petak, 29. studenoga 2013.

Bhob Rainey - When you talk, you hear from the other side (2013)

Eksperimentalni prostori sreću lančane žirafe.
Snimljeno žicom i digitalnim ptičjim kostima.

When you talk, you hear from the other side was constructed from two wire spool recordings found in an antique shop in Western Massachusetts. The content of the spools makes it clear that they were recorded in 1951 and 1952 on a machine that was a Christmas gift to a nine-year-old boy.
Unsurprisingly, most of the first (and longest) spool is populated by Christmas revelry and multi-generational goofing, but there are captivating passages from both before and after Christmas day: a salesman demoing the unit to various customers; an interview between a snotty eleven-year-old boy and a spirited, if bewildered, four-year-old girl; etc.
When I first heard these recordings, I was with a small group of people, and we listened and laughed for a few hours before I suggested that maybe we should archive the material. We’d already seen the wire snap a few times during playback. (This was a general problem with recording on wire; one that was frequently remedied via a faux- soldering job with the smoldering end of a cigarette. We just tied the wire back together.)
The machine had a line-level output, but the connection hardly resembled any modern standard. So, an RCA cable was stripped of its plugs on one side, and the bare cables were stuck into the output. This worked surprisingly well, and the recording was successfully archived.
Recordings like this can really nag at you. I wanted to be happy just having an amusing trace of a mid-century, middle class, American Christmas and to be reminded of the ridiculous things a recording device draws from people when they feel their way around its place in their lives. But then there’s the voice that says, “Do something with this.”
To be fair, this voice is pretty easy to activate and not always the best judge of material that should have something “done” to it. Still, there was something special about this recording: kids and adults messing around in equal quantities; a newscast (captured from a brand new television) describing the Alger Hiss / Whittaker Chambers trial; a girl explaining that she loves her dog because “she likes to tear clothes”; a man offering to sing “Home on the Range” in “Jewish” (and forgetting most of the words); countless incidents of “regular” people adopting a media affect and stumbling all over themselves. I eventually started doing stuff to the material.
There are a lot of pieces of music, particularly in the realm of Musique Concrète, that exploit and manipulate spoken words to elicit what has become a fairly typical haunting / lecturing effect. I’ll admit that this is the angle I first took with this material: layers of “alien” sounds interspersed with voices from ANOTHER TIME(!) that simultaneously anchor (via comprehensible speech) and destabilize (via disembodiment and decontextualization) the musical experience.
This strategy didn’t work out for me. Perhaps in the hands of someone like Lionel Marchetti, it would have had a brilliant outcome. To me, it sounded forced. Worse, it obscured the qualities of speech and idiosyncratic language that attracted me to the material in the first place. I decided that, instead of using pieces of this recording for some other musical purpose, I would try to amplify its inherent resonances and expose whatever was already musical within it.
With that in mind, the construction of When you talk, you hear from the other side became more effortless. I restricted myself to few effects (the majority of manipulations involve playing the recording back through different speakers) and few musical gestures (sometimes loops of wire and / or microphone noise are added to highlight shifts in content and timbre). The bulk of the piece relies on layering and editing.
By avoiding grand gestures and virtuosic electronic manipulations, I discovered that I was basically showing a love for these people and the glimpse of the world that their recording gave me. The piece became a fond, dynamic remembering of a life I never lived with people I never met. So, at the end, in the spirit of nostalgic indulgence, I let it all fall asleep and dream about itself. Eventually, the dream itself fell asleep; a sleep without dreams (Side B: The other side of what).
Of course, when I’m talking about the piece dreaming, I’m talking about the more overtly “musical” parts (and, really, I would say “dying” instead of “dreaming”, if that didn’t make people feel bad). I say dreaming (or dying) because the music keeps erasing itself; peeling away; evaporating; no longer concerned that you’re listening. The other side of talking.
And this music sat with me for some time. I would revisit it now and then, make some tweaks, but never push to release it. “To publish anything is folly and evidence of a certain defect of character.” (at least, that’s what Thomas Bernhard says on page 34 of the 1984 University of Chicago edition of Concrete). While I’m not without this character defect, I couldn’t make the connection between this music and an “anonymous” audience. I couldn’t imagine it in the world by itself.
Nancy Bernardo presented the opportunity to give it some company. She was asked to participate in a “duos” exhibit, pairing visual and sonic artists, and proposed that I provide the sonic element. Normally, I would take this as an opportunity to do something new, but Nancy’s work has so much in common with When you talk, you hear from the other side, from its material to its production, that I sent her a copy to see if it resonated with her.
It did, and the result was a set of eight layered glass collages that visualize what Nancy felt were key moments in the piece. I loved the set. I felt that it gave me permission to let this music loose and stop protecting it (i.e., protecting myself from being embarrassed by it). Nancy agreed to make two more sets, and I went ahead and pressed a record (99% of the source material is from a wire spool or tape – it had to be an analog release).
So, this path ends in a very limited edition of three records plus glass collages, with each set of collages being unique. When those are gone, 250 EPs remain. When those are gone: traces, echoes, decay, forgetting, work and play and rest (and digital rips, but let’s pretend…). -

Bhob Rainey (nmperign, The BSC) finds some decaying spools of wire from the early 1950s in a thrift store. He discovers the sounds of a family playing with a new recording device over Christmas, making fake jingles, recording snippets of conversation, and attempting comedy sketches. He carefully toys with the material, playing different elements through different speakers to enhance the sense of space, looping background noises to add some timbral spice and chopping through the snippets of chatter. He finds a collaborator in Nancy Bernardo, who patiently compiles a series of glass collages in response to this bizarre segment of middle-class American history. He casually brings Jason Lescalleet over to build some dense and arresting musique concrète from the idiosyncratic noises that flitter through the recordings. He summarizes the development of the work in an eloquent and informative essay. What a scoundrel. - Gordon Bruce    


Two videos from my studies of A-Life, AI, and chaos:

Axon Ladder
The FitzHugh-Nagumo ("FHN") model is a "relaxation oscillator" that approximates the excitation of squid neurons. It exhibits chaotic behavior that, when sonified, moves from pure tones to overtone-rich buzzes to white noise. The sonic material here is made up of networks of FHN oscillators. These produce idiomatic, speech-like phrases that are tracked for silences and used to trigger changes in speed / timbre / density. The results are arranged in non-linear, contrasting plateaus. This is a downmix of a quad recording.

