Trent Reznor & Erik Satie: Majestic Angst-Bros of Minor Key Minimalism

Editor’s Note: This gem of a submission from writer/proto-ambient scholar/fervent NIN-lover Matt Keefer was discovered several tiers deep during a recent trawl of the Coilhouse slush account. It’s an offbeat and spirited piece, simultaneously comparing and cross-referencing the musical and philosophical kinship inherent between Erik Satie and Trent Reznor, and issuing several preemptive strikes against any and all Would-Be Jaded Hipster Remonstrators. (Also, somehow, on a profound level, it feels like the perfect blog follow-up to that horrifying “Keyboard Cat In Hell” clip Ross just posted). Thank you, Matt. Keep on angstin’ on, comrades.

Trent Reznor is the rightful successor to the great Erik Satie. Don’t let yourself ignore this plain and obvious fact because you are embarrassed of your youth. And no, Trent isn’t disqualified from this lofty inheritance by his perpetual unhappiness. Satie had it just as bad.

In the Spring of 1893, the ever-eccentric Monsieur Erik began a torrid affair with the artist and model Suzanne Valadon. An odd duck in her own right, Madame Valadon kept a goat at her studio to gobble up any of her work that she was unhappy with. After only a single night with Valadon, Erik proposed; the marriage never happened (or if it did, the records of such were later eaten by said goat), but Valadon did move to the room next to Satie’s at the Rue Cortot in Paris. Satie became increasingly obsessed with Valadon, often referring to her as his nanny-goat and filling notebooks with worshipful scrawlings about “her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet.” Indeed, Satie composed his Danses Gothiques as a calmative to restore his composure in the face of the amorous frenzies that Valadon inspired in him. In turn, Valadon painted a portrait of Satie and gifted it to him:

Portrait of Erik Satie by Suzanne Valadon. Who can resist the Pince-Nez? WHO?

Sadly, six months later, the affair ended. One chilly winter evening Valadon vanished, leaving Satie with only his portrait and a broken heart to remember her by. Satie snapped, scrawling in the latter pages of his journals that nothing remained for him “but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness.” This is the only intimate relationship that Satie ever had. He would later move to a room in Arcueil and in the 27 years before he drank himself to death, there is no record of anyone visiting his room.

A Conversation Between Alan Moore and Brian Eno (2005)

Via E. Stephen and Jeff Newelt comes this link to a transcript of Alan Moore interviewing Brian Eno, which originally aired six years ago on Chain Reaction, a radio series on BBC Radio 4:

“A well-known figure from the entertainment industry begins the series interviewing the person of their choice. The following week the interviewee becomes interviewer and chats to their chosen guest. And so on and so on. In January 2005, the comedian Stewart Lee interviewed Alan Moore (transcript available at Comic Book Resources). The next week it was Alan Moore’s turn to become the interviewer. His chosen subject was some one who had obviously been a huge influence on his life for over thirty years… Brian Eno.”

Unsurprisingly, it’s a fascinating and insightful conversation.

Listen to the broadcast recording here.

Dial-up Modem Sound Slowed Down 700% Using Paulstretch

Dial-up modem sound slowed 700% by Darkfalky, ampoule using PaulStretch. Eerie, sinister, incredibly beautiful.

via Ariana Osborne

Also see:

Resonance: Where Sound Meets Geometry

RESONANCE from Resonance on Vimeo.

In the 11-minute clip above, mind a group of over 30 animators and sound artists teamed up to create short pieces between 12 and 20 seconds with the aim to “explore the relationship between geometry and audio in unique ways.”

The result is a series of warped, surreal sound visualizations. Twitching biomechanical amoebae, self-assembling fractal cubes, watery UFOs, motile blinking rubbery art-gallery showpieces,

[via raindrift]

Paper Theatre Brought to Life with Light: The Ice Book

The Ice Book (HD) from Davy and Kristin McGuire on Vimeo.

If one were to combine the magic of pre-cinematic optical illusions, the childlike wonder associated with vintage pop-up books and the aesthetic sense of both Russian fairy tales and eerie German Expressionist films, one might hit upon the luminous production that is husband and wife team Davy and Kristin’s McGuire’s The Ice Book.

