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.)
Stuck in my head this morning: “Pilf” by Cardiacs – who, I must once again stress, are the best band in the world – from their early cassette-only release The Obvious Identity. “Pilf” is an unusual song in a fathomlessly weird catalog, largely because it has a pitch-perfect late-70s power pop song – complete with a swaggering hard-rock guitar solo – dropped into the middle of another, much more typical (of Cardiacs, at least) prog-punk song that alternates between 4/4 verses and 7/8 bridges and sounds vaguely like the Buzzcocks. Cardiacs songs rarely finish anywhere near where they start, with the various bits strung together with a logic that owes more to dreams than traditional songwriting. I think that’s one of the keys to understanding the band’s hallucinatory intensity: they’re completely unafraid to violate traditional notions of structure in order to keep songs interesting, and they have the instrumental chops to make pretty much anything and everything work.
If downloading dodgy rips of even dodgier cassette-only releases from 28 years ago is not your thing, and you live in England, where there is some remote hope you might find Cardiacs records in stores, there is a flawless live version of this track, along with almost the entirety of the early Cardiacs catalog, on the two Special Garage Concerts CDs. There are maybe 3 not-so-great songs out of 32, and the rest are the sort of brilliant, convoluted pop genius that gets stuck in your head for weeks on end.