While on a mission to liberate a copy of the March 1968 issue of Avant Garde Magazine, (I'm working on the entire series, sparked by Mon Chaton giving me Issue #3 for X-Mas), I picked up the catalog for the 1965 MOMA show, The Responsive Eye. Although not what I was looking for, a very nice consolation prize. The show in question was a showcase of the then crystallizing Op-Art movement, which had been slowly gathering steam since the mid-30s.
What drew me in to the slim bookr is the Bridget Riley piece wrapped around the softcover. I've grown to admire Riley's work quite a bit ever since my introduction to her through the back of the Faust Tapes album cover. The interesting fact about Riley that sealed my fandom is that she first adapted her sterile, clean and emotionless style after a failed romance. Imagine being so devastated by the loss of love that for nearly a decade, all works produced were devoid of color and exhibited such a cold and calculated lack of feeling, while still filled with passion and able to evoke a response in the viewers mind and heart. The painting above, Fall (1963), is from the earliest of that period, and with the further understanding of the artist's world, we gain new insight into their works.
Riley believed that the art happened in the space between the canvas and the eye of the viewer, and across the Atlantic, a similar idea was beginning to gather force at the cinema...
Jean-Luc Godard had already made waves with the release of A Bout de Souffle in 1960, shocking audiences with it's as to for unseen editing techniques and self referencing. Godard was part of a movement in film that assumed it's audience to be intelligent enough to realize they were watching a series of still pictures, edited together to form a narrative. He rejected the Hollywood aesthetic of forcing the audience's reaction with dramatic pandering. Along with Truffaut's Les Quatre Cent Coups and Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amore, A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) heralded the birth of the Nouvelle Vague, which reached it's most accessible peak with Godard's Bande A Part.
Equal parts comedy, drama and film noir, Bande A Part references not only itself and other films, but also pulls heavily from the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, and the surrealist writings of Aragon and Andre Breton. Described by Godard as Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka, and by his critics as a Godard film for those who don't care for Godard, I rewatched Bande A Part this weekend as a part of my black and white movie marathon. In the 5-7 years since I last saw this film, I must have gained quite a perspective, as I was glued to the screen this time through, and would probably now place it in my top 10 films, and favorite of Godard's work, period.
So what does all this have to do with the albums I'm about to post? Maybe the idea of action taking place between the performer and the audience fits the conceptual approach of the following artists like a glove...
First up is Italian slow core darlings Larsen, who's mysterious antics reach past the simple ideas of performer/audience separation all the way into the studio. Apparently, when underground Prince of Misery M. Gira first traveled to Europe to record Larsen's debut, the band chose to hide behind a white curtain during the entire process, cutting even the producer/label owner out of the clique. For their second album, Play
, Larsen drew inspiration and melodic cues from the equally shrouded Brit avant electro duo Autechre. If anything could ever top Kronos Quartet covering Eno's Music for Airports, you are about to hear it.
Blowing in on the Norwegian winds is death free jazz anti "group" Supersilent. Originaly conceived as a once off improv during the 1997 Bergen Jazz Festival, Supersilent continued to push boundaries with their second release, entitled simply, 4
. This record, as all of their efforts, foregoes any titles to alleviate the listener of preconceptions. Also true to form, 4 is compiled from hours and hours of live tape with minimal overdubs, as the band never "writes or practices" songs, or even speaks a word to one another outside performances.
Finally, I give you the master of treated guitar, Christian Fennesz, and his most recent effort, Venice
. The long awaited follow up to his break through Endless Summer, Fennesz slyly continues to hint at melody, while briefly joined on his sojourn by David Sylvan, which may be the greatest pairing since Fripp and Eno. This record will wash over you like a half remembered dream several times before making a full appearance in waking consciousness. Allow time for full effect to take hold.
SPECIAL BONUS RECORD FROM MR. A...
Paik - Monster of the Absolute
Paik's most recent record builds on Satin Black's strengths in song/suite dynamic build. Highly recomended.