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

sos editions


Richard Pinnell said...

"maybe the best thing I've seen and/or heard this year."

So how many things have you said that about now?! )
Good to hear another positive voice about so many things this year though. I haven't got around to playing this DVD yet, its been sat here for a couple of weeks awaiting my attention, and probably would have sat there a good while longer until I read you thoughts. Eager to play it now.

here's a scan for you:

Brian Olewnick said...

Hey, it's a progressive thing. Hope I can say that a few more times this year....Play it!

Was hoping to find a scan of an image from the DVD. I imagine there's a way I can do that myself, but I'm inept at that sort of thing.

Richard Pinnell said...

"Hey, it's a progressive thing."

Don't say that too loudly, you'll get Alastair all excited... He told me last week how disappointed he was when he found out that pressing the "Prog" button on his CD Player remote control didn't make it play Gentle Giant automatically ;)

I don't know how to do that image grab techy stuff either. I could always just take a picture of the screen while its playing. (If I ever get around to playing it of course :D )

spiralcage said...

I don't know how to do screen grabs on Windows but I do on the Mac. I used this to grab a bunch for my Dark Room Filled With Light review.

Run your DVD and pause it on a still you want. Then press:

Command-Shift-3 Take a picture of the screen
Command-Shift-4 Take a picture of the selection

Sometimes these won't work for commercial DVDs in which case you'll need to do either some command line wizardry or use one of the apps out there. But usually on DVD-Rs and region 0 things this should work

Richard Pinnell said...

Thanks for the tip Robert.

I tried it and got the message "Screen grabs are unavailable during DVD playback" though, so I guess some command line wizadry is needed. (whatever one of those might be!)

Jon said...

nice, Brian, you motivated me to watch this too, earlier this evening (in and around the wasted effort by everyone's favorite fat Aruban). I also think it's pretty strong, although the last third of it (not counting the last couple of minutes) Yuko and I weren't as into. but the music is pretty strong throughout and the first 25 (or so) and the last 2 minutes of the visuals are also very good, great pair of releases from SoSeditions.

it always strikes me when watching this kind of thing how system-dependent they are, probably even more than CDs. we toggle between four different sets of parameters for our TV, depending on what's on, and flipping between those while something like this is playing is pretty wild, huge differences between the different versions.

Richard Pinnell said...

Right, I've set aside the time to watch this properly tonight now.

hey Brian how come you haven't replaced the pic of Olivia with the scan I provided you with of the DVD sleeve yet? ;) :D

Robert said...

Yeah that is what I thought would happen and was my experience from the aforementioned atempt. I thought perhaps they had let the normal screen capture stuff work in the newest version of the OS. Anyway if you aren't willing to poke around for the apps that make this easy here is the command line wizardry

First run the Terminal application which is located in:

This will bring up a little window that you can type commands into. Now run the dvd you want. It'll go into full screen mode but if you move your mouse to the top of the screen you get the menu bar. Under View select double size (actually you can use any of the sizes but this will give you the largest image which is always the best place to start) . Find the frame you want to capture and pause the movie.

Make sure the terminal app is outside of the picture frame and paste in the following line:

screencapture -i ~/Desktop/dvd-select.png

When you hit enter a little Cross Hairs comes up that you can click select a region and on release of the mouse it will capture the selected region.

Note that the dvd-select.png part is the filename it will save as so you can change that to whatever you want. Be sure to change if you take more then one pic or it will overwrite.

So there you go, it really is quite straightforward when you do it. It'll take a couple of tries to work out the deal and then it is pretty simple.

Brian Olewnick said...

Thanks, Robert. I'll leave it to another intrepid kind soul to actually go through that procedure since I'm fairly confidant that were I to attempt it, havoc would ensue in the form of blue screens of death and other niceties.

erik said...

Thanks for the recommendation - just finished watching this for the first time, and it's as excellent as I hoped! Here are a few screen grabs from the dvd:

Brian Olewnick said...

Thanks, Erik! Image added.