Pulsars A-Life Study 4 (excerpt)
Artificial life algorithm influences / infiltrates a stochastic composition using pulsar synthesis. Originally in quad.
Processing visualization by Terence Li Ka Ho

Bhob Rainey, “Levitate”  By m rubz on Nov 27 2013

Out of all the experimental musicians I love, I find that Bhob Rainey is among the most consistently interesting ones working today. Even though Rainey’s compositions often employ a wide variety of different tools and span an array of experimental sub-genres, all of his work is united in it’s subtle use of space, dynamics, and texture. “Levitate” is Rainey’s soundtrack to a film by Leah Ross, and the piece finds the composer working in a surprisingly ambient vein while still maintaining many of his oeuvre’s signifiers. “Levitate” doesn’t have any of Rainey’s signature sax playing on, it but his use of various field recordings and toys often sound eerily similar to some of his nmperign work. Throughout, Rainey’s electroacoustic sounds blend with Chris Forsyth’s lovely guitar harmonics and some truly guttural low frequencies to create a lovely piece that’s reminiscent of the work of Olivia Block and Oren Ambarchi. However, “Levitate” remains distinctly Rainey’s own, and his decision to highlight found-sounds similar to his own playing style serves to show both the influence of the outside world on his approach to saxophone and how his compositional voice shines through, no matter what tools he chooses to work with. -

Manual 2011
Manual is a combination full-length album and book focusing on the music and improvisational practice of the BSC, an eight-member electroacoustic ensemble formed by saxophonist and composer Bhob Rainey in 2000. More than just music with copious liner notes, Manual examines the process of improvisation from both within and outside the BSC, encountering topics ranging from genealogy to architecture, the boundaries of sense to the benefits of failure, flows of energy to bouts of guilt. The intersection and unfolding of ideas is often complex, but the writing in Manual is earthy and comprehensible, keeping jargon to a minimum without sacrificing the depth of the subject matter. Manual is not a monument to the BSC but rather an appreciation of improvisation from the perspective of an especially prolific community.
The music portion of Manual consists of three extended improvisations covering a six-year period in the BSC’s history. The most recent piece, a vividly captured concert highlighting some of the more elegant aspects of the BSC’s unique musical lexicon, was recorded in 2009 and includes renowned composer Pauline Oliveros on accordion. The earliest piece was recorded in November 2003 at the end of The BSC’s only extended tour and contains some of the noisiest, most unhinged work the ensemble has ever released. 2007′s “23% Bicycle and/or Ribbons of the Natural Order”, recorded in Somerville, MA, provides a balance between the other two tracks, illustrating the BSC’s strong formal control amidst chaotic conflagrations of feedback, tape degeneration, and general instrumental instability. Stage plots and recording notes are included for each track.
The book portion of Manual contains contributions from five writers. Bhob Rainey (director and founder of the BSC) provides an introduction in which he engages with the book’s other contributors while reflecting on failure, adaptable dispositions, and the upside to being oblique. Damon Krukowski (musician, poet, half of Damon & Naomi, one-third of Galaxie 500, and one-fourth of Magic Hour) contributes a series of prose poems aimed at evoking certain effects the BSC’s music has on him. Aaron P. Tate (classicist at Cornell University whose areas include ancient and contemporary improvisation), through extensive research and interviews, pieces together and examines the BSC’s early history and rehearsal practices. Tate uses this information, along with recorded documentation, to approach the music with great insight from a dynamic, open-ended perspective. Ben Hall (percussionist, gospel archivist, and restaurateur) unravels ideas about genealogy, community, politics, and authority as they present themselves in the tradition from which the BSC emerges. And Mike Bullock (audio/visual artist and bassist for the BSC) develops two metaphors for evaluating music like that of the BSC, applying these metaphors to an analysis of the 2009 performance with Pauline Oliveros featured in this release.

"For those with even a passing interest in the workings of this group of musicians... Manual along with the three accompanying recordings is an indispensable document"- Michael Rosenstein, Paris Transatlantic

  • Bhob Rainey - soprano saxophone Weasel Walter - drums
    Weasel and I probably would have met anyway, but the person who introduced us was our mutual friend, Bill Pisarri (RIP). In fact, the only time we played together prior to this outing was in 1999 with Bill, Kurt Johnson, and Greg Kelley (Greg and I drove 36 hours straight from a gig in San Francisco to make that show on time. It was at Myopic Books in Chicago. Total fee: $0. It was worth it. We also recorded two short tracks in Bill's apartment immediately upon our arrival, both of which appeared on our first Intransitive release, the title of which is too long to repeat here)
    So, Rob Cambre set up this show for Weasel and I at the Mudlark Public Theatre in New Orleans. Probably two of the ten people who heard about it thought, "That's an odd pairing," and by virtue of having that thought, they sucked for a short period of time. I mean, in 1999, there were plenty of people who thought that I was the quietest saxophone player ever, while an equal amount of people thought that Weasel was an enormous asshole (=not quiet, intelligent, musical, etc.). Chalk it up to not caring about the details, but can we move on now?
    Anyway, this is what we did at the Mudlark. We like it. It's got a nice structure. We'd do it again. I hope you enjoy it, and Weasel probably hopes so, too.