Blending elements of film, animation, theater, puppetry, installation art and “good old-fashioned illusions”, The Ice Book is described by its creators as a “… miniature theatre show made of paper and light… An exquisite experience of fragile paper cutouts and video projections that sweep you right into the heart of a fantasy world. It is an intimate and immersive experience of animation, book art and performance.”

Says Davy:

“We created the show during a four month artist residency at the Kuenstlerdorf Schoeppingen in Germany. All we had was a 5D Mark ii, an old Macbook with After Effects, some builders lights and a green cloth that we improvised as a makeshift green-screen. Before we started we had no idea how to make pop-up books let alone how we could combine them with projections. With a lot of care, love and arguing the idea eventually came to life.

The idea for the Icebook was to create a miniature maquette for this dream – a demonstration model to show to producers and other funders in the hope that they would give us some money to make the full scale show. (And we still hope that this will come true one day!) The Icebook has since however, grown its own legs and turned into a miniature show all by itself. An intimate performance for small audiences.

We love the old pre-cinematic optical illusions, such as zoetropes and magic lanterns, and the magical way in which they can mesmerise audiences through basic mechanics. Rather than simply projecting images onto a screen, we wanted to create an object with a life of its own – a tangible and magical “thing” for an audience to experience.”

Check below the cut for various haunting vignettes clipped from the production, as well as a beautifully illuminating “before and after” montage which briefly highlights the steps taken to achieve the  icy, ethereal effects viewed in the final production. For more behind the scenes peeks, as well as touring information, see the following links:

“NERVOUS96” by Bill Domonkos (Original Music by Jill Tracy and Paul Mercer)

Happy Friday the 13th! A lucky day for us, to be sure– in addition to Ross’s regular installment of the FAM, Coilhouse is proud to present NERVOUS96, a new, suspenseful, next-to-silent retro sci-fi short by director Bill Domonkos.

Inspired by original musical seance recordings by longtime ‘Haus favorite Jill Tracy, and the deliciously spooky violin of Paul Mercer, Domonkos has taken vintage footage and repurposed it to present the tale of a frantic, lonely woman, increasingly overwhelmed by debt and uncertainty in a world where technology has become increasingly invasive, even menacing. His “complex chiaroscuro style marks a marriage between silent-era special effects master George Méliès and the digital age.”

“Single white female. Lonely, Seeking soul mate. Humanoid preferred…”

From the NERVOUS96 press release:

Known for his distinctive craft of manipulated archival footage combined with 2D and 3D computer animation, special effects, and photography, Jill Tracy fans best know Bay Area filmmaker Bill Domonkos for the multiple award-winning “The Fine Art of Poisoning,” and his collection of acclaimed videos for legendary masked band The Residents.

The Fine Art of Poisoning,” (set to Jill Tracy’s seminal song) has become a cult favorite, garnering praise from Clive Barker, Guy Maddin, writer Warren Ellis, and well-over 100,000 views on YouTube, and a recent screening at London’s famed National Gallery.

Domonkos was completely inspired by pianist Jill Tracy and violinist Paul Mercer’s “Musical Séance,” a poignant live project that employs the duo’s astonishing channeled improvisations. Domonkos meticulously crafted excerpts from actual séance recordings to create the emotional voice of the “NERVOUS96” character.

Here ’tis:

NERVOUS96 from Bill Domonkos on Vimeo.

(Click those arrows on the right to watch it full screen.) The musical score for NERVOUS96 is also available for download on Bandcamp. Congratulations to Domonkos/Tracy/Mercer on this sharp and toothsome indie triumph.

Fundraising Push for “The Sea of Trees” by Joshua Zucker-Pluda

At long last, Coilhouse fave Joshua Zucker-Pluda is finishing up his film about Aokigahara Jukai (The Sea of Trees), Japan’s forest of suicides.  Subsidized by grants from the New York Foundation of the Arts (NYFA), the NYSCA, and the Jerome Foundation, production on The Sea of Trees began two years ago. The footage is, like everything else Zucker-Pluda creates, haunting and beautiful.

