It’s not even May yet; but I’m tempted to call it early– “Elemental Shift,” the opening DVD-R volley from new label Table of Contents, may very well be the best noise release of the year. Unfortunately limited to 250, I’ve begun treating my promo copy with kid gloves, thankful it had somehow arrived safely through the mail with only a thin cardboard shield to protect it.
I’m not usually anywhere near this finicky.
What’s got me so worked up is Cichocki’s seamless blending of video and sound. Although it would be a stretch to define me as a visually-oriented person, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to suggest that “Elemental Shift” is a work that not only would be lessened greatly by the absence of picture or sound, but would be fundamentally transformed through either loss. I can also say that this is certainly not an hour-long music video– in fact, it is exceptionally difficult to determine which sounds or visuals may have preceded, as they inform and shape each other throughout.
I’m not certain I possess the visual vocabulary to describe “Elemental Shift” adequately, but I have to try! For starters, there are a lot of extremely quick cuts fashioned into loops. I don’t know if these have been constructed from individual film frames or photographs, but the results rely heavily on our persistence of vision, creating pulsing layers of eye-blinding activity. Initially, Cichocki seems to go no further than quickly revealing one image after another, but he has a real talent for selecting images that reflect the tone of the accompanying electronic scree and clearly is not operating in a random manner. In this sense, the visuals follow the music, providing a harmonious optical quality, if extraordinarily frenetic.
For me, one highlight was the use of a Wal-Mart shopping cart in a portion of the video. Viewed entirely through the hexagonal mesh of the basket, Cichocki takes us on a hyper-speed tour of the store, enhancing that tunnel vision attention-deficit state so encouraged by the bombardment of corporate messages upon store patrons.
However, where Cichocki really gets going is when the visuals encourage the sound itself. Having always found noise art to be a somewhat “rooted” music, I was thrilled to see how Cichocki’s use of successive frames (and even motive-based iconography such as traffic arrows) could impart a tactile sense of movement to the sounds. Whereas previously something I might have perceived something like “wall sound” as an immobile block, now I could imagine it as having purpose and direction. It’s interesting, to say the least, and will definitely have me re-examining many aspects of noise.
I took dozens of screen captures from the DVD, none of which come close to providing an accurate representation of “Elemental Shift” any more than a drawing of a rose might conjure its scent. If you try looking at all of them at once, you might get close. Those familiar with the accompanying videos for Merzbow performances will be surprised to find Masami Akita’s work a mere jumping-off point for “Elemental Shift,” and far less detail-oriented as well.
Finally, I should add that I don’t recommend this DVD-R to epileptics. Table of Contents seems somewhat aware of this in their press release, but I think it should be mentioned in a serious manner. If you’re prone to this sort of thing, stay far away!
For the rest of you, however, I can’t recommend “Elemental Shift” more highly.