HAPPY MERDAY! Your co-editors wish you blankets of autumn leaves, wreaths of kitten-bound turtles, a harem of lamé-wearing Italian 80s TV pop stars, a barrel of the finest mocha with a side of bum-biscuits, dusted with poop jokes and polished with mermaid tears, delivered by a stampede of naked hobbits on WETA legs. Every day, we marvel at your ability to juggle music recording, editorship, cross-hemisphere time travel, and simply being there for your friends in times of need. You leave a path of growing dendrites wherever you go, inspiring all who surround you to do their best. Like watching a magician who outdoes herself with each new act, we shiver with ANTICI… (master-master-master)… PATION of The Parlour Trick album that you’re probably working on as we type these words, and everything else that you’ll accomplish in the year to come.

Birthday card by Paul Komoda, who’s pig-sitting Mer’s beloved Ingmar Superstar while she’s in New Zealand.

“The Music Scene” by Blockhead

Anthony Francisco Schepperd’s animated video for Blockhead’s “The Music Scene” imagines “a post human New York where TV and animals rule.” One could also describe it as a pop-culture fueled acid trip. With animals. It’s great either way.

Joshua Ellis Presents Dbasr

Most of you are familiar with the work of Coilhouse contributor Joshua Ellis. Perhaps you read his excellent article “Dark Miracle: Trinity, The Manhattan Project And The Birth Of The Atomic Agein Issue 02, or “Children by the Millions Wait for Alex Chiltonin Issue 04. He’s also been published in Mondo 2000, Make, and countless other fine publications. Additionally, he’s a musician and a web designer.

Josh has just launched a new project called Dbasr – a free, open-source content management system for musicians and other rich media artists. Dbasr aims to do for musicians what WordPress did for writers and artists – create a decentralized, customizable platform with an emphasis on flexible design options and usability.

Josh is uniquely qualified to undertake this sort of project owing to his experience as creative lead and co-founder of the now-defunct Mperia, a BitPass-founded, DRM-free online music store launched in the early 00s. Josh has described it as “a sort of radical iTunes where any artist could create a profile, upload their music, choose a price for each song and album, and sell it using BitPass’s payment system.” For complex reasons beyond the developers’ control, Mperia folded after four years. Since that time, Josh has been keeping an eye on more recent online stores and promo websites. He’s been doing his homework on interface and user experience, and has some excellent points concerning the various options musicians and fans currently have for presenting or perusing music online:

MySpace is ugly and clumsy, and music is shoehorned in as an afterthought to what the site was designed for […] Facebook is even worse. Music is just not what these sites are meant for. There are music-specific social-type network sites for bands, such as ReverbNation and Bandcamp. These are great tools for what they do, but I think they miss the point. Musicians — really any kind of artist — need their own unique presence online. Their web presence needs to match up with their individual aesthetic, and they need to be able to interact with their fans and publish work in ways that they and their fans choose.

Agreed.  A truly elegant, intuitive, multifunctional interface for presenting or buying independent music on the web has yet to surface. Click here to read what Josh has to say about his concept. Could DBASR could be be the site we’ve all been waiting for?

If you’ve enjoyed Josh’s work for Coilhouse, we’d like to invite to pitch in and help him devote himself to this project as if it were a full-time job. There are three ways that you can help – by donating to get the project going, contributing your coding skills, or simply spreading the word.

Questions? Opinions? Share them in comments.

Kane: Remaking A Masterpiece

Here on these internets doomsayer analysts and tech gurus have for years foreseen the death of the printed page, especially newspapers, those seemingly horrible vestiges of what many keep hoping is a bygone age. From a trance-like state they attempt to divine the future, devoting thousands of words to the subject, drunk on the smell of blood in their nostrils, slathering at the thought of a world devoid of ink. I suspect that I could hyperlink every other letter in this post without fear of running out of material.

The anti-hero of Mark Potts’ faux-trailer for faux-remake Kane understands this all too well. How precipitous the fall is of no consequence to him; what is assured is the fall itself and Kane will not be pushed aside without a fight. With that as its main thrust, Kane proceeds to exemplify everything one would expect from a modern remake of Orson Welles’s classic film. Kane poses a simple supposition: If Citizen Kane is the greatest film ever made, imagine an updated re-imagining with at least 100% more dick kicking.

