Thursday, July 31, 2008
Luis Recoder/Sandra Gibson/Olivia Block - (untitled) sos editions DVD
I just watched and listened to this for the first time and I gotta say, it's pretty impressive. There will be more viewings, but just a few notes.
Unlike the previous release on this label, Sean Meehan's 'Sectors (for constant)', I decided to open this one. The external packaging contains what printed text there is, the interior pieces lending themselves to be assembled into a small box, into which the DVD sleeve can be inserted. But aside from Block, by the time I put it into my player, I'd forgotten the names of the other two contributors and, indeed, didn't know what the make-up of the disc was with regard to who was responsible for what, if there were three pieces, etc. The disc itself provided no further clues, beginning without a menu or any other indication of what was in store (which, btw, is the way I like it; would that more music DVDs followed this pattern). So one result was that I wasn't sure if the audio portion was entirely Block's responsibility or not (it is).
Her music, not surprisingly, is excellent, though less Block-ish than one might have come to expect given her last several releases. The only telltale signs were a handful of echoing bangs, the kind of large-vessel-interior booms we heard on parts of "Heave To". Otherwise, the music carries a traditional arc from quiet to loud to quiet, very much in the "roar" category, from dull to enormous. On its own, as an audio disc, it would likely have been a big favorite of mine this year. Combined with the video, it's pretty damned fantastic.
The initial image is a light rectangle (the entire video is black and white) with a somewhat darker border, its shape roughly congruent to that of your TV, with rounded corners. In the first few minutes, this shape pretty much sits there, the shades varying very slightly, minimally enough that you're not sure if they're actually changing or your eyes are playing tricks. Gradually, a kind of aura projects from the rectangle, seeping into the surrounding dark. Later, as the music intensifies, faint light pulses are seen within the white quadrangle, flashing irregularly and dully, as if seen through thick, clouded glass. Throughout the video, there's a shifting placement of these images, emerging and receding from the rectangle, sometimes "within" it, sometimes, exploding outside of it. Around the 25-minute mark (total time of the video @42 minutes), the action is ratcheted up and an incredibly dense and chaotic period of activity occurs, throbbing and organic, though as if on a microscopic level; it's like you're watching neurons and synapses in action. Anyone ever use the old CA Lab cellular automata program? I was reminded of the kind of seething movement you'd get there, organic and pattern-oriented but a step or two beyond what your brain could easily perceive as a pattern.
Jeez and this on just one listen....
It eventually subsides but here's the real special part. You sort of expect a reversion to the visuals that began the piece, a kind of A-B-A form. The music more or less does so but instead of the white rectangle coming back into sharp focus, the writhing movements and flashes of light gradually go extremely out of focus, resulting in an utterly marvelous several minutes of pulsing blur, a beautiful and eerie effect, the kind of thing some protege of David Lynch will be featuring in ten years, an abstract image that has (viewer imposed) glimmers of realism (headlights, heat lightning, etc.). Very, very cool.
So, big kudos to Recoder & Gibson, whose work I'm otherwise unfamiliar with (can't locate any images of this disc online). And of course to Block, the three teaming for a superlative effort, maybe the best thing I've seen and/or heard this year.
Here's a capture, courtesy Erik:
It's a little pricey, but well worth it, available from erstdist