comic zine Future of Cunt (limited to thirty copies) is available at another Bangkok gallery, Speedy Grandma.

23 June 2020

Shout Out or Shut Up (?)

Shout Out or Shut Up (?)
Shout Out or Shut Up (?), edited by art critic and curator Judha Su, was published by Bangkok CityCity Gallery in 2017. It has the same dimensions as an LP sleeve, and is limited to 300 copies.

The booklet features the first English translation of lyrics by Thai rappers P9d and Liberate P, who Judha describes as “the poets for our generation”. Both artists have released singles criticising the military government, and Liberate P is a member of Rap Against Dictatorship. (The booklet misnames his song Oc(t)ygen as “OCT(Y)GEN”.)

28 October 2019

RAW Jazz Effect

RAW Jazz Effect
Rapper P9d’s album RAW Jazz Effect was released in 2017. Each CD (packaged in a DVD case) is signed by the artist and inscribed with a line from the track Light On. The album’s full title is Ruthless and the Whole Jazz Effect.

Like his fellow Thai bands Rap Against Dictatorship, Dogwhine, and The Commoner, P9d’s lyrics are often political. The track Section 44 begins with the line “Fuck the section 44,” in reference to article 44 of the interim constitution, which granted absolute power to the military junta.

The Thai experimental noise band Gamnad737 also released a song in opposition to article 44, though the track—Kill the Section 44, from their album Lets Kill [sic]—has no lyrics. (Lets Kill is available on cassette and CD, and in a unique CD edition splattered with founding member Arkat Vinyapiroath’s blood.)

25 October 2019

Framed

Revival
A Freedom of Information request by BuzzFeed News has revealed that the Secret Service interviewed Eminem on 16th January 2017. The rapper was questioned about his single Framed, from his album Revival, after a TMZ reporter alerted the Secret Service to the song’s lyrics. (The song is about a man who kills Trump’s eldest daughter: “how the fuck is Ivanka Trump in the trunk of my car?”)

After two days, the investigation was closed and no further action was taken, though Eminem referenced the interview in a later song, The Ringer: “Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service / To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin’ him”. The case lends credence to another rapper, YG, who previously claimed that his single FDT was censored at the request of the Secret Service due to its violent anti-Trump lyrics.

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22 October 2019

Dog of God

Dog of God
Democrazy
Dog of God is the debut EP by Thai band Dogwhine, and is available on CD from the Ageha café in Bangkok. The EP includes a couple of overtly political tracks: Leader is a dig at unelected Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (“Leader must come from election”), and Democrazy comments on the country’s cycle of military violence (“Nowhere to hide, no way to run / Not your first time to see the dictator”).

The animated promo video for Democrazy features the folding chair and hanging corpse from Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (The video’s director is credited only by his nickname, Jung.) The song’s Democrazy pun echoes the name of Bangkok’s Democrazy Theatre Studio and the titles of the short films Democrazy.mov (by Thunsita Yanuprom and Sarun Channiam) and Demockrazy (by Duangporn Pakavirojkul).

Dogwhine are part of a wave of musicians using protest songs to comment on contemporary Thai politics. Rap Against Dictatorship’s anthemic My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี) is the most prominent example, though others include The Commoner’s EP สามัญชน (‘commoner’), P9d’s single Section 44, and the จะ4ปีแล้วนะ (‘four years already’) and BNK44 concerts.

07 October 2019

สามัญชน

สามัญชน (‘commoner’), a new EP from the Thai band The Commoner, was released on CD this month. The EP includes a booklet with a drawing inspired by Neal Ulevich’s iconic photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (A previous album, Gigantrix Extinction, also featured artwork inspired by the image, and the photograph itself appeared on the cover of the Dead Kennedys single Holiday in Cambodia.)