  •  In 2010, after years of friendship and musical intersections frequently revolving around Austin's No Idea Festival, Chris Cogburn brought this trio together for concerts in Texas and Mexico, supported by the Meet the Composer Foundation and USArtists International. Arena Ladridos (roughly, "Barking Sand") captures the intensity, intimacy, and adventurousness of these strong-minded musicians as they methodically bleed this music into existence. 
    "At the same time, there is silence, a silence which is not an absence of sound but which is the object of a positive sensation, more positive than that of sound. Noises, if there are any, only reach me after crossing this silence.”
    There is, often, a gorgeous sense of calm about this record, not a loss of focus or laziness but a willingness to let little happen, for however long it takes, for however long it needs; not imposing, not leading, following the sounds as and when they ask to be heard or made. Though it’s by no means a particularly silent listen, one feels that the lines quoted above, from Simone Weil, do somehow fit: each sound is filtered through a corresponding quietness, each sound is coaxed out of silence and falls back into it, like a wavering fleck of light suddenly emerging, then disappearing back into shadow again. This shouldn’t imply the monastic discipline or asceticism that Weil might have at the back of her mind; rather, the sense is of something relaxed, not casual exactly, but un-worried about grabbing attention or creating something that screams ‘I am important! Listen to me now!’ As time passes, not much might have happened, and so what? Spaces are filled enough, more than enough, so much of the time, and a genuine contemplative quietness can do no harm. To some, this may come across as aimlessness; and, true, compared to the composed or partially-composed work in this area, there is less obvious ‘focus’, less of a clear structural framework. But for me, that’s quite an attractive respite; listening to ‘Arena Ladridos’ allows one, free of overt structural considerations, to quite clearly imagine oneself into a physical space, to imagine the musicians sitting there, in front, perhaps, of a small audience, inhabiting the small room for forty-five minutes, sometimes filling it with sound, sometimes easing back and letting the room itself have a say in matters. There’s something about the logic with which things unfold that means this could be nothing other than a concert recording: the presence of hesitancies, even meandering moments – the imperfections which prevent things from having a surface’s that’s too shiny, that’s ‘just-so’.
    The first piece begins with tinkling bells, maybe just jiggled or shaken or knocked slightly with the tips of fingers, electronic crackle, and wisps of breath amplified/modified through saxophone bell and keys. My somewhat whimsical way of listening to this opening minute or so is to imagine that the three musicians are ‘introducing’ themselves, in overlapping fashion. Here is percussion; here is electronics; here is a saxophone. But the separation is really less clear-cut: though it’s normally fairly obvious which sounds are percussion, the concentration on vague or merging tones from electronics and saxophone tend to create a grey area in which anyone could be creating any particular sound. At one point, the sound of a passing car seems to sub for Jones’ electronics, replacing her drone tone with something remarkably similar. It’s not all subtlety and hush, though: Jones’ playing is, at times, quite deliberately harsh, generating sudden beeps that sound like a warning signal, an electrical malfunction, an alarm, and Cogburn’s playing can be quite assertive, though he generally treats his drums as a surface to rub and scrape rather than one to strike and beat.
    Indeed, there’s quite a variety of incident on display: there are a large number of events, however unhurried the pace, and one never feels that the players are holding anything back, practicing an overly studied reticence or aloofness; instead, they are using patience as a general method of working, and the results are to make gestures which elsewhere might seem small or un-dramatic (a surging consonance of crescendo – a half-choked wail rising and falling on intake and outtake of breath – the sound of almost conventional rhythms from drums) possess intense power and concentration. Equally, though, things could go the other way, all three musicians temporarily silent, while a dog barks, or a car distantly passes – where a sine tone sounds like a sucking in of breath or a tiny, suppressed whisper – sounds, sometimes, that seem to come from outside human agency, like those eerie screeches and rumbles one hears from on high in railways stations and near building sites. This or a swelling drama, a concord/concourse, not rising to shared climax, surging only to swell down again. Matthew Horne, in his review of the album for ‘Tiny Mix Tapes’, describes the process as a group aesthetic in which all three players hover around a particular area for several minutes, attempting, and failing to break out, before eventually moving away in quite dramatic form: “The trio quickly settles into what would be called a restrained 'attractor,' i.e., a stable point or cycle at which the variables hover around (up to minor perturbation). Just over four minutes in, the group attempt to dislodge the muted aesthetic, with each crescendoing simultaneously. But this perturbation is weak, resulting in a regression back to the original, minimal attractor. It isn't until around 12 minutes that the group breaks free of their initial state: Rainey's sax oscillates wildly while Jones introduces an intrusive feedback more akin to [Toshimaru] Nakamura's troublesome no-input mixer, thus disturbing their environment enough to evolve the system.” It’s a nice formal encapsulation of a music that seems to avoid formal systems in the moment of listening, of unfolding: but perhaps it belies the actual lack of overt tension (so often a driver of improvised music) that I feel when playing the CD back; despite abruptions from Jones or from Cogburn, despite intricacies of flow and of incident, the overall impression is unforced, unhurried, unharried. Here, as Weil puts it, noises have to cross the silence before they can be heard." - David Grundy, Eartrip Magazine                   

    "There’s a markedly transparent sound to this trio with silence and ambient sound a distinguishing element to the unfolding improvisations. The character of each of the musicians makes a specific and discrete mark on the music; Rainey’s fricative overtones and sibilant use of breath, Jones’ burred and cracked circuits, and Cogburn’s gesturally abraded percussion. Their music is a tightrope display of careful listening as the three explore a dynamic sense of elastic balance. Over the course of these two sets, the trio evolves a potent collective vocabulary... Each of the members eschews the use of conversational activity, instead, pursuing vectors of countervailing lines that coalesce around velocity and dynamics while creating a mutable tension. The three can drop down to near silence with wisps of detail or erupt in boisterous crescendos, but they emerge in a natural progression rather than any forced sense of formal arc. Rainey is fairly well documented, but Jones, and particularly Cogburn, have not recorded as frequently; this is a particularly welcome release and one I’ve been going back to often." - Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise                   

    "A sand rose whose heart beats and breathes." - Héctor Cabrero, Le Son Du Arisli                   

    "Arena Ladridos is an aesthetic delight, an album that invites both overwrought analysis — [as the author does in the review - you should read it] — and passive splendor — which I recommend you experience." - Matthew Horne, Tiny Mix Tapes

  • Chris Forsyth at Evolving Ear originally asked me to do an 8" lathe cut for his label.  I was hesitant for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I had already consigned a number of pieces to the format fetish void (a 3" CDr, a split LP, download only, etc).  Still, I gave it some thought.  I had been working on a number of complex, large-scale pieces, some with Ralf Wehowsky, some for dance and film, others to who knows what ends, and I began to feel that the time and conceptual constraints of a "single" might be refreshing.  I convinced Chris to let me do a 7" instead of a lathe cut (I didn't need to go THAT lo-fi), and I set about making two formally related pieces with clear, simple trajectories; pop songs from a broken mind.  And that's sort of how it went.  The two sides of this release, "A Desert of Consolation" and "The Summering Unsound", both follow a singular form: an ambiguously intensifying exposition followed by an unfolding of previously hidden elements.  The materials, however, could not be more different:  "A Desert of Consolation" consists almost entirely of synthetic sounds lying in a narrow frequency band, while "The Summering Unsound" is made up of a good deal of untreated field recordings, beats, and broadband noise.  And, though I followed my dictum of simplicity in the pieces' trajectories, I couldn't stop myself from piling a lot of layers into the mix.  So, there's a simple, if perverse, horizontal unfolding, and a morass of detail vertically.  Kinda like a nice pile of fall leaves with a rake and skeleton hidden inside.  I should also mention that artist Elaine Kaufmann made the beautiful, hallucinatory covers for this release.  No photo would do them justice, as they play with real light in a way that's difficult to describe or reproduce.
    "Ain't NOTHIN better than a killer 7 inch.. and I seriously can't recomend this one enough... Ghostly drones and sudden clanks, crunchy ear eating and distant chatter....AMAZING... Fuck...sounds like a segment from some Pink Floyd bootleg... FUCKING RULES!!! HIGHLY RECCOMENDED!!"
    - Aaron Dilloway, Hanson Records

