Rotterdam is both the home of musician Jochem Paap aka Speedy J, and the visual source for much of the industrial textures used on this luscious high end DVD. High-end both because it’s an audiovisual production in HD with 5.1 surround sound audio, and because of the sophisticated graphic treatment it is given by the visual half of the producers – Scott Pagano ( who also co-curated the excellent Reline DVD series of clip compilations – reviewed previously). Nicely, the DVD is also available as a free downloadable dvd disk image at umfeld.tv ( though it’s quite a hefty download). The DVD comes with many extras though, including a documentary with Jochem explaining how the step from mono to stereo was much smaller than the step from stereo to 5.1, and how the project was based upon that from the ground up, while Scott explains some of the visual processes he employed to create ‘an abstract graphic piece that is an hour long’.
Admittedly I’m without a 5.1 system to listen to it ( Jochem insists the project should be listened to in the sweet spot of a 5.1 sound system ), but the sound quality is quite impressive even on a stereo system – a gnarled, moody, quickly shapeshifting soundtrack of quite some grunt and density. Matching the sound’s intensity, the visual overload plays the industrial look of Rotterdam well, meshing the geometries of rusted buildings with flickering close-ups, textures that morph from into another, sharp angular layering and machine-speed masking out of imagery. The aim for the DVD was to draw on the dynamic arc of a feature film, but one hour is a long time for such a dense abstract visual style to maintain interest, so it’s to their credit that for the most part, Umfeld remains an engaging experience.