We Made Our Own Disaster ( Nom Nom Chomsky )

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Good times! Film-maker Robin Mahoney and bass meister Si Begg have a new full length DVD out!

The Executive Summary
We Made Our Own Disaster, A study of fascism in late 20th Century democracies : By Robin Mahoney and Si Begg, out now through Optronica (UK group founded in 2004 by artists/producers Addictive TV and curators Cinefeel ).
DVD, Dolby 5.1, 66 minutes.

Rewinding to The Noodles Foundation
If unfamiliar with the turn of the millenium era ‘Death Of Cool’ compilation series, browsing sibegg.com/noodles should give a good indication of what goes through the head of Si Begg when he’s not sculpting monster basslines and synth earworms (Actually, one step better – listen to 30 second snippets from each track on ‘The Complete Death of Cool’, which combined the best Noodling via the Leaf label ). Somehow those compilations managed to blend sonic sophistication, chunky basslines and quirky British humour into some sort of lovable mutant electronica. And at some point, they also released ‘a blitzkrieg assault of scratchpunk videos to feed your desktop’ entitled Ho-FuN – ‘The Smallest Film Festival In The World’.

Live Cinema and Dancefloor friendly DVDs?
Inevitably then, this study of fascism is more Ali G than Adam Curtis ( famed BBC documentary maker ). It’s best moments harness the curatorial judgments of the editors ( digital crate diggers, represent! ), their technical flair ( there are some captivating sonic and visual transitions) and the underlying dry British humour which milks televisual moments for every absurdity, horror, and occasionally sublime flavour. Midway through for example, a TV cabaret snippet is transformed beautifully, loop-stretched, as a zoom zeroes in, until eventually cross-fadeing into a clip of a cat spinning in zero gravity with a trainee astronaut. And some of the material is great by itself, such as a series of everyday characters staring awkwardly into the camera. There are many such golden moments, but on the flipside, the continual leaning to the dancefloor ( letting faster music and beats drive the editing, overly repetitive sample use etc ), diminishes its appeal as a DVD ( given the inevitable comparisons with cinema grade production levels and screenwriting ).

As a DVD, this is a notch above many of the video mixtapes now abundant online – you don’t get to be veterans of collage without learning a few tricks. That said, the idea of a remix compilation based around mostly archival footage and nostalgic tv commercials is a less compelling idea today than it was a dozen years ago, and the ability to lure eyeballs away from fragments online to something longer form, really depends on the quality, coherence and originality of the overall vision. There’s plenty of adventure to be had on the disc and Sibegg’s soundscaping for the most part plays a great part in binding everything together, but some of the disc’s techniques are quite dated, such as mixing of badly keyed footage, certain visual effects and a stuttery on/off approach to vocal samples that becomes annoying after a while. Why the repetitive triggering and re-triggering of samples, when there can be much more sophisticated and fluid sequencing possibilities used in the live terrain ( eg final scratch / Serato / Ableton Live sequencing video clips with midi, max for live used with jitter etc )? Maybe this is a result of the DVD being edited with traditional editing software, rather than explored with real-time processes? Who knows? Anyways, yes, more Nom Nom than Noam, but a fun and commendable effort, and another reminder that creating live cinema, or ambient cinema that can be tuned in and out of like music, is actually pretty difficult.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanx for the review. It sounds like an interesting DVD nonetheless, regardless of the flaws you mentioned. Do you happen to have any recommendations on DVD or online of other cut-up / collage work I should check out if I’m interested in this technique?

    best regards
    -Vibeke

  2. Hi Vibeke – it’s a fun DVD, it just made me think a bit more about the challenges of making a good ‘ambient watching dvd’…

    There’s a whole world of AV material – depends on your tastes I suppose – what are you looking for?

    A long time favourite feature film ( made with a DJ’s sensibility ) is Lucky People Centre International… I’ve mentioned that here, along with some related films..
    http://www.skynoise.net/2010/03/18/visual-rhythms-by-two-eriks-johan/

    I love this Gangpol Und Mit DVD – though it’s more a collection of animations than collage.. they do perform live as an AV duo though, and they have an interesting very audio driven aesthetic..
    http://www.skynoise.net/2010/10/15/gangpol-und-mit-faits-divers-dvd/

    ( More DVDs reviewed here: http://www.skynoise.net/category/dvd/)

    And was asked to put a bio here recently, and found myself listing a whole range of AV pioneers, as well as some of my favourite directors..
    http://www.scatterblog.com/blog/about/jean-poole/

    eg Gustav Deustch, whose Film Ist series is a very beautiful collage collection..

    Current performing collagists? DJ Yoda (UK ) and Sampology ( Aus ) are worth a search

    That should keep you busy for a bit… : )

    ( And let me know if you know of any work you think I’d like.. )

    cheers!

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