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.)
For another dose of record-label schadenfreude, check out this rant (check here if it’s been taken down – Victory’s lawyers have been chasing it all over the internet) by former Victory Records vice president Ramsey Dean. It’s an entertaining but unwieldy mishmash of legally actionable character assassination, insider’s memoir, hilariously hyperbolic tone, pompous word choices, and completely irrelevant Apocalypse Now quotations. I would quote some of the best bits, but I don’t want to get stupid (and lawyers) all over my blog.
If you have the patience to wade through Dean’s sludgy prose, his grandiloquent claims that Victory’s travails are in some way comparable to Joseph Conrad’s dark nights of the soul are pretty funny. Tony Brummel is no Colonel Kurtz. I think there are probably hundreds of dudes (and of course they’re all dudes) in the business who are functionally indistinguishable from Brummel; huge egos, bigotry and self-delusion are practically the defining traits of label heads. It may even be that the industry would grind to a halt without people like Brummel: Hawthorne Heights have very little to show for their time with Victory, but their CDs ended up in the hands of way more kids than the band’s quality merited.
Being nice doesn’t always help: Touch & Go Records, famous for being a humane label, with their “handshake contracts” and band-friendly accounting (as well as releasing most of Steve Albini’s records), ended up getting sued by the Butthole Surfers (who ought to have known better – they won the lawsuit but lost the war, in that a lot of people, like me, ended up convinced that they were egomaniacal dicks with a vastly overinflated sense of their worth in the wake of the lawsuit).
I have no opinion on the truth of Dean’s claims, except to say that bands should probably stop signing contracts with Victory (Thursday actually came back after leaving for Island) and fans of hardcore and emo should stop buying their records (which is tricky, because sometimes they do release some truly transcendental albums, like Refused’s Shape of Punk to Come – probably the best punk record of the last 10 years – not to mention records by Darkest Hour, Earth Crisis, Between the Buried and Me, and Integrity). On the whole, I’d just take the whole thing as a case study of how epically messed up the industry really is, from a not entirely reliable insider’s perspective, with more than a few grim laughs thrown in.
Following up on my note about last.fm offering free / ad-supported streaming of full tracks, everyone should read this missive from Rogue Amoeba, the authors of Audio Hijack Pro and Radioshift, two very useful tools for internet music fans. It’s difficult to concisely describe the very delicate balance of competing forces that makes legal on-demand streaming possible. I honestly think Rhapsody and Napster owe their continued viability at least partially to a need by the major labels to not look like they’ve been chumped by Apple (the iTunes Music Store looms very large when it comes to music and the internet). I really like last.fm and I’d like them to succeed, but what they’re doing is increasing the volatility of an already fluid situation.