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.)
Mordant Music’s Dead Air is too much to absorb on a first hearing. It meanders through a multitude of electronic music styles and sounds vaguely like a wildly overdone soundtrack for a very technical documentary about the history of British television: many of the tracks feature semi-disconnected bits of media-obsessed narration (by Philip Elsmore, a former continuity announcer for Thames TV), the beats and synths sound like a cross between Boards of Canada and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and there’s a dystopian haze and confusion hanging over the music that suggests the grimy, egalitarian vibe of 1970s instructional films.
Mordant Music seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the idea of the library music they occasionally make for Boosey & Hawkes (as Boomkat astutely notes, Carrion Squared sounds and is put together exactly like a library music album). I would say they remind me of Various Production (who have a similar take on off-kilter electronic music, and with similar detours into glitchy folk and broad pop gestures) if it weren’t for their obsessive focus on mass media and their nostalgic use of raw analog synthesis. They’re using similar elements towards different ends. There’s a dialectic at work in their music that defies easy characterization; their relationship with the old television they base their work on isn’t really direct imitation, satire, or any other kind of ironized commentary. Dead Air sounds like the soundtrack to a dream about television.
Stuck in my head this morning: Mordant Music’s “XII – On Cracked Hooves” from The Tower: VIII-XVIII, a song that somehow manages to remind me of Swans, “Small Time Shot Away”-era Massive Attack, and most of the good bits of mid-90s ambient techno. Mordant Music are really growing on me, to the point that I just went to Boomkat and bought the rest of their catalog as digital downloads. So far I am not disappointed. It’s all very different.