  • In the mid-1800s, Adolphe Sax set out to create what would essentially be a loud-ass clarinet. At least, "loud" was the dominant criterion. He apparently liked military bands and wanted some blaring (and portable) woodwind to enter the ranks. Of course, he also produced "classical" models of his invention, but, according to rumors, a rather vindictive German composer who had a beef with Sax conspired to keep the instrument away from the European canon. I'm inclined to think that the uncontrolled squawking sound contributed as much to this phenomenon as did the putative conspiracy. In any case, the classical models grew quite rare early in the instrument's history.
    We all know by now that the saxophone found another home in popular music, which, for a time, was called Jazz. Its strident sound sat very well on top of all manner of percussion, and in the hands of some masterful players, that baby could really cry. And it cried and whispered and sang and screamed... and so much of that still sounds just fantastic and so un-marching band-like that who knows which way the old Belgian is twisting in his grave. But you have to admit that sometimes the crying sounds as if at least one teary eye is gazing towards an Oscar. And everyone knows to regard that coquettish whisper with some suspicion. The sax rarely takes off its performance face.
    Still, you might sometime happen upon a stubbly one, alone, hunched over the bar. You're friendly, and it responds politely enough, if a bit distant. The conversation seems bound for nowhere, but a silent gulf, and this late hour, opens into a stammering confession. The sax is talking to no one in particular, using names and mentioning details you could never know about; not exactly making sense, but conveying a kind of hurt - the kind we're better off having trouble expressing. You get it. You know it's a proud hurt, one you wouldn't want to lose but rarely want to show. You want to be the nameless consolation the sax is seeking as much as you want the sax to be too drunk to remember you tomorrow. For now, you're helping each other, and it's going to be okay even if it never changes because it's been okay before, even great, and it hadn't changed then, either, did it? So you cut the guy a mile of slack and just listen. And one little world disappears, so that the other just hovers for a while.

  • Recorded on the road in various rooms in early 2000, 6 Standing Desert remains Rainey's most raw and exploratory solo work. A long middle section pushing every sonic nook and cranny the saxophone has to offer is surrounded by mic-bleeing microtonal melodies sounding both urgent and somehow natural. Remastered for girth and warmth with plenty of rawness left in.

  • 5 years and a mint's worth of postage bring us this dense, musique concrete epic.  Each of the three extended pieces presented here have undergone serious transformations, mutilations, and rebirths, as discs were burnt, sealed and sent from Cambridge to Mainz and back again.  Yet, despite all the fine-toothed combing commited by the obsessive perfectionists at the helm of this project, the music is wild, ruptured, assymetrical and WAY INTENSE.  Tendrils of possible outcomes camoflage trap doors and the saturated memories of an unclean conscience.  This is that kind of sublime that's a bit on the scary side despite the occasional reassurance of a slowly flowing rhythm or an almost major chord.  This is the haunted closet you can't keep shut.

    "This extremely long-in-the-making (five years!) collaboration between these two titans of the avant garde finally arrives with high expectations that are summarily met. Rather than something academic and difficult, it is instead a captivating and visceral work.
    To avoid getting too deeply into the realm of art interpretation, it would seem that Wehowsky and Rainey were heavily inspired by the nature of personal communication. Perhaps a given from the nature of their interactions: this entire collaboration was performed via postal mail, the track titles are relative to communication, as well as recurring motifs through the tracks, such as disembodied voices, fragments of phone calls, etc.
    The title track is flanked on either side by two shorter pieces, beginning with "Awaken Elsewhere, Unforeseen." An overall intensely dark feeling permeates the track, using a collage of metallic scrapes, breaking glass, and a percussive knocking. Music that is focused on found and abstract sound, then treated with processing such as this can often just come across as a mish-mash of recordings that don't go anywhere, but Bhob and Ralf rise above this pitfall. Both show an excellent ear for composition, and it is obvious in this first track, allowing the collages of sound build and build in depth and volume until it becomes massive, then the tension dissipates, letting everything fall away to rebuild again.
    The title track encompasses more than half of the volume of this disc, opening with a disorienting mix of loops and metallic reverbs that build upon each other until reaching a towering wall of noise that cuts away to reveal the distant field recordings of children playing, footsteps and movement. A bit later some tortured saxophone on behalf of Rainey can be heard, barely recognizable after both have treated the sound. This interplay between the processed electronic sounds and field recordings continues throughout the 20 minutes of the piece, alternating between the spacious recordings of the outdoors and dense analog electronic drones that would be appropriate on some of Sunn O))) or Wolf Eyes work. Not only is this stylistically similar, but in intensity and mood as well. Throughout the 20+ minutes of this track, it's almost like an audio document of the mind of a stalker or some inhuman creature hunting its prey, lurking in the distance just out of sight. Cinema for the ears, indeed.
    The final track, "Re: Hi!" is a little more assaultive on the senses with bursts of feedback, vacuum cleaner white noise, and car horns which eventually give way to minimal analog crinkling sounds and digital birds flying in the distance. A bit less subtle than the prior tracks, but just as interesting.
    Rainey and Wehowsky have created a sonic journey out of some of the most unrecognizable sounds. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is going on here and that's exactly what makes for such a captivating listen. It's unfortunate that this collaboration had such a Fitzcarraldo level of difficulty in its completion, because a follow up would be a very good thing." - Creaig Dunton, Brainwashed                   

    "Wehowsky albums take their time to appear, and the gestation process of the magnificent I don't think I can see you tonight, his collaboration with Bhob Rainey, is lovingly described in the notes printed in the gatefold cover of the disc. For example: "April 2003 With some goading and inspiring suggestions by Ralf, Bhob records numerous saxophone excursions, most significant of which is a variation on Ralf's 'Drunken Walk' suggestion, where Bhob plays saxophone, rolls around in an office chair, bounces a ping pong ball with his feet, and generally causes distress in an already cluttered attic where he lives. Ralf invokes Sun Ra's Black Forest Myth, Cecil Taylor's Tales From The Black Forest and Brötzmann's Schwarzwaldfahrt on his own journey through Germany's dark woods: Black field recordings by Ralf." And so forth. Amusing and honest, but not quite what you'd put in your CD if you were applying for a teaching position in a composition faculty. Not that I'm suggesting that's where Wehowsky belongs (he already has a good day job as it is, thank you very much), but from where I'm sitting this is one of the most important works of electronic music to appear this decade. Or musique concrète, if you prefer, though I think the old ideological distinction between the two doesn't mean much anymore. Field recordings – and there's another expression that's outlived its usefulness: how can you make a field recording in a cluttered attic? – are here to stay, but Rainey and Wehowsky show that there's a lot more to making music than just slapping them into Max / MSP or some such application, diddling about with EQ and adding a few fades and FX here and there. Take the time to understand your material, live with it, get to know how it behaves, what it will and won't do, and then take the time to design and build a compositional structure that will reveal it to its best advantage and surprise both you and anyone listening to it, again and again. Above all, take the time. As the irritable old geezer who repairs Woody's arm in Toy Story 2 says, "you can't rush art!" Listen to how the title track emerges slowly from a shell into which fragments of recognisable noises are being sucked as backwards soundfiles, taking nearly seven minutes to reach the open air, where distant sounds of children at play, footsteps and tiny smears of saxophone multiphonics and all manner of sonic building blocks both recognisable and tantalisingly inscrutable are gradually brought together to construct the musical equivalent of a Gothic cathedral." - Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic 

    Nmperign and Jake Meginsky: Selected Occasions of Handsome Deceit - LP  Rel Records         Lossless Download  » more info

    Various: Tiny Mix Tapes Vol. 1: Darfur - CD   Tiny Mix Tapes   Lossless Download     » more info 

    nmperign / Skeletons Out: Split 7" - 7" vinyl  Absurd Records       » more info

    Bhob Rainey / Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase: Rainey/AHPN Split - 7" vinyl  Sedimental Records 
            » more info

    nmperign: Nmperign live at Music Lover's Field Companion - Lossless  7hings   » more info

    nmperign: Nmperign + Dörner, Beins - Download  Twisted Village    Lossless Download     

    » more info

    nmperign, Lescalleet: Love Me Two Times - Double CD  Intransitive Recordings 

    Lossless Download » more info

    Laura Clarke - Punctum (2010)

    Zemlja čudesa upada kroz zeca u praznu Alicu.

