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    Voice Crack – Kick That Habit

    April 28th, 2009

    Voice Crack - Kick That Habit

    Voice Crack was a Swiss noise duo consisting of musicians Andy Guhl and Norbert Möslang. They formed in 1972 as a free jazz outfit, but abandoned that format in the early ’80s to experiment with what they called “cracked everyday electronics,” which consisted of small, cracked open appliances rigged up with amps. This set-up produced sounds that could turn on a dime from a sparse clatter to an all-out noise tsunami. Although Kick That Habit hails from the 1980s, it looks like it could have been filmed decades earlier in some grey Eastern bloc country, what with its blurry, bleak backdrops and stark, grainy atmosphere.

    The movie, which contains no talking or singing, jumps back and forth between snowy outdoor scenes in the Alps, indoor live performances, random objects like electric fans and dripping faucets, and people trudging around out in public. We join the members of Voice Crack during a game of putt-putt golf. The clanking of the golf balls against the resonant metal contraptions on the course is striking. Then comes an abrupt cut to a roomful of their cracked everyday electronics–complete with the vivid image of transistor radios squealing on twirling turntables–that form an impenetrable sonic stew.

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    Sun Ra – Space is the Place

    April 24th, 2009

    Sun Ra - Space is the Place

    Space is the Place is easily one of the most amazing songs, albums, and movies of the 1970s. Lensed in ’72 and released a couple of years later, the film version tells the story of a transcendent spaceman and master musician named Sun Ra, whose life’s mission is to be the savior of the black race. The opening footage introduces the music-powered Ra Ship–which looks for all the world like a couple of conjoined twin flame-tipped sperms–as it gently cruises through space toward a planet Sun Ra has recently discovered. There, in a surrealistic Garden of Eden, Sun Ra reveals his plans to re-locate the black race far from the oppression and chaos of planet Earth to live together in harmony on this new sphere.

    Flash back to 1943, when Sun Ra’s discordant piano playing causes a massive riot at a nightclub, which results in two men left sitting: Sun Ra and a pimp, hustler and con man known as The Overseer (a black man who secretly works for the establishment). In numerous scenes peppered throughout the rest of the film, these two characters engage in a game of cards to determine the fate of the black race: freedom or oppression under the thumb of the powers that be. Flash forward to the early ’70s, when Sun Ra lands his spaceship in spectacular fashion in front of an army of media–complete with a bizarre display of otherworldly pageantry. To attract a wider audience to his cause, he then tries to recruit a group of black youth at a rec room, opens an Outer Space Employment Agency and releases albums of his music.

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    Harry Smith – Early Abstractions

    April 15th, 2009

    Harry Smith - Early Abstractions.

    Harry Smith (1923-1991) was primarily an artist, filmmaker, musicologist, archivist and record collector who was best known for compiling the Anthology of American Folk Music for Smithsonian Folkways in 1952, which was a huge influence on the folk music revival of the ’60s. Harry also gained fame in underground film circles (and squares) for creating a series of colorful, abstract, animated shorts starting back in the 1940s. The movies on this tape span from 1941 to 1957, and predated another major ’60s explosion: psychedelia.

    These films, which were originally paired with the jazz of Dizzy Gillespie, and later, pop like the Beatles, completely cry out for the viewer to silence the sparse, dank, improvised Teiji Ito Shaman soundtrack on this volume and crank up whatever music he or she thinks will most appropriately accompany the visuals. I imagine Merzbow would mesh quite well with the first three films. No. 1 is all gritty, organic, watercolor-like, and fast-paced; full of ever-changing, amorphous shapes that unfurl themselves across ultra-detailed backgrounds. Likewise, circles dance across myriad corroded backdrops in No. 2, while diamonds and squares take up residence in No. 3.

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