The five tracks on the EP all comment on Thai political issues, and the EP is dedicated to “the commoners who fought against Thai Dictatorship.” The EP is part of a long tradition of Thai protest songs, known as เพลงเพื่อชีวิต (‘songs for life’). The genre was developed by the band Caravan, in response to the 14th October 1973 massacre, and was popularised by the band Carabao.

Commoner’s Anthem (บทเพลงของสามัญชน) is a tribute to those detained in ‘attitude adjustment’ sessions after the 2014 coup. We Are Friends (เราคือเพื่อนกัน) was written for those campaigning against military graft, particularly a group arrested in 2016 while travelling to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin. Apology Flowers (ดอก) is about the arrests of activists campaigning for a ‘no’ vote in the 2016 referendum. The Loop (วังวน) refers to two long-standing injustices: the unsolved murder of Somchai Neelapaijit (who was abducted in 2004 after he accused the police of torturing Muslim detainees) and the 6th October massacre. Imprisoned Butterfly (ฝากรักถึงเจ้าผีเสื้อ) is dedicated to Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, who was jailed for more than two years after sharing a BBC article about King Rama X on Facebook in 2016.

18 September 2019

Madame X Tour

Madame X Tour
Madonna’s Madame X Tour began last night. Her previous world tours (Who’s That Girl, Blond Ambition, The Girlie Show, Drowned World, Reinvention, Confessions, Sticky and Sweet, MDNA, and Rebel Heart) were all held in stadiums or arenas, though Madame X is a theatre tour. This makes each concert a far more intimate experience, and Madonna interacted with the audience throughout last night’s show. She has experimented with smaller-scale performances before: she debuted her Tears of a Clown cabaret show in Melbourne and Miami in 2016, and played one night at the Paris Olympia during The MDNA Tour in 2012.

The new tour includes live performances of almost the entire Madame X album (Medellín, Dark Ballet, God Control, Future, Batuka, Killers Who Are Partying, Crave, Crazy, Come Alive, I Don't Search I Find, and Extreme Occident) and a handful of classics (Human Nature, an a cappella Express Yourself, Vogue, Papa Don’t Preach, American Life, La Isla Bonita, Frozen, and Like a Prayer). There are two cover versions (Fado Pechincha and Sodade), and the encore is I Rise.

15 May 2019

11:11

11:11
Madonna is featured on Maluma’s new album, 11:11, which will be released on 17th May; she appears on one track, Soltera (‘single’). Likewise, Madonna’s forthcoming album Madame X features Maluma on two tracks: Medellín and Bitch I’m Loca.

25 April 2019

Rap Against Dictatorship

Which Is My Country
In October 2018, with the junta still in power four years after the 2014 coup, Rap Against Dictatorship released their debut single, My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี), a song condemning political corruption, military impunity, and state violence. The song's black-and-white promo video, directed Teerawat Rujintham, ends with a battered mannequin hanging from a tree, a reference to the corpse in Neal Ulevich's infamous photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (Ing Kanjanavanit's film Shakespeare Must Die also recreates Ulevich's photo.)

Whereas anti-coup films and artworks disguise their messages with coded metaphors, My Country Has was uncompromising in its criticism of the junta. The lyrics included a litany of political scandals, and the rappers made no concessions to Thailand's culture of conformity, deference, and emotional restraint. This anthemic song succinctly and directly encapsulated the frustration of anti-coup protesters whose dissent was otherwise suppressed.

Comparable artistic expressions of anger towards the state - Thunska Pansittivorakul's documentaries and Vasan Sitthiket's paintings, for example - have not crossed over to mainstream audiences. My Country Has, on the other hand, benefitted from its popular modes of expression (rap) and distribution (online streaming): the song's YouTube video went viral, being viewed more than ten million times in its first week of release.

