Last weekend I had the pleasure to see Mr. Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, perform twice in the same day. The first event was a live collaboration with Dr. Strangeloop for the Ann Arbor Film Festival, scoring the 1962 avant garde animated film Heaven and Earth Magic as it played in the Michigan Theater. Truly one of the strangest media experiences of my life, the film itself is an utter mind fuck – stark black and white 19th century cutout images swirling, grinding, and making Dali proud – while the accompanying score blew the doors off my perception of what Flying Lotus is capable of. This material was a straight up experimental drone symphony and shared few commonalities with the ostensibly beat-centric music the man is known for. Of course, I gave myself to it wholeheartedly and was spit out the other end with wild eyes and an expanded level of respect and admiration. And some dizziness.
A still from Heaven and Earth Magic.
Then, we hit the Blind Pig and became truly and completely blown away. We were the faithful masses and he was our prophet. Everyone around me surrendered to the tunes; even the most reserved students were compelled to move at least a bit. The live set eclipsed anything I came prepared for, and set the bar for live electronic acts at least a few notches higher than I’d perceived possible. Here’s a glimpse of him weaving Idioteque, one of Radiohead‘s towering productions, into the maelstrom:
[enjoy, and remember that Cosmogramma is coming May 3 in UK and 4 in US! Preorder now!]
Created by the singularly iconic Brothers Quay, this breathtaking video for one of His Name Is Alive‘s earliest singles rockets the term subjective understanding to new heights. What is it about? Do the visuals reflect the lyrics? How about that ball of light?
The Brothers Quay are a set of identical twins whith a body of work exemplefied by short form masterwork Street of Crocodiles, which has been hailed by filmmaker Terry Gilliam as one of the ten best animated films of all time – the most intriguing bit of praise this writer could imagine, being a deep seated fan (and occasional entrenched defender) of Gilliam’s art. Instead of regurgitating what can be found on wikipedia and elsewhere, I’ll simply extend my affection for this form and admit that I’m both held in rapture yet slightly repelled by the brothers’ creations. Creepy and spiritual, dark and warm, with empathetic arms wrapped around all that is neglected and forgotten in the world and our hearts, this is the stuff we only wish Tim Burton were still aiming for.
[the Brothers Quay Collection, a dvd from Kino Video, is out of print. fortunately the Phantom Museums collection is easily obtained through amazon]
Skyramps is the combined efforts of Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never – loved here recently) and Mark McGuire (Emeralds), spinning electric gold through a tight 33 minute set. If you’re picturing the homespun sci-fi synthesizer burblings of the former soaking in the ethereal guitar ambience of the latter project, you’re on the right path. This is basically mana from heaven for those of us who happen to be fans of both.
When I heard about this release, I practically shat myself. 2009 saw the rise of a more user-friendly, nearly pop natured breed of drone music the likes of which had never yet crossed radars. Drone for the masses? Not quite. But this is, for instance, far more palatable to your radio listener friends than a Final or Scorn, or even latter day Seefeel album. There’s more dynamic movement than the Gas discography and an airy, inviting tone accompanying the head-nodding foundation. Intertwining lush guitar melodies with Lopatin’s signature synth histrionics, the album soars and soothes in all the right places. The first two tracks feel almost like personal intros for the artists, opening with the prominent sounds of one and slowly adding a dose or two of the other until a fine balance arrives at the end. The second half of the album is where the alchemy truly shines with a blend unique to this recording, and is the gut-level satiating reward for those venturing into this eerie place.
The two obviously know their audience and the images these sounds tend to conjure: warm memories of genre films on tattered VHS (or better- Betamax!) tapes, doodling pictures of Spinners and Darkness, and the unshakable knowledge that anything electronic and/or spacey was the definitive way of the future. These four tracks evoke the optimistic pulse of accelerating full-bore into a strange land of colored light and skyscraping wonder. Maybe it’s not utopia but it’s different than here. More interesting. Lopatin and McGuire also seem to be acutely aware of how this earnestly nostalgic sensibility lends itself to parody and have pre-empted the inevitable jokes with a wonderfully tongue in cheek title: Days of Thunder. There aren’t many more emphatically day-glo versions of 1980s Western hubris than the eponymous Nascar thriller and another certain flick by director Tony Scott. Thankfully the album’s palette hews closer to brother Ridley‘s then-unparalleled visions of alternate realities.
Folks of a certain age, eat this up. You’ll be digging through dusty childhood crates and pre-ordering tickets for that new Tron movie in no time.
[although printed in a limited run of 75 cdr copies, there are a couple available via discogs for reasonable price, and of course, *elsewhere* in digital form]
*And seriously, watch that Tron trailer. It looks quite a bit more than alright!