    "Sting, cut, little hole, milky skin, cold light eyes and yellow teeth. Hair hovering just at that point where the water meets the air, algae-like. Punctum: a tiny opening at the inner corners of the upper and lower lids.
    I present to you the marketing of an aggression, though I dare not speak its name. A promise of unopposed carnal knowledge: the images exploring our gaze inviting touch or perhaps taste. The ephemeral and the permanent, being and becoming, life and death, animal and human poised on the threshold rich with longing, where hybrids of mythologies and folklore are awakened."
    (Laura Clarke / Royal College of Art)

    UNTITLED (Studies of the Human)

    Film based on "Studies of the Human" for the show 'Parallel Connections' at the Wayward Gallery in Bethnal Green. Based on Muybridge's studies of human movement.

    UNTITLED (Studies of the Human)

    Film based on "Studies of the Human"" for the shows 'Body in Parts' at the Cob Gallery in Camden, and 'Parallel Connections' at the Wayward Gallery in Bethnal Green. Based on Muybridge's studies of human movement.

    Aaron Schimberg - Go Down Death (2013)

    Novi događaj u tradiciji ranog Lyncha, Guya Maddina i Crispina Glovera.



    “An astonishing, out-of-nowhere film.  Amidst all the cookie-cutter indies, Aaron Schimberg’s Go Down Death casts a mysterious spell. A dreamy, highly stylized affair recalling early David Lynch.  Highly recommended.” – Scott Macaulay, Filmmaker Magazine

    “A unique, strange, unforgettable film, a half-remembered dream that will trouble and beguile the subconscious long after you’ve moved on. (A-)” – Gabe Toro, Indiewire

    “One of the best films of the year!  An uncompromising feast of vision and atmosphere.” – Kentucker AudleyNoBudge

    “Robert Altman meets Tod Browning… an immaculate, offbeat triumph. Rarely do homespun independent filmmakers convey such a distinctively original vision.” – Jon Dieringer, Screen Slate

    “Irresistible!  Evokes the great novels of William Faulkner, even as Go Down Death offers us a resolutely modern filmic experience.  Schimberg appropriates the language of cinema and obeys only the rules he sets out for himself. The result is a thrilling leap into the unknown.” – Simon Laperrière, Fantasia

    “Go Down Death is as eccentric and daring as American indie cinema gets.” – Matthew Campbell, Starz Denver

    Fantasia Film Festival Review: 'Go Down Death' A Unique, Strange & Unforgettable Directorial Debut

    by Gabe Toro

    Jonathan Mallory Sinus is credited as the “folklorist” responsible for the vignettes that follow at the beginning of “Go Down Death,” the closing film at the Fantasia Film Festival. What follows is a beautiful woman applying makeup and a man on guitar. Some of the world’s greatest filmmakers would argue that these are the only elements one needs to make a great film. The picture continues through its opening credits, introducing us to a doctor that overshares to a kind-eyed boy, and a double-amputee emphasizing liberation from his own legs as if his body were originally a vessel for a lie. Director Aaron Schimberg’s credit appears over the screams of a woman trapped inside a car, fighting for her life. This is a filmmaker with a very specific sensibility in regards to mortality.
    The picture slowly reveals itself as existing in a limbo between life or death, with a cast of characters waiting out what feels like a temporary state of mind. Some bicker at a table while playing cards. Two soldiers stalk the woods while fighting an unseen war. A woman sings about being “too young to die,” a song that consists of only those lyrics as if heard in a dream. Most speak in dialogue that sounds like detached song lyrics. “Go Down Death” isn’t necessarily about speakers, but about listeners: Schimberg’s camera enjoys capturing the furrowing of a brow, the quiet serenity of the thinking mind.
    A shapely prostitute recoils nude after intercourse, sharing company with a comfortably naked older man, who has a greater interest in smoking while discussing long-forgotten memories than comforting her. His nudity seems indicative of the vulnerability of his age; she, younger, covers up in the fetal position, not interested in exploring a past, one that involves a dead twin sister. She is beautiful, wounded when we meet her. His shaggy hair and comfort within his skin suggests he’s shed the world beyond him. A classroom of children illustrates the same; kids who casually mention two of their group have passed on, before they trade passages of poetry concerned with death.
    The characters speak of haunting frequently. One describes himself as being mistaken for a demon, one who recurs in dreams. Later, two characters utter the same line about being haunted, but never being allowed to haunt another. Most seem to just be passing through: they act as if they have fully-established relationships with each other, when it seems clear they are merely grafting past unions onto partial or complete strangers. One character speaks of Sinus as if he were a fellow soldier, returned as a ghost; he says it’s a “story.” It leads to a breakdown in communication, suggesting the artist is aware of his own shortcomings from within the text.
    About fifty-something minutes into “Go Down Death,” which is largely plotless, the film begins to jump in shorter, darker bursts. The camaraderie between each character slides away, replaced by an adversarial mistrust, until the story is accompanied by the flickering of a film, projected onto the side of a barn for children. “Go Down Death” closes with a bewildering fifteen or so minutes that may or may not be related to the previous seventy, a passage of film of which I am eager to hear multiple interpretations from a variety of voices.
    Sinus, of course, is not a real person, and there is no evidence of his “writings” in the real world. And yet “Go Down Death” seems like a tribute to a false creator, teaming all of his creations in a purgatory where their stories, already ended, are permitted to go on. When one character loses her senses before sex, another remarks that it has happened to him before. It’s the tapestry of death, one where our creations mingle in the mind long after our passing, the idea of artistic permanence in the afterlife. This is a unique, strange, unforgettable film, a half-remembered dream that will trouble and beguile the subconscious long after you’ve moved on. Fans of “Eraserhead,” or the avant-guard eccentricities of Crispin Glover’s infamous traveling art projects, will have found a kindred spirit in director Aaron Schimberg. [A-]  -

    Go Down Death: Film Review

    Aaron Schimberg's debut is a Guy Maddin-imitating experiment with pretension to spare.

