tirado/thrown


Late Winter Video: Waiting for the Gift of Sound and Vision

Here at tirado/thrown, we heartily anticipate the end of the winter.  With the clear light and the cold air, we’re slowly attempting to shed the frozen snow that stubbornly sticks to the ground here in Boston (but not before the upcoming Agamben post, though).

The Sea and Cake’s cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” is the perfect song for this time of year.  They take on Bowie with a blast of cold Chicago air and fashion a tempered interpretation that does not threaten the original version’s excitement and buoyancy.

In an issue of loud paper a number of years ago, The Sea and Cake’s lead singer Sam Prekop professed his love for the work of Mies Van Der Rohe.  Lines, glass, light, and steel, Van Der Rohe’s architecture trades in the very basic terms of experience and dwelling. 

It’s not entirely surprising then, that the video above marshals high-modern experimental animation to offer a visual expereince well-coordinated with a song that is about experience, broadly conceived: wonder, awakening, anticipation, becoming alive, the senses sparkening and opening to the world.  The above video is vitalism wrapped in the guise of a collected, though vibrant, formalism.  Here’s to ushering the end of Winter.

UPDATE: A far better version of the video is up on Pitchfork.tv, which I recommend over the video I posted above.



Neptune: Grey Shallows
January 5, 2009, 11:25 pm
Filed under: art, Music, Rock, Video | Tags: , , , ,

Neptune is more than just a local favorite at tirado/thrown.  Yes, the band’s record, Gong Lake was the subject of one the firsts posts on this blog.  But Neptune more than just represent Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood this publication calls home. They are ceaseless laborers and innovators, entirely committed to their craft of making music with the instruments they create: equal parts luthiers, drum makers, metal smiths, sculptors, creators of things from found and unwanted objects, circuit benders, and songwriters.  Neptune are heralds of a present time perpetually displaced and deferred, though already here.

Performed and produced by multi-disciplinarian Zea Barker, the video for Neptune’s Grey Shallows is a piece documenting effort, motion, position, and gesture suddenly seized and frustrated within the confines of limited space.  An easy visual analogy for an existence trapped inside a cubicle?  That would be one way to approach the video, but a little too easy and practical a metaphor.  

Another way to consider the video is through the use of the scenery’s limited space, which conditions and binds Barker’s movements and frames her exertions.  Her movements are alternately manic and elegant, frenetic and graceful, energetic and exhausted.  All the while, Neptune’s track moves along, suddenly setting itself at a humming idle to seek out the next direction to carry its sound.  From there the verse acts as a means for the song to measure where it stands in the field of sound. The chorus offers a temporary resolution by propelling the song out of boredom and stasis.

What seems to matter most is the dynamism dwelling between the opposite poles of activity and manner represented in vision and sound.  With Grey Shallows, Barker and Neptune summon a thoroughly tactile, and at times uneasy, relationship with the environments they dwell in, making something out of what is otherwise seen as nothing or useless, with marvelous results.



TVOTR: Golden Age

Among the things that make TV on the Radio’s music so rewarding to listen to are the currents of intense, uncontanable energy running through it.  In my opinon, their music’s the closest thing that comes to an original, radical intervention in contemporary Ameican popular music.

Daniel Hernandez points out the band’s merits as an outfit who infuse the cosmic into the everyday. He’s right. I would add to his point that TVOTR do so in a way that George Clinton and the Digital Underground (who made no secret of their desire to emulate Clinton’s stylings) were only hinting at with their experiments in playing with images, figures, and live performance.

TVOTR’s video for “Golden Age” attests to an adroit sense of production, fusing visual, lyrical, and musical elements and leaving a thematically potent package of insights left at the viewer’s door. It’s also a philosophic treasure trove. View the video a few times and you just have to wonder whether the band’s been reading Giorgio Agamben, Nietzsche, the Judeao-Christian Bible, and watching the Care Bears as sources for useful references. A few examples:

  • Scenery evoking, among other references, the revelation atop Mount Sinai, the transfiguration of Christ, and the mountain retreat where Nietzsche first introduces us to Zarathustra: These are elevated spaces where its dwellers are transformed by a gift or bestowal of some sort: of the law, glory, wisdom, or light. We can also say that these are sites of experiences that occur at the limits of experience, language, and comprehension.  In the case of the video, it is quite possible to interpret it as taking place in a state of exception.

 

  • The use of halos and auras as indicators of potentiality, the exposition of identity-shifting figures over and against the figures of sovereign power (the police), and the use of figures fusing the animal and human are found in various works of Giorgio Agamben: Not to belabor the point, but reading The Coming Community, Homo Sacer, and The Open opens up a sensitivity to these themes being played out in cultural products, music videos included.  The nexus of magic, genius, and play at work in the video might also offer examples that point to items that Agamben works with in Profanations as well. 

 

  • In the process of a face-off between the band as figures of humanity and the police as agents of the state, there is quickening of pace, a heightening of tension, and an anticipation of an unknown event.  Hints of Heidegger’s accounting of anticipatory resoluteness and the moment of vision in Being and Time linger within scene.  In the process of transformation to a quickening beat, the police officers no longer operate as agents of the state in the face of a humanity reconciled with its animal nature.  The police’s gestures no longer direct energy towards reservation, distraction, or repression but towards humanity in dance, where gestures are made artful (useful) and traverse the chasm separating spectacle and spectator.  The scene brings to mind a quote from The Coming Community: “The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the control of the state, but a struggle between the State and the non-state (humanity), an insurmountable disjunction between the whatever singularity and the State organization” (84)   Golden Age’s video offers a visual rendition on a variant of such a struggle that Agamben addresses above.

 

I’m sure there are other philosophic themes and references at work in the video (Plato comes to mind), but these stood out most immediately. References aside, “Golden Age” is very succinct rendering of the band’s political mytho-theology, condensing mysticism, mythical symbolism, liberation, redemption, transfiguration, illumination, music making, collective struggle, pop culture, and political emancipation in three minutes.  After all, are these not the promises the holiday season offers to its celbrants, aside from food, companionship, and the prospect of staying in all day? 

It’s fantastic what an outstanding music video can do, especially when the visuals and audio complement each other so well. Enjoy; or rather, be jilted, provoked, distressed, even moved to explore the yet unknown and unspoken possibilities the video offers its viewer.



Post-Debate Video: Latent Racism Bubbling Over in Rallies Would Make Even the Casual Observer Re-think John Lewis’s Remarks

After watching this evening’s increasingly onerous debate and catching the end of a nailbiting and disappointing tie between Mexico and Canada in World Cup Qualifying, the above video landed in my reader, courtesy of the best post-Chicano blog this side of high culture: Ken Burns Hates Mexicans.

Reportage such as this from (ostensibly terrorist-loving, dontcha’ know…) Al-Jazeera English only makes John McCain’s example-as-digression (search for “Lewis”) concerning Georgia Rep. John Lewis’s comments on the recently racialized and paranoid tenor of McCain/Palin rallies and the respective campaigns’ responses worth re-evaluating. When you’re noticing the kind of speech openly making the rounds and carrying currency at these events and the rather earnest concern on the part of the last interviewee, Rep. Lewis’s remarks actually ring more true upon review. This is so in spite of both the McCain campaign’s falsely humble attempts to play the Congress member’s remarks up as a variety of liberal race-baiting and the Obama campaign’s overly-cautious desire to downplay and discredit nearly anything that could be remotely construed as controversial and seemingly anti-American. It should give us pause to consider our population’s information consumption and (more importantly) analysis habits.