Friday, February 27, 2015

OPTIK: THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE


Director Victor Erice's 1973 Spanish language film depicts the hushed darkness, rotting earth tones and stunted emotions of a impoverished town during the final days of General Franco's forty year dictatorship. Using the conceit of cinema as transformative experience,  especially in the murky motivations of children,  this film takes another as its starting point (James Whale's 1931 feature, FRANKENSTEIN,  specifically the gentle,  but emotionally devastating scene of the Monster and little girl near the lake). This is a film with little dialogue,  but atmosphere aplenty that wraps around the viewer like a ragged diary,  time and memory slowly aroused,  but only partially revealed. It is also about obsession,  whether the father's glass beehive,  the mother's absent lover,  or the youngest daughter Ana caught in the snare of mystery, be it cinematic (Frankenstein's Monster) or real (the anti-Franco rebel taking refuge in a deserted farmhouse). It is also a subtly political film that somehow got past Franco's censors with its depiction of a small town whose inhabitants were  crushed by right-wing ideals that favored ideology over individuals. THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE touches hearts and minds without the sentimentality and candied resolution Hollywood would surely bring to such material. This must certainly have been Guillermo del Toro's film school primer.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

THIS IS HOW WE DEFORM: BUCHLA FORMAT WOGGLEBUG


One really cannot have too many chancy encounters in modular synthesis,  especially when one is dealing with a Buchla system. Strangely enough,  Make Noise's Wogglebug design was very much influenced by Don Buchla's  Model 265 Source of Uncertainty in its use of smooth and stepped fluctuating random voltages. Unlike the 265 the Wogglebug also supplies the enraptured noise-nik with audio outputs (oscillators) that perform similar duties as the CV outputs. A rare and wonderful clone I'd say.

Monday, February 16, 2015

THIS IS HOW WE DEFORM: MODEL 257 DUAL VOLTAGE PROCESSOR


The 257 is certainly a necessity for any Buchla system,  as it allows applied voltages to be summed and twiddled with (attenuated/reversed,  cross-faded, general offset) to taste. That is certainly a vital function for the noise-driven synthesist who resists keyboards, presets, and presumably "music" itself.

Monday, February 9, 2015

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE


LISTEN TO MY LAST WORDS anywhere. Listen to my last words any world. Listen all you boards syndicates and governments of the earth. And you powers behind what filth deals consummated in what lavatory to take what is not yours. To sell the ground from unborn feet forever...

from: NOVA EXPRESS by William S. Burroughs (1964)

SCARLETT JOHANSSON UNTETHERED


It's quite amazing to see a major Hollywood draw like Scarlett Johansson take chances with her cosy and marketable persona and give herself over to roles that go well beyond viewer expectations.  This year she did it twice, with Jonathan Glaser's UNDER THE SKIN and Luc Bresson's LUCY,  the former a simmering take on alienation, loneliness, and mercy,  the latter a transcendent science fiction flick disguised as a beta-fied action movie. Physics and physicality , and  desire as a kind of alien processing don't really seem like blockbuster source material to me, but both conceits work and expand well beyond anyone's hopes. And that a star of Johansson's caliber would show copious amounts of frontal nudity (in UNDER THE SKIN) is just as surprising a career move. Mica Levi's score for that film should also be mentioned for its harrowing massed strings and electronic textures,  colluding with the film's imagery to produce a series of chilling dioramas (much like Marcel Duchamp's final work, "Etant donnes"). It's a head-scratcher,  and one that needs to seen more than once and spoken about. Forget the Oscar dreck. See these two films instead.