What follows is funnier than it has any right to be. Welles’ Charles Foster Kane is replaced by a brooding, unshaven, gravelly-voiced vigilante, cutting a bloody swath on his way to destroying the internet; every fight occurring in a blurry series of flashy cuts, set to a selection from Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, giving way to The Pixies’s Where Is My Mind, to establish the proper pathos for a Fight Club generation. It covers nearly every cliche on the way to the finish line, even hitting us with an “In 3-D Fall” stinger. In all honesty it’s a bit disheartening when a scene like the one in which Kane, trembling with rage and bellowing in frustration, defecates on a Macbook seems like something that I can imagine being in a trailer for an actual film. Trust me, in a few years popular cinema may consist solely of angry men, shitting on things. You heard it here first, on the internet.

“Sumer Is Icumen In” (Wicker Man Version)

Happy Summer Solstice! Y’know, unless, like Sergeant Howie here, you’re not into that sort of thing…

SPOILER ALERT. Don’t watch if you haven’t seen The Wicker Man before! Rent the full film.

Summer is Icumen in,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
Grows the seed and blows the mead,
And springs the wood anew;
Sing, cuckoo!
Ewe bleats harshly after lamb,
Cows after calves make moo;
Bullock stamps and deer champs,
Now shrilly sing, cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo
Wild bird are you;
Be never still, cuckoo!

Sumer Is Icumen In“, a traditional English round, is one of the oldest known pieces of polyphonic music in existence, dating back to the early 13th century. It’s actually a song celebrating the advent of spring (or Christ’s crucfixion, depending on what translation you favor), not summer. Yet it always seems ends up in my stereo on June 21st.

The entire original Wicker Man soundtrack, arranged and recorded by Paul Giovanni and Magnet, is recommended listening on this, the longest day of the year.

An early Middle English form of notation, showing performers how to sing in a round.

BTC: In the jingle jangle mornin’…

G’day. We’re not sleepy, and there ain’t no place we’re going to, so here’s David Zellner blowing a raspberry in slow motion, as shot by Wiley Wiggins.*

*This post is my shamefully lazy subtle way of reminding the Coilhouse readership that Wiggins and the Zellner Bros are under-appreciated cinematic geniuses of our time. Now go. Explore. Lose hours and hours of your work day spelunking their respective websites.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Russian Ark

I must admit, I’m afraid I might be doing a great disservice with this week’s FAM. Not in the sense that the film chosen is of inferior quality or offensive; indeed I have plenty of those which I will no doubt post in the future, without any feelings of guilt. No, my unease comes with the inferior method of delivery. It arises from the fact that I may be exposing people to a film that should only be viewed in the highest possible fidelity which the above offering on YouTube is decidedly not.

Today’s FAM is Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark from 2002, a film that I might describe as “decadent” and “luscious” were I a man given to pithy, vague descriptors, which I assure you I am not [Editor’s Note: He is.] Filmed in one fluid take we follow the disembodied voice of our narrator (in actuality the voice of Sokurov) and unseen gentleman who intimates that he, in fact, died in a horrible accident. Accompanying him is “the European” (based on the Marquis de Custine). Together they explore the Winter Palace, which is now the centerpiece of the Russian Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. As they wander from room to room, so to do they wander through Russian history, though those well-versed in said history will note that events depicted are not in chronological order.

What follows is a technically astonishing [Editor’s Note: See?] piece of film-making. Meandering through 33 rooms and featuring over two thousand actors and three orchestras, the result is a history lesson within a dream. As such, it’s all the more frustrating to not be able to see all the small details present on the actors’ costumes are the information overload presented by the splendor of the Winter Palace. I urge you to track down a copy if you enjoyed it here as the experience is really night and day.

Les Rita Mitsouko

The music video for “Le Petit Train” by ’80s duo Les Rita Mitsouko was an elaborate production filmed in Bombay. Dancing her way through the infectiously upbeat tune, sari-clad frontwoman Catherine Ringer asks, “Petit train où t’en vas-tu? Train de la mort, mais que fais tu?” The lyrics speak of serpentine trains passing through the countryside, carrying children and grandparents “to the flames through the fields.” As the song reaches its climax, Ringer – whose father was an artist and a concentration camp survivor – trades the fixed smile of her Bollywood dance routine for close-ups that reveal tears flowing down her face while she continues to sing. Ringer’s background in avant-garde theater can be glimpsed in many of Les Rita Mitsouko’s music videos, which appear after the jump.

