Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cristopher Cichocki/Kevin Shields/Rale – Artist Series Vol. 1 [Deathbomb Arc/Table of Contents]

This is the next installment of the Kevin Shields-related round-up…
To clarify the title of this review a bit, Cristopher Cichocki is the filmmaker behind this 3” DVD-r of which he created visual accompaniment to a Kevin Shields piece as well as a Rale piece. The goal of the project is to translate the “micro-grain obsessions” of the two composers into a visual medium. This is done through serious, split-second editing working at maximum frame rates. (I stole that bit from the press release, I actually don’t know shit about film editing)
The Kevin Shields track goes first. “Motorhands” was also seen on the vinyl bonanza Thrash Sabbatical but here it’s delivered in spiffy, digital quality (though through my crappy TV speakers). I’m gonna try not to focus too much on what all the visuals are and a bit more on the overall effect the video creates. That said, as a starting point I’ll mention that much of the raw footage from this video looks to be images taken during a Kevin Shields performance. That metallic crank she’s so fond of (apparently a “film synchronizer”, if I can trust internet research) makes a prominent cameo appearance early on. The audio begins with a steady sine tone. When the noise breaks, an image (well actually it’s like a hundred really similar images) of Eva Aguila’s gear begins shaking erratically, moving between images drenched in red light and soft pink. What freaks me out is the way all her gear seems to be continually “slipping” across the table. It is a very disorienting feeling, much like one gets from hearing Aguila’s music. There’s a jump from that relatively static image to a series of images where the camera appears to be swooping in close to Aguila, though that may just be the editing. This set of images is disorienting as well but in another manner. The juxtaposition (sorry if I sound like a tool) of the nearly static image with the next set of short moving images almost creates the sensation in my body of being stationary (which I am) and then suddenly, repeatedly being jolted forward. That isn’t even the real brilliance here; that set of moving images is positioned perfectly with a part in the audio where Aguila repeatedly breaks the flow of noise with a hi-pitched tone, an adrenalized lurching if that makes any sense. The video ends with a frantic, psychedelic mindfuck of nature images with things of various colors: a cool blue, a pale green, a grey and a kinda orange-red-gold. The composite of the frenzied alternation of all those images looks galactic to me which is pretty rad to behold.
The second video is titled “Tattered Syntax” with Rale, which is a project of noise artist and Cassette Gods scribe, Bill Hutson’s. As far as I can tell, this is the first time this track has been released, though I’m far from a Rale expert. No matter. The majority of the footage used here seems to be images of metal, light, earth, modern architecture and probably some other stuff that I’m not catching. There’s a recurring section with what looks like a wall of light bulbs, where their varying intensities in the different images of the bulbs are cut to a shimmering, digital crackle in the audio. Patterned metallic flooring is intercut causing the columns of lights and embossments of the floor to interact, almost as if those little things could dance. The interplay of these two images begins to break up as the audio gets more intense, until it explodes along with a new group of images that are deceptively clear but still play tricks on my mind. There’s a brief lull before the video/audio elements both just go off, for lack of a better term. Each time I watch this I catch a different image I didn’t see before which leads me to the conclusion that Cichocki has weaved a near infinite amount of images here. Both the audio and the video blow right past me which leads to the best part of the video for me. Hutson takes an unexpected break and in that short-lived silence there’s a few images (I’m guessing an upclose shot of a burning joint but who knows) that barely last for a nanosecond and it’s a really dramatic, eerie feeling to suddenly hear silence and see a few beautiful, though still unclear, images. It feels like my heart stops every time I reach that point, even when I know it’s coming. After this there’s a brief return to the light/metal theme before more images jump in, this time geologic, which are increasingly more smeared than the ones before. The track ends how it began with flashing lights and static crackle.
Cichocki has done a great job adapting the work of Aguila and Hutson into visual forms and that is a weighty accomplishment. Watching this DVD-r made me ponder the difference between the way we interpret sound and images. I guess I can only speak for myself but when I look at something visual I try to “make sense” of it as you can see by my preoccupation with figuring out what single images composed these videos. Anything goes for sound, however. While I can often be curious of what is making the sounds I’m hearing, I just accept the sounds as sounds more often than constantly trying to figure out what is producing it. Anyway, I don’t actually have a point about that, just an observation.
I have to mention the packaging as well because, well, it should be mentioned. This 3” DVD-r comes mounted on a 5x7 sheet of aluminum! This is then wrapped in a vellum cover with info and so forth. It looks killer and there’s nothing like holding a DVD mounted on aluminum in yr palm to give a boost to the old self-esteem. Trust me on that one. The release is limited to 75 copies and already sold out at Table of Contents; Deathbomb Arc still has some in stock though so hurry if you want one. It appears Volume 2 has been released as well with audio by Warm Climate and I Heart Lung.
The official theatrical (ha!) trailer

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