Two days before the 24th March election, Rap Against Dictatorship released their second single, 250 Bootlickers (250 สอพลอ), referring to the 250 senators appointed by the junta in what is destined to be a rubber-stamp Senate. The video for 250 Bootlickers was filmed at Headache Stencil's Thailand Casino exhibition, and the song and exhibition both show how the election was rigged in Prayut's favour. The exhibition's centrepiece, busts of Prayut Chan-o-cha and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra playing a high-stakes poker game for the future of Thailand, perfectly encapsulates the song's theme.

The election was one of the most dramatic, and contentious, in Thai history. Thai Raksa Chart's extraordinary decision to nominate Princess Ubolratana for PM was swiftly rejected by her brother, King Rama X, leading to the dissolution of the party. Since the election, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the progressive Future Forward party, has faced various trumped-up charges. A tentative anti-Prayut coalition led by Pheu Thai has a potential parliamentary majority based on unofficial results, though the Election Commission has not yet confirmed how it will allocate seats under an ambiguous system of proportional representation.

19 April 2019

Madame X

Madame X
Madame X
Madame X
Madame X, Madonna's fourteenth studio album, will be released on 14th June, more than four years after Rebel Heart. The album's lead single, Medellín, was released digitally this week, and its promo video will premiere on MTV on 24th April. Crave, Dark Ballet, Batuka, and God Control will also be released as digital singles. (The Madame X persona recalls the Mistress Dita character Madonna adopted for Erotica.)

The MTV premiere is a throwback to the 1980s and 1990s, when music videos were a staple of MTV's schedule and each new Madonna video was a major event. Madame X also taps into this sense of nostalgia, as the album will be released on a variety of physical formats: vinyl, CD, and cassette. There will even be a 7" single, I Rise, as part of a deluxe box set.

As with Rebel Heart, there are multiple versions of the album, each with different track listings. The standard digital and CD releases have thirteen tracks: Medellín (a duet with Maluma), Dark Ballet, God Control, Future (featuring Quavo), Batuka, Killers Who Are Partying, Crave (featuring Swae Lee), Crazy, Come Alive, a cover version of Faz Gostoso (featuring Anitta), Bitch I'm Loca (featuring Maluma), I Don't Search I Find, and I Rise. The vinyl and cassette editions feature two additional tracks: Extreme Occident and Looking for Mercy. A double CD edition includes a further three bonus tracks: Funaná, Back That Up to the Beat, and Ciao Bella.

There are also three different album covers (again, as was the case with Rebel Heart). The most striking cover shows the album title sewn onto Madonna's lips, perhaps a reference to her mother's death. (The promo video for Oh Father dramatises a flashback to her mother's open-casket funeral, showing her mouth sewn shut.) This cover, which also evokes Frida Kahlo's self-portraits, features on the vinyl, cassette, and standard CD editions. On the double CD cover, Madonna poses with a guitar. The box set cover shows her with plaited blonde hair.

20 November 2018

Quavo Huncho

Quavo Huncho
Quavo Huncho is the debut solo album of Quavo, the rapper who has previously performed as part of a trio (Migos) and duo (Huncho Jack). One track, Champagne Rosé, features guest vocals by Madonna and Cardi B.

27 October 2018

BNK44

BNK44
BNK44, the anti-coup punk concert that was cancelled last month, has been rescheduled to 3rd November. It will now be held at Thammasat University's monument to the 6th October 1976 massacre. The concert has been organised by the team behind จะ4ปีแล้วนะ.

19 October 2018

Gigantrix Extinction

Gigantrix Extinction
Gigantrix Extinction
Gigantrix Extinction, an album by Thai thrash metal band Killing Fields, was released in 2012 on CD and cassette. The cassette version is limited to 100 numbered copies (mine being number 18). The two formats have different album covers, both of which are drawings by Dissolute inspired by Neal Ulevich's photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (The US punk band Dead Kennedys used the photo as the cover for their single Holiday in Cambodia.)

Gigantrix Extinction includes the song 6th October, which is about the state-orchestrated killing of students during the 1976 massacre. Earlier this year, Killing Fields performed at จะ4ปีแล้วนะ, a concert marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup.