    MONTREAL — A difficult-to-watch experimental feature that revels in obscurity to the point of abandoning ship near the end and transforming into an entirely different movie, Aaron Schimberg's Go Down Death is the kind of film one suspects admirers choose to like as a dare: "What do you mean, you don't get it? Go back to your Masterpiece Theater, old man." Though some daring indie exhibitors may give it a chance, comparisons to debuts like Eraserhead and Tales from the Gimli Hospital are way, way off the mark; any commercial value probably depends on Schimberg making more compelling work down the road, thus creating a home-video audience for this opening salvo.
    The Guy Maddin comparison is a natural one in many ways, as Death has superficial similarities: Grainy black-and-white (film) cinematography, bad-splice edits and intentionally stilted acting all are modeled on his aesthetic. There are even amputees and an accordion. But this film neither really embraces the mechanics of primitive cinema nor creates a coherent syntax of its own. Though Jimmy Lee Phelan's photography appeals, and the design elements cohere in a "we've turned an empty warehouse into a WWI-era netherworld" sort of way, the direction itself lacks the distinctive sensibility that make even Maddin's most challenging efforts impossible to ignore.
    Opening titles citing a fictitious folklorist as inspiration are misleading, as the narrative impulse (folk tale-based or otherwise) is almost entirely lacking here. Rather than a story or sense of place, the film offers a collection of vignettes whose stagey monologues have little to do with each other; their strongest connection is the sound of artillery in the distance and characters' propensity for desolate, off-key singing. Men sit in bedrooms talking to whores, taunt each other at the poker table, and patrol the woods for an unidentified army; two actors reminisce about a very tender mutton chop they could've sworn was actually pork.
    Soon after an apparent snakeoil salesman gets beat up by a man in a gorilla suit, the movie decides it's had enough: Suddenly we're in a contemporary urban apartment, where a few couples engage in dinner-party talk that fairly screams "we live in Brooklyn." The conversation is mercifully brief, but it's almost dull enough to make a viewer wish Schimberg would cut back to the kid singing about his horse named Boredom and a cow called Mediocrity.

    Aaron Schimberg

    by Steve MacFarlane Nov 21, 2013   

    Click to view larger image

    I was exposed to Aaron Schimberg’s cinema before we actually met. Aaron submitted work for the first-ever screening my work, a spread of short films curated with Showpaper in 2009. Among the usual thumb-sucking Coney Island mope-core and corporate-ready thesis films, Aaron’s trio of miniDV shorts (made with his wife and producer Vanessa McDonnell) immediately stood out, made with both a knowing physical lightness and utter precision of tone. Unpredictably hitting new note after new note whenever I thought my eyeballs had settled back down, the films were playful, dark, conversant with death, never enamored of their own beauty, but not self-flagellating either. (The whole trio is available as a standalone short, Late Spring/Regrets For Our Youth, here.)
    Later on, I heard murmurs that Aaron was making his first feature, holed up in a former paint factory in Greenpoint. That film became Go Down Death and has been in production for more years than I can count on one hand, filmed entirely indoors (no ceilings) on Super-16 with a cast of dozens-if-not-hundreds. Death would have an uphill battle on its hands even if it weren’t excellent: under the reference points cosmetically affixed to Schimberg’s mise-en-scene (David Lynch, Tom Waits, Guy Maddin) lies an almost terrifyingly bleak worldview, served up in a final scene that knifes straight through the preceding 80 minutes and makes you reconsider everything you just watched.
    Aaron Schimberg So you’re gonna fix this to make me sound like a genius, right?
    Steve MacFarlane (laughter) Uh, let’s start with all the comparisons to name directors. The homage is more in the look of your film than in the actual substance of it.
    AS I consciously was trying—and telling everybody when we were making it—that we were trying to avoid any specific references. It’s not supposed to evoke the 1920s, or expressionism, or any kind of specific period, real world or cinematic. You’re not really supposed to know when it’s from. It’s not too realistic either. Striking that balance was one of the hardest things. People at the first screening thought that we really shot in it in a forest; to me, it’s completely phony, it looks fake. But it’s sort of hard while you’re watching the film to tell what’s real and what isn’t.
    SM Even the timbre of one character’s voice, or the choice of a spoken phrase, can come off as totally contemporary.
    AS Exactly.
    SM So instead of talking about what you wanted to avoid, can you tell me a little bit about what you wanted to make happen? This wasn’t written as a “period” film, right?
    AS Well, the script called for a kind of rural setting. We visited a few villages initially. But they were mostly unfeasible. For one thing, I’m lazy and I didn’t want to leave my cat. The main reason is, I’m from the city; I’ve always lived in the city and I didn’t want to go to some rural place and pretend I was Walker Evans, or be exploitative like Shelby Lee Adams, or whatever that guy’s name is.
    This film is—maybe not on the surface like Sweet Smell of Success or Driller Killer or anything—but it is in fact a very New York film. It was shot in industrial Brooklyn; everybody in the film is from New York, everybody’s got a sort of a New York dialect or accent. It’s kind of a running joke, you know, that a guy playing a farmer is really a bookie. He hates the woods. He’s afraid of lyme disease. He wouldn’t know the first thing about farming. That incongruity is part of the film’s character, and the skeletal garden in the film is a nod to that.
    The dialogue in the script is stylized, it’s not colloquial. It’s kind of austere. And so initially I wanted everybody to be speaking in a uniformly stylized way. When we were casting, and building, it dawned on me that I couldn’t rehearse to that degree, we’re putting out open calls and casting a lot of non-actors, so what I started to look for was people who could take this dialogue, and interpret it in some personal way. So even though all the dialogue was very homogenous, everybody is performing it in wildly different ways. And it lends the film a kind of vaudevillian aspect.

    SM Well, making a movie is vaudevillian in and of itself sometimes—no matter how rigidly you have what the scene’s going to be like set up in your mind, shooting changes everything. New flavors get brought in, often forcibly, and you have to improvise—“Oh, this character has an accent now!” In my experience, you never figure out if you prefer the original dream-version or the tangible, final one. Deep down, do you wish you had had more time to rehearse?
    AS I think I grew to appreciate it, and having those limitations gives the film a chaotic feeling. Frankly, I’m amazed that we pulled it off, and we had forty speaking roles, and we were still casting as we were shooting. It was all done on the fly. I like this combination of complete chaos and fastidiousness.
    SM There was a conscious decision to avoid naturalism at all costs? I assume the sets were constructed way ahead of time.
    AS As much as we could in a week, before shooting started. Literally between takes we would be taking down or reorganizing or rebuilding the sets to become other rooms or spaces.
    SM Really? The amount of texture in the film is nuts. The card table has a shag carpet, for instance, that probably appears in like two shots. Is this level of art direction going to be a signature of yours in future films, do you think?
    AS No!
    SM I don’t actually think of the film as trying to hide the fact that it was made in New York.
    AS Well, I can’t hide it, because I need my New York State film tax credit. The film is constantly referring to “the city.” We were playing with that. There are a lot of films about, you know, nature breaking through the thin veneer of civilization, but in some ways this film was about the opposite; civilization keeps breaking through the veneer of nature. Which we built. Until the last scene, when that veneer falls away completely.
    SM This slogan that appears in the film, “NO PITY FOR THE PAST.” Is that something you wrote originally, or did you hear it somewhere?
    AS That’s an original slogan. I think.
    SM It’s great.
    AS In this city, we show no pity for the past. Did you interpret that as a positive thing?
    SM No. I wouldn’t recommend that attitude personally or historically or whatever. But it’s prevalent. We pride ourselves on being “forward-thinking,” but it can be actually closer to spite.