Some background information from Zucker-Pluda on Aokigahara Jukai, and his film’s content:

When Mount Fuji erupted for the second time, in 864 A.D., lava streamed down its northeastern face and into the lake at its base. The area was transformed into a volcanic plateau and in the centuries that followed, evergreen and beech trees grew; their roots clawed the moss-covered rocks, siphoning nutrients and water. A fifteen-square-mile forest was formed: Aokigahara Jukai, the Sea of Trees. Today its trees are so numerous and densely packed that they block out the sunlight and wind. Their roots intertwine, forming gnarled nests of strands shooting in every direction. The foliage absorbs all sound. Walking through the forest, it is impossible to see the sky beyond the canopy or to determine one direction from another. The magnetic materials in the igneous rocks are said to render compasses useless.

The first recorded suicide in Aokigahara Jukai took place in 1340. A Buddhist monk named Shohkai installed himself in one of the forest’s caves in order to perform nyujoh, a fasting ritual meant to purify and, eventually, kill oneself. Other monks followed his example. The popularity of the Aokigahara Jukai as a place to die grew such that, in 1971, local officials and residents established annual patrols for bodies. In 1993, Wataru Tsurumi published The Complete Manual of Suicide, which suggests killing oneself in the forest and includes directions, hotel recommendations, a map, and advice on evading police and local residents. “Your body will not be found,” he writes. “You will become a missing person and slowly disappear from people’s memory.” The book sold millions of copies.

A still from The Sea of Trees.

They say that the spirits of the dead inhabit the trees, that wild dogs roam, that a dragon makes his den in one of the caverns. Abandoned backpacks, bottles, and cell phones sit on patches of lichen. Electrical tape snakes across the forest floor, marking the paths of those who meant to return to the outside. Glacial Apollo butterflies flutter between the branches. Thickets of disc-shaped mushrooms ring the trunks of alder trees. Bush warblers emit their indifferent song. The snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji, which has been dormant for three hundred years, looms above, invisible.

The Sea of Trees explores the Japanese forest where the spirits of suicides linger, silence reigns and compasses fail.

(Chills? Yeah. Me, too.)

Since Zucker-Pluda began his long, often challenging artist-on-a-shoestring journey into the Sea of Trees, other Aokigahara coverage has been completed and covered here. While informative and touching in narrative, that footage doesn’t begin to capture the sublime, often chilling beauty of Aokigahara Jukai. Meanwhile, JZ-P has an astounding eye for composition, pacing, mood. Since the early 00s, he has been consistently producing work in a variety mediums that is reminiscent of Herzog, Tarkovsky, Lynch.

This film is going to be something very rare and special.

A still from The Sea of Trees.

Grant money can only go so far; now Zucker-Pluda needs to raise funds for post-production. Most immediately, he’s hoping to start work on translating all of the interviews from Japanese to English. And so, yet again, it’s indie crowd-sourcing to the rescue. (Gotta love Kickstarter.)

If, through the years, you’ve enjoyed Zucker-Pluda’s phenomenal Roadside Picnic Podcast (a new episode just went up, by the way!), here’s the perfect way to say thank you. He just needs a wee boost. To the Kickstarter, comrades.

The Music of Jupiter

An oldy but a goody, posted both for those who have never heard it, and those who have heard it a hundred times already. The serene and mysterious ambient music of Jupiter as captured by NASA Voyager:

These sounds are the result of “the complex interactions of charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind, planetary magnetosphere, etc.” (Via Andy Ristaino, thank you.)

There’s something deeply comforting and astonishing about this, isn’t there? Our universe is so far from silent. A wide range of heavenly bodies are constantly emitting unique electromagnetic signals that we can pick up and process, provided we have the right instruments. The stars do sing.

Transcendent Sensory Walls of Sound

thisquietarmy, “Melted Lead on Ashen Fields”

Hypnotic auditory chaos: ethereal and majestic, vast and layered, reshaped and looped, and wound throughout with intertwining melodic passages – Eric Quach’s  transcendent soundscapes are the “kind of sound that droneheads and ambient fans dream about”.