22 September 2018

BNK44

BNK44
A punk concert was cancelled last night after its venue, the Overstay hostel in Bangkok, was raided by the police. The event was titled BNK44, a reference to the sweeping powers granted to the junta under article 44 of the constitution, and a pun on the Thai pop group BNK48. The planned concert was organised by the team behind จะ4ปีแล้วนะ, which was raided by police earlier this year.

14 May 2018

จะ4ปีแล้วนะ

Members of the punk/grindcore band Blood Soaked Street of Social Decay were arrested on Saturday after they burnt posters of Prayut Chan-o-cha at จะ4ปีแล้วนะ, an event marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup. Thrash metal band Killing Fields also performed at the free concert, which took place at the 14 October '73 Memorial in Bangkok. (The event's full title includes the insult ไอ้สัตว์, though this was self-censored on the poster.) The show's organisers were also arrested, though no-one was charged.

28 February 2018

Freedumb

Freedumb
The Jim Jefferies stand-up show Freedumb was released on Netflix on 1st July 2016, and on CD and LP in 2017. The album's highlight comes when Jefferies explains how his extensive use of the c-word led to a loosening of the taboo against it on the American stand-up comedy circuit: "I say 'cunt' more than anyone else. I'm sort of known for saying 'cunt'. Seven years ago, when I did my first comedy special in America, the word 'cunt' was banned in every comedy club in America. And then I said 'cunt' loads on television and now people can say 'cunt' in comedy clubs. Basically, I'm the Rosa Parks of 'cunt'!"

19 February 2018

Visual Vinyl

Visual Vinyl
In 1977, the exhibition The Record as Artwork: From Futurism to Conceptual Art featured Germano Celant's collection of vinyl records produced by artists. (Celant is more famous for coining the term Arte Povera.) The exhibition catalogue includes black-and-white photos of 100 artists' records, and notes that this is "a whole area of artistic exploration that has not yet been sufficiently documented."

The subject was finally "sufficiently documented" by Visual Vinyl, a 2015 exhibition of records from the collection of Jan van Toorn. The catalogue of that exhibition, published last year, explores the intersection of records and visual art: album covers designed by artists, and artists' records. It features examples from the 1950s onwards, including early Dada and Fluxus records.

The book claims that "Visual Vinyl provides the first comprehensive overview of so-called "artists' covers" - record jackets with ground-breaking designs by contemporary artists." That's not strictly true, because the more comprehensive Art Record Covers was published first, but Visual Vinyl is unique because it also includes images of the records themselves (pictures discs and illustrated labels), box sets, and inserts.

The first illustrated album covers were designed by Alex Steinweiss in the 1940s. Richard Evans' book The Art of the Album Cover covers sleeve design from Steinweiss onwards. Nick de Ville's Album: Classic Sleeve Designs is the most comprehensive guide to the history of album covers.

29 October 2017

Metaphors

Metaphors
Metaphors
Vapour
Last night, Bangkok's CityCity Gallery hosted film screenings and live performances to mark the release of an album of music from the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Metaphors: An Evening of Sound and Moving Image with Kick the Machine will take place again this evening, though tickets are sold out.

Screenings included Apichatpong's short films Ghost of Asia (previously shown at Indy Spirit Project and Apichatpong on Video Works) and Vapour (หมอกแม่ริม; with live music by Thanart Rasanon on guitar). There was a technical hitch after the intermission, and the schedule was slightly different from the one advertised, with Ghost of Asia as a substitute for I'm Still Breathing (ฉันยังคงหายใจ). The evening ended with an extract from Apichatpong's installation film Fever Room (ฉันยังคงหายใจ).

The album Metaphors: Selected Soundworks from the Cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul features fourteen tracks, including music from Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด), Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ), Mekong Hotel (แม่โขงโฮเต็ล), and Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น). Each ticket includes a copy of the album on CD.