    AS Yeah. To me it’s like a Bloombergian mantra. Bloombergesque? I hope this doesn’t interfere with my tax credit.
    SM In the opening of Go Down Death, a woman is screaming while something awful happens to her, and you see it through the rear-view of a car—I think it’s a taxi cab. It’s not a horror film, really at all, but it you seem to be playing with that vernacular. I felt like something terrible was happening at all times, but information was always withheld.
    AS The looming presence is unspecified. It was inspired by something more specific, which is alluded to obliquely, but to me, it’s about the people in this village who are living under the threat of crisis. And, you know, we also live under the constant threat of crisis.
    SM I guess I’d call it the threat of the feeling of constant crisis.
    AS Right. Somebody asked me why the characters are so apathetic when explosions are going off all around them. I guess to me, that’s not unusual. It might seem unusual to us, because for us the explosions are occurring “over there.”
    SM Would you say that’s apathy, or denial? Not that they’re mutually exclusive.
    AS It’s denial. I think that people in any kind of crisis or catastrophe—existential, political, environmental, something a little more immediate—can learn to adapt to those situations with denial. Well, I can’t speak for others, but I’ve got a highly refined denial mechanism. Of course, denied emotions resurface as ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome. Maybe that’s why everyone in the village seems to have medical problems.
    SM The first time I saw the movie I thought it was more—pardon this term—miserablist than I do now. These scenes and setups suggest that tone, but the individual scenes are actually really spontaneous. Somebody will say or do something eerie and ominous and then it’s almost deflated by comedy, so you have these weird tonal shifts.
    AS The tonal shifts are very built-in. It’s unclear to what extent the film is comic or tragic, even to me. I’ve watched it and found some part of it hilarious, and the next time I see it, I find that same part depressing or disturbing. And screenings are that way too—there’s resounding laughter at one, and dead quiet at another. I find a way to be devastated either way. Even when people are laughing, it’s always the other half of the room; they’re laughing at different things. I think that’s the difficulty with marketing this film—it’s none of those things.
    People looking for a horror film have approached me and inevitably been disappointed, but people have also picked up on the tragic side and talked about how miserablist it is; other people are surprised by the sheer amount of comedy. But it can play differently and I was encouraging that as we were shooting it. Again, this is reinforced by the different acting styles: you’ll have somebody completely melodramatic, or self-aware and comedic, and then somebody who’s practically Shakespearian. The first scene we shot was written to be more comedic, but the two actors played it in the most serious possible manner, and I found it affecting—but then I might watch it again and think that the scene is even funnier because it’s so inappropriately melodramatic.
    SM It does seem some of the actors interpreted a “period flavor” that you may not have slathered on top of them.
    AS Some actors wanted to know what their method needed to be. I was evasive, or I would tell them conflicting things. I wanted everybody in the film looking a little bit confused and lost. I was encouraging that.
    SM The looming, kind of mounting dread you’re talking about is, in my opinion, achieved more through the acting, images and edits than maybe through the screenplay itself. Is it fair to say the character of the kid, Butler (Rayvin Disla, above), becomes aware of something that the rest of the town is oblivious to?
    AS Perhaps he’s more aware, but on the other hand, maybe he’s less aware, and therefore less apathetic—he’s trying to do something constructive amid all this destruction. Although maybe that’s just another form of denial.
    Butler’s curious, he’s active. He does all these jobs—he’s a gardener, a tailor, he writes poetry—and his doctor is maybe trying to discourage that, for whatever reason. He’s trying to get Butler to do clerical work.
    SM He’s discouraged by a lot of the men in the village.
    AS In the script, Butler was one of many characters, but when you see a cute child onscreen, you’re immediately drawn to him. He becomes a protagonist. I actively set out to not have any protagonists, but it’s a difficult task. The characters were not supposed to stand out from one another, and they may represent different things, but you don’t shouldn’t necessarily favor one over the other.
    This should have been obvious to me, but once you put it onscreen people are drawn to one person for some reason or another, because one actor is taller or something. It became an editing challenge, to try to guide the audience into not caring about one person over another. Not wanting one person to live over another, specifically.

