Saturday, April 14, 2012

homeocrapic goal tenure VHS review

The combination of noise and video seem nearly incompatible. How does one visually express a genre that is generally devoid of explicit ideologies or emotions, let alone any melodic or rhythmic qualities to suggest them? There's plenty of answers on youtube, but they're often very lackluster. The norm consists live footage with maybe some minimal visual effects like a looping change in hue, threshold or blotty in-camera effects; less likely a mishmash of random public domain or porn clips edited together with similar effects to give off the feeling of distortion (and to avoid flagging for innappropriate content); even fewer still are fully produced short films like those of Ezcaton, some of which have an actual [albiet lose] narrative or plot. Of course, the majority of what you'll find on youtube is just noise with a still image of either the album the track is from or a non-sequitur image. Now this is all fine and good as far as listening goes, and it's an invaluable tool for exposing newcomers to the genre. Hell, if it weren't for youtube, I wouldn't be typing this today. The problem is, the visual aspect isn't being utilized nearly enough, and if it's not interesting or unique enough to hold one's attention, then why bother wasting the effort on it?

This is in part why noise released on VHS has fascinated me. For one, it's on a physical format that predates the youtube boom by roughly a decade. Secondly, out of the above conventions listed above, I've neglected to mention the few but proud (ignore the joke) captures of noise sets from the 1990's, a time where, if one wanted a visual element or even just a visual archive of a piece of noise, one had no other choice but to record to the relatively cheap and pragmatically popular VHS format. There were even a few clips from noise "music videos," simplistic visual patterns that were nonetheless fitting for the audial component. It seems like when one puts something down on a bulky, high capacity brick of plastic as opposed to a short space of data storage, usually with the intent to distribute it to someone who had nothing better to do than to kick back and pop in a tape of sounds he/she couldn't hear anywhere else, the results markedly improved. At one point, I bought a newer VHS release by Unicorngun, "Stick This in your VCR and Smoke It!" It was jsut glitchy patterns set to droney noise, but again, it was more stimulating and obviously had more time and, for lack of better words, love put into it than just some crappy youtube video. This wasn't an advertisement, or a track some guy liked enough to upload it, or even a live set some insane completionist felt a duty to share: this was a finished product, this was something YOU paid for, something someone else put effort into, something they REALLY wanted you to see.

Unfortunately, the kind of quality I allude to is simply not present in Thickly Painted Walls' confused, sloth-like video collage "Homeocrapic Goal Tenure." Rather, it exemplifies the borderline depressing lack of truly great noise videos, with it's incredibly infrequent and unequal balance of live shows, post-production audio and the painfully boring, almost completely arbitrary extended sequences of anything from household chores to silent show-and-tell scenes that serve as both padding and an endurance test.

The "plot" of HGT, not like I'd expect one, goes something like this:

The beginning is apparently an outtake from a live show recording, maybe from before the actual performance. The visual component is this conical effect I've probably seen somewhere before. The least I can say is, I'm gla the whole thing wasn't like this, since this portion of the tape is highly reminiscent of the generic psychedelic video generated by early windows media player programs.

The next part is actually fairly captivating, the camera following a journey to the top of a dilapidated building then back down again through a filthy stairwell. The music comes in later and it fits well to the mood of the surroundings: piles of cigarrettes, empty beer bottles, graffitti and chipped paint accent a melancholic urban environment, reflected in the rough, almost grungy timbre of the, well, grunge-like music. You can tell there's a lot fo times where the camera man just wants to film as much stuff as possible to see if it'll make for good imagery, and while it's not perfect, this part does show some potential.

Immediately afterwards is where HGT pulls the dragshoot for what feels like hours, zooming out of backyard furniture or walking down a road with maybe a car or two passing by, while the three words from the title occasionally pop up on screen where they reamin for a few minutes and disappear without nay rhyme or reason. During these long, incoherent shots of any random thing you could imagine, there's absolutely no music, just ambient sounds of the camera motor and the outdoors. There's an extended scene with the camera following a cat who peeks out from a house corner, then runs off, and while this part has some good shots to it and is somewhat amusing, it's still incredibly dull without the music.

Mercifully, a live show comes up eventually. It's very long, the setup is limited, and it's very apparent the whole thing was improvised, but after all that nothingness it's a welcome break. Plus it doesn't actually sound too bad; makes me want to do noise of my own. It's not a planned, atmospheric number, just some nerd exploring the sounds his guitar and pedals can make, with some good and bad results.

A longer period of padding follows. Form what I can remeber, this guy has a disturbing amount of care for filming himself shoveling out his snow-covered driveway, even going so far as to film it form two different angles (right first for a couple minutes, then left for a couple minutes, without any juxtaposition or variety). Then he goes on to film his ironically terrible shoveling job. There's also several long scenes where he shows off his shitty paintings, even one scene where all that happens is he cleans up his studio. Not even student art films get this boring or meaningless!

Somewhere along the line there's another, more rocky/less noisy live show, but it's only three songs and the whole set is shot horizontally i.e. the person(s) in frame are standing on the right side of the screen rather than the bottom. The music itself is pretty good, with a few flubs from the sound tech laughed off or ignored.

After this is the final, extremely LONG part of the film where even mroe dull, arbitrary and utterly music-less footage is shown. You see these two roomates do everything: bake cookies, drop some whit in the appartment, clean said apartment, bitch about mice coming in... they even show reversed & black and white footage of themselves eating cookies just to add in a few more seconds. This goes on for ages and of course by this point I'm just trying not to fall asleep.

The last shot, ironically one of the longest if not THE longest sections of the film, is a covered-up outdoor pool with some water on the tarp reflecting some trees. This one shot, although thankfully not static, accounts for not only what feels like then mintues of barely audible and uninteresting ambeint outdoors sounds, but also the credits reel which is very stretched out since there's only about five people to mention, so a name pops up maybe every five minutes, if not moreso. There's an actual track from I guess "Fashionista" that starts up about halfway into the shot, making a grand total of four real music/noise sections in this goddmaned video (counting the second live footage set as one section, although technically it is three songs), but I was so fucking tired I jsut fastforwarded it to the end where it haphazardly cut off, leaving a minute or two of black tape, and finally whatever leftover stuff was on the tape. It looks like some kind of 90' TBC made-for-tv movie on my copy.

And whatever movie that was would probably have been far more worth my time than what preceded it, but liek I said, I'm too tired to be bothered with it.

Thickly Painted Walls are worth looking into for their audio output, but as director(s?), they fail miserably at every convention of filmmaking, and then some. A majority of the film is blatent padding, and the extent to which nearly every shot has no visual interest, balance, organization or dpeth is truly astonishing in how utterly, painfully boring it is. The few live shows are interesting listens but only a fraction of each is truly worth a listen, and no intentionally made music or noise bits on this tape whatsoever are worth sitting through the rough hour total (maybe more) of uninteresting wastes of magnetic tape that amount to the majority of this film, that majortiy being pure visual shit. THis hsould have just been one live section after another, minimal bullshit if bullshti was needed, to keep it interesting. Not this mess. I hope nobody follows this trainwreck as an example of good filmmaking, noise or otherwise. Not again. Please, not ever again.

written by simple

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