Les Rita Mitsouko was formed in the early 80s by Ringer and guitarist Fred Chichin in France. Early in their career, Ringer and Chichin had the fortune of working with two great producers: their eponymous first record was produced by Conny Plank, famous for his work with Kraftwerk, Neu and other various bands associated with krautrock. Their second album was Tony Visconti’s top pop project after David Bowie. A year later, the duo was featured in Jean-Luc Godard’s film Keep Your Right Up.

Many band biographies omit the fact that prior to her musical career, Catherine Ringer was an underage porn actress. If you Google this fact, you will find some shiiiit (literally) that’s highly NSFW. I bring this up because I find it empowering that Ringer went on to become one of France’s biggest pop stars (though they were arguably more popular elsewhere in Europe). Had they been an American act, would Les Rita Mitsouko have reached the same level of success? I think back to the heartbreaking interview that Marilyn Chambers gave a few years before she died, recounting with sadness a life of failed attempts to break into “straight” film, and have my doubts.

Tom Rubnitz: Sexy, Wiggy, Desserty

Feeling… peckish?

“I wanted to make things beautiful, funny and positive – escapes that you could just get into and laugh through. That was really important to me. I felt like good could triumph over evil.” –Tom Rubnitz

Glory be to the man behind the pickle, not to mention Strawberry Shortcut, Frieda the “Living Doll”, the original Wigstock:The Movie, and dozens of other delectable tidbits. Rubnitz died tragically young of AIDS in 1992, but his amazing video shorts have survived, and they’re such a joy to see.  Via Golden Age:

An expert in genre manipulation and campy hilarity, Rubnitz’s films could only have come from the eccentric East Village during the ‘80s New York art scene. Having grown up in a generation of television junkies as opposed to museum-goers, Rubnitz felt compelled to appropriate more from the mass media than the art world. He mixed drag queens with cooking shows, saluted motherhood with Frieda, the wholesomely creepy “living” doll, and consistently offered us a portal into unique and comical escapism.

Rubnitz worked with many talented musicians and artists in his films and videos, including the late John Sex, Happi Phace, the B-52s, Lipsynchia, Ann Magnuson, Quentin Crisp, Michael Clark, and Lady Bunny. Viewers will surly be enthralled by John Sex’s unique musical talent and sock-stuffed crotch as he performs with the Bodacious Ta-Ta’s in two music videos and is uncovered in a rockumentary called John Sex: The TrueStory. Rubnitz loved Drag Queens, which many of his films are a testament to. Wigstock: The Movie documents Lady Bunny’s annual event, “storywig-in,” a parody of Woodstock (particularly noteworthy is the rendition of Janis Joplin). And in the Drag Queen Marathon participants are pitted against each other to see who can endure relentless photo opportunities.

These glitzy, hallucinogenic shorts paint a loving portrait of the East Village, a regular of nightlife hot spots like Club 57 and the Pyramid Club. Since we live in an equally politically bleak time, Rubnitz’s films may feel strangely contemporary to us as they offer a glimpse into the repressed underground hedonism of the New York underground scene during the Reagan era. Alternative artist spaces, which were characteristic of the East Village, weren’t simply stepping-stones to becoming commercial galleries. They fostered a genuine alternative to the dominant culture of the time.

Still from Strawberry Shortcut.

A while back, the time-honored Chicago-based Video Data Bank institution started offering Sexy, Wiggy, Desserty— a compilation of all of Rubnitz’s most beloved underground hits. I have a feeling it must have been a limited release, because it’s currently selling on the Golden Age website for a whopping 50 bucks! I’m not finding it anywhere else for less. If any of you guys have better luck, please give me a shout. Otherwise I may just bite the pickle and shell out fiddy clams… happily! Rubnitz & Co are totally worth it.

Also see:

Near The Egress

Since I would merely be cribbing their words anyway I shall allow lens culture (who is also selling the DVD) explains the mechanics of photographer/animator Antonio Martinez’s Near the Egress:

First, Antonio Martinez spent a lot of time at a traveling circus, shooting dozens of rolls of 35mm black-and-white film. Then he made over 800 modern dryplate tintypes from the negatives, and then scanned them digitally, and then sequenced them artfully to produce this experimental stop-motion video.

The result of all this photography and video manipulation is a bizarre fever-dream of a circus, something one would imagine entertaining the dead in an afterlife set in a David Lynch film. In other words, it’s fantastic. The project took Martinez 4 years to complete and I would say that the end result has been absolutely worth the time and effort it took to create.