    SM In the movie theater scene, he’s the only one who’s not enjoying the violence. The other kids are laughing. That gets into what you’re talking about. It’s literally a scene about people—children—preferring to watch one type of man over another.
    AS That scene is the most distilled example of this power struggle between two characters. You have a guy who’s a strongman and you have another guy who’s smaller and weaker; the film-within-a-film is manipulating the audience within the film to side with one, and I think almost every scene in the film contains a variation on this dynamic. Almost every scene is a dialogue between two people and there’s always some kind of power struggle.
    It’s not always clear who’s winning out. I think the film questions whether the need to dominate comes from insecurity or weakness and also whether suffering silently—as other people do in the film—comes from some kind of inner strength or if that’s weakness unto itself.
    SM Entering into a scene, your edits are all over the place spatially. For example, when the kid is in the doctor’s office, you pingpong from the signs on the wall to the guy who’s speaking to the kid in the chair to the tools on the table, then kind of settle down on a perspective. This is especially sweet in the epilogue. Why do you like that activity so much?
    AS We sort of figured it out as a way for us to establish the rhythm of the film, that we’re not sticking with anybody for too long, that what follows might be confusing. If we started it with a scene that was five minutes long, as I did initially, you might get too comfortable; we tried to make the first ten minutes as hectic as possible so you wouldn’t become too emotionally engaged in any one person, so it was clear that we would be jumping around.
    SM Other people who’ve seen the film questioned the validity of “blocking” the viewer from getting into any one specific character. Is it a specific style of narrative you wanted, or…?
    AS Again, if you become too attached to one person, you might not care about the others. If somebody died, I didn’t want you to prioritize one death over another. Care about everybody equally, even if that means you can’t care about anything.
    SM A question of proportionality.
    AS Well, yeah. On the subway, when you’re observing people around you, you don’t know them, you can’t. They might be talking to each other, but you don’t know what the nature of their relationship is.
    SM It’s probably better to assume you don’t know.
    AS This film asks you to relate to the characters in a similar manner. I think between every character—almost—you can’t quite tell what their relationships are. Some people may have known each other for 20 years, or they could be strangers. I don’t know if that makes it hard to relate to what’s onscreen, but it helps to view them as you might view strangers you’ll see in real life. You’ll catch yourself assuming things and building stories for them, but they’re still strangers.
    SM Is this a problem you saw in other films and you wanted to do your bit to amend it? Or is it just how the script shook out?
    AS It wasn’t meant as a hostile gesture, but I don’t like the Syd Field method or whatever, in which you need to know the character’s psychological history, that their father was an alcoholic or whatever.
    SM Which makes their background replicable in some weird way.
    AS You shouldn’t need to know backstory, or psychology, in order to empathize with or relate to people. If you meet somebody, in a split second you’ll have a connection to them—good or bad—fair or unfair—without specifically knowing anything about them.
    Viewers have occasionally empathized with somebody, but you know, the difficulty is that there are other people that they don’t, or can’t, empathize with. They’re too remote. I’ve found that different people relate to different characters when they watch the movie. A lot of people are drawn to Butler, but other people are drawn to other characters entirely. I worry that it has less to do with the characters and more to do with external factors—how attractive they are, how kind or unkind the actor seems.
    SM You found yourself choosing a scene more based on its depiction of the village as whole.
    AS Well, it becomes more like a musical structure. It’s balancing the tonal shifts and trying to give enough plot information to allow the viewer to keep following it. There are so many characters, so many things are so brief that it’s hard to keep track of people sometimes.
    SM It’s murky. I definitely understood more the second time I saw it.
    AS it’s hard with a film like this to know what the audience will easily pick up on or what they will never pick up on. There are things in the film that to me were extremely clear, but went unnoticed and prevented people from understanding the film and things that I never noticed were what everybody wanted to talk about. It made us try to create a more experiential film.
    Now, for people in some of these reviews to say I’m just fucking with people, or trying to be weird—I mean, you don’t spend seven years on a film that you’re making in bad faith. You just don’t. The film is personal and there’s nothing in it that intentionally doesn’t make sense. Now, that said: specific explanations about why this is happening, about individual characters . . . I was truly hoping that viewers would be willing to fill in the blanks.
    SM Not just able but willing to try to do that. It reminds me of pre-screening for certain unnamed film festival festivals. Anything that seems to pose a threat to your movie-processing faculties, might not make it. It has to be, you know, legible.
    AS Which is a scary thing, because it discourages filmmakers from experimenting, or if a filmmaker does experiment, he or she does so at his or her own peril. The thing that makes film different from other art forms: you write a novel, people read it, they don’t like it, you put it in a drawer, you rewrite it, you do another novel. If you’re a painter, you slash the canvas. But when you go into making a film, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but it has to get out there either way. There’s money on the line, there’s time, there’s a lot of people’s efforts. In most cases it’s already public knowledge before it’s done.
    SM You have to trailerize the movie before you’ve shot it.
    AS And it’s been announced, so it’s going to get out there. There’s nothing you can do if you can’t afford to reshoot the footage. Filmmaking is hard and risky because each film is an experiment and they’re all going to escape. It’s not something where you say “Oh, this isn’t working out so I’ll go make another film, then.” You can’t say, “Sorry everybody.”
    SM It’s bloodsport, but the most you’re competing for is three hours of somebody’s time, tops. But probably more like 65 minutes.
    AS Exactly. For some reason people want their films to be as short as possible, now. New films are not allowed to be over two hours unless it’s Batman.
    SM Your film reminds me of McCabe & Mrs. Miller. You spend time with a ton of people but you probably have more empathy for the people you spent less time with. They’re just not as weak. There are moments in Go Down Death where you want to judge a character but you can’t—you just don’t know enough about them.
    AS Yeah, we’d screen it to people and they’d say, “I hate that guy. Don’t show me that guy. That guy comes onscreen, my brain shuts down.” What do you do with something like that? Often, people would say “more Butler.”
    There was a scene in the first cut that was everybody’s favorite—I immediately cut it out. It was not because I wanted to be aggressive, or as punishment; it was because I felt that that scene—which was sort of a comic relief bit—was hurting the film because it was influencing the way people were watching the film. It wasn’t right; people enjoyed it as they were watching it but that doesn’t mean it was good for the film. And nobody missed it when it was gone. -

    It came from Brooklyn (a warehouse in Greenpoint to be exact), but it is set in a fantasy world unconstrained by narrative logic.  There is little employment in this shunned village, yet young Butler holds down a multitude of jobs, including grave-digging.  He will be busy.  Life is indeed poor, nasty, brutish, and short, but words hold great significance in Aaron Schimberg’s Go Down Death (trailer here), which screens tomorrow during the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival.
    This is Jonathan Mallory Sinus’s world.  The celebrated poet not only created the sickly village, he also lives there as a character.  Sinus is the one who amputated both his legs for his own existential satisfaction. Disease and suffering are commonplace in this environment, as Butler soon learns—sort of.  It is hard to put much stock in his doctor’s diagnoses, given his shape-shifting and his stalker-like behavior.
    Most of the men inside the hamlet spend their time playing cards and frequenting the working women upstairs, while two soldiers tromp through the surrounding forest like characters in a Beckett play.  It might not sound like much of an existence, but most everyone seems to find it preferable to the dreaded Gomorrah-like Big City.
    Absolutely not to be confused with Spencer Williams’ morality tale, Go Down Death is essentially Hell’s sketch comedy show, stringing together macabre vignettes that share common characters and settings, but do not form a very cohesive storyline.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they just peter out, like post-1990’s SNL sketches.  At least, Schimberg maintains a thoroughly and distinctly weird vibe nearly the whole way through, as if H.P. Lovecraft took over as the show-runner for The Andy Griffith Show.  Unfortunately, he eventually breaks from his carefully constructed universe with a disappointingly flat bit of hipsterism.
    Down is not the sort of film that serves as a willing showcase for the talents of its cast.  Instead of tapping into their deep emotional reserves, they simply mold themselves to fit Schimberg’s creepy tableaux.  Nevertheless, the quality of Rayvin Disla’s work as Butler comes through all the murky stylization quite clearly.  Sammy Mena also conveys the pathos of the outsider in a rather bold performance as Rosenthal, one of the gamblers, who has a rather complicated pseudo-romantic relationship with the club singer, Milda.  Although underwritten by conventional film standards, she is one of the few apparently humane figures in this world, played with a good measure of sensitivity by Simone Xi.
    Wearing its love for its love for Tod Browning’s Freaks on its sleeve, Down freely mixes horror and surreal tragedy. Arguably, the key ingredient is Jimmy Lee Phelan’s timeless, otherworldly black-and-white cinematography. Yet, when it finally seems to get somewhere, viewers will wonder why it bothered.  The results are a wildly mixed bag—albeit one that is obviously the product of some considerable combined talents.  Recommended for those who favor style over substance, Go Down Death screens tomorrow (8/5) at the J.A. De Seve Theatre as part of this year’s Fantasia Festival. -