Courtesy of Joel Johnson, I found out that Paul Robertson has a new animation out. It’s a hearty 320MiB AVI file (I recommend downloading it via BitTorrent) and is a worthy sequel (this time in color) to Robertson’s indescribable masterpiece Pirate Baby Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006. To describe both videos as unholy apocalyptic freakouts is to do them inadequate justice; anyone who ever played Dodonpachi or Metal Slug X and felt that the boss battles just weren’t ridiculous enough needs to give this a look. It really makes former brainbursters like the Emergency Broadcast Network and Tetsuo: The Iron Man look tame. Impossibly dense seas of pixelated pop trash iconography flit by on torrents of blood at 30 hallucinatory, psychedelic frames per second; Paul is quite possibly the most skilled artist of Generation x-chan.
Integral to Robertson’s complex eschatological imagery is the soundtrack, both to Pirate Baby and (especially) to Kings of Power 4 Billion %, and fittingly enough, Robertson gives full credit to the soundtrack’s creator, Cornel Wilczek. Wilczek really goes balls-out on this one, producing disjointed industrial prog-metal electronica that wanders between amped up Clark and something like a more traditionally death metal version of Meshuggah. The guitars are a little rudimentary, but occasionally reach for a sort of Robert Fripp lunacy that, combined with the rest of the swampy, dense electronic mix and the eyeball-searing, brain-violating visuals creates a pure gestalt, a solid block of crushed and compacted pop culture that requires time, attention, and no predisposition towards epilepsy to decode.
Wilczek and Robertson are a natural team, and for a case study that is slanted more towards the Wilczek side of things, check out Devil Eyes. Left to his own devices, Wilczek has a much more pastoral folktronic sound, equally reminiscent of the aforementioned Clark and Dwayne Sodahberk’s second, superior album. Combined with Robertson’s sterile, disturbing vision of supercute zombies filtered through Alien Syndrome, the work as a whole strikes me as deeply melancholic and curiously affecting. There is no subject in these videos, only objects, and it strikes me that Robertson incidentally accomplishes what eluded Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick in AI (a movie that would itself work much better without dialogue): an evocation of a world where only our toys survive to carry out a degenerate pantomime of conscious existence.
(On a tangential note, for another, very different example of someone using gamer and anime culture to produce deeply personal pixel art, check out Jennifer Diane Reitz’s Unicorn Jelly. Almost nobody takes me seriously when I make this recommendation, but if you can get past the somewhat slow and obtuse beginning, you’re in for a novelistic experience of incomparable metaphysical depth. It’s very user-unfriendly, but it genuinely changed me, which is more than I can say for almost any other webcomic.)
I recently picked up Daft Punk’s Alive 2007. It’s pretty good, but has nowhere near the raw fury of the first time I saw Daft Punk live. That was at Even Furthur 1996, one of the legendary series of outdoor raves thrown in BFE Wisconsin by the infamous Drop Bass Network. That year, the main tent had sound by the Badger Sound crew, which meant that there was who knows how many watts going into 32 15” speakers along the front of the tent. The sound was very clean and LOUD. I’ve since decided it was the best sound system I’ve ever heard: it gave everything played through it a brutal, hard-edged clarity that was in keeping with the spirit of the weekend (15-year-olds on K face-down in the mud, 60-watt xenon lasers burning the sky over the tops of the trees, Deadly Buda playing a gabber rendition of the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme at 220BPM at 7:30 in the morning, Dan Doormouse and friends keeping their Rottweiler with them in their smaller side tent as they rinsed out old Reload records and beat on their speakers with a wiffle ball bat, everyone bundled up against the rain in hoodies and huge pants).
This was before Homework, and Daft Punk were still a cult phenomenon known mostly to DJs and hardcore ravers, so there was a certain amount of anticipation among the crowd, but I remember the crowd were more excited for Phantom 45’s and Woody McBride’s sets later in the night. I think we were all a little caught off-guard when Daft Punk proceeded to throw up a set of headbanging, ass-shaking hard house and acid techno to rival just about anyone who’s ever played dance music live. They didn’t have the pyramid or robot costumes, their setup was minimal, and they barely acknowledged the crowd. That didn’t matter. It was a hallucinatory, blistering half-hour of loops, acid, and slamming electronic beats. I remember the high point of the set being a psychedelically intense version of “Rollin & Scratchin” that practically slammed its way into my head. I don’t know how much of it was the music and how much was the insane sound system, but now you can judge for yourself, because as I discovered today, some kind soul put the entire set online. You’ll just have to imagine the bass and the volume for yourself. And ignore the bald dude.
In my opinion, it’s mostly been downhill for Daft Punk ever since. Homework and the subsequent albums have played up their frothy pop take on French loop-house / electro-disco, and while that makes for awesome videos and it is, after all, what made them famous enough to afford the pyramids and robot suits, I was disappointed to find that the only remnants of the tough, abrasive sound I’d heard in Wisconsin were a comparatively anemic rendition of “Rollin & Scratchin” and a couple other b-sides to their early singles. I’m glad they released Alive 2007, because it shows that they still retain some of that 1996 energy. Still, finding that old set has made me a very happy boy.