Guitarist and founding member of the Montreal-based instrumental shoegaze & post-rock band Destroyalldreamers, the self-taught auditory/visual experimentalist  is also known for his work as thisquietarmy, a solo effort which started as a side-project of Destroyalldreamers in 2005, and became his main project in 2008. On various labels in Europe and North America, Eric has released several albums, a handful of EPs and several collaborations with artists such as Aidan Baker (Nadja), Scott Cortez (lovesliescrushing) & Yellow6.

Mains de Givre is a recent side-project of thisquietarmy that began in 2009, with violinist Émilie Livernois-Desroches (formerly of Profugus Mortis). The dark fruit of this union, Esther Marie, released in 2010 , was reviewed by Silent Ballet as a “… beautiful, haunting journey through swirling textures and moods…” ; an eerie snippet from the opening track can be heard in the short promotional video below, created by Meryem Yildiz.   Coilhouse readers with long memories may remember Meryem from a previous feature.

Quach is also involved in a number of  other projects, to include Parallel Lines, a ‘krautgaze’ trio where he’s joined by Ryan Ferguson on synths and Pascal Asselin on drums , and Ghidrah, a noise trio featuring thisquietarmy alongside Aun and Maggot Breeder.

On collaborative efforts, Eric shares:

“…the resulting chemistry and musical surprises of collaborations are often completely unmatched as they can exceed my artistic vision and expectations, and that’s what I thrive for when it comes to collaborating with one or several other artists. It usually either works really well, or it doesn’t at all.

“The more there are people involved in my projects, the more my artistic vision becomes impaired, and the more I lose control of the entity. I am a control freak, but I don’t possess the leadership ability to impose dictatorship upon others. The best way to remedy this issue was to have a project of my own and work strictly alone. Naturally, thisquietarmy became the project that has the most leeway in every aspect, and that I’ve put the most miles on so far.”

A Telling of the Tale of Tales

The PATH —– Launch Trailer
from Tale of Tales on Vimeo.

Belgian avant-garde Game Developers Tale of Tales have made a name for themselves as an independent game development studio, creating genre defying art-games. Armed with ambitious vision and an unrelenting sense of artistic integrity, Tale of Tales co-founders Michaël Samyn and Auriea Harvey cater to an audience outside of mainstream gamers providing complex, meaningful gameplay experiences, and offering a “different kind of story” for “a different kind of people”.

One of their first offerings, The Endless Forest, is a multi-player game set in a soothing, bucolic landscape; there are no goals to achieve, or rules to follow – “just run through the forest and see what happens.”

The Graveyard, launched in 2008, is a short tale which places the player in control of an old woman traversing a straight and narrow path  across a gloomy graveyard. It is described as “an icon” of the studio’s work as a result of the game’s “apparent simplicity and vagueness”.

Tale of Tales next endeavor, The Path, is loosely categorized as “adventure-horror”  and was inspired from the classic fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood.  There is one rule in the game, which needs to be broken. There is but one goal. And when you attain it, you die. It is  “a  game about playing, and failing, about embracing life, perhaps by accepting death.” The legendary SWANS member Jarboe, along with multitalented co-composer Kris Force, provide an dynamic, unsettling narrative and score.

Based on Oscar Wilde’s Salome, a  play banished from the stages for over 50 years, Fatale is the studio’s latest gaming project.  An interactive 3D vignette, it offers the same sort of “observational immersionist” approach that Tale of Tales has become known for.  The player is encouraged to “explore a living tableau filled with references to the legendary tale and enjoy the moonlit serenity of a fatal night in the orient.”

2010 saw the release by Tale of Tales of Vanitas,  an app for iPhone and iPod touch.  Referencing the still life paintings from the 16th and 17th century, Vanitas presents one with a  3D box filled with “intriguing objects…to create pleasant arrangements that inspire and enchant”, and is touted as a “a memento mori for your digital hands.”  The app includes random quotations on the topic of life and vanity and music by avant cellist Zoë Keating.

Michael and Auriea graciously gave of their time to provide a thought-provoking look into the passionate philosophies behind Tale of Tale’s creative projects. See below the cut for the full interview.