Wednesday, November 5, 2003

My first ever guest blogger is Bram Janssen, a Welsh learning, Dutch teaching mate of mine from The Netherlands. We first met several years ago in an online community called Gorpies, and will meet face-to-face for the first time in February when we're going to a Jerry Goldsmith anniversary concert in London.

Bram emailed me earlier today with this review of Steve Stoll's album Public Address Life which he'd written to post on Amazon only to discover that they don't have that album listed. Rather than see it go to waste, I've put it here for your enjoyment.

I might have more guest bloggers in the future, if I can find any guests to blog for me.

I started listening to Public Address Life wondering what a life performance by Steve Stoll would be like, as usually life performances by techno-artists differ greatly from their studio performances. Techno-artists feel the urge to produce something especially artful and crafty when there is no audience but for the voices in their own heads. They want the future listener of their studio-album to exclaim something in the sense of: “Wow, this man understands both ecstasy and intelligence, both synthesizer-trance and minimal beats, both drum ‘n bass and house!” et cetera. The result is albums with sometimes too much variation and too little sway – no matter how attractive and talented the compositions.

Life performances usually give the listener the opposite, as they are to be danced to, to be swept along with, like a good movie or a tale told by a talented storyteller. A good life performance is like passionate lovemaking: with a promising start – a thoughtful, attractive corpus – a contemplative, sensual build-up – and an explosive, consuming finale.

Sure, the music on Steve Stoll’s studio-albums have a variety in tempo and atmosphere, but he ever sticks to what seems to be his great passion: undulating percussion. And nowhere does he present his passion better than on this record. This 48-minute long heartbeat. Stoll’s music is minimal and wholly percussionate. He never pauses for strings, dark voiceovers or samples. The beat simply goes on and on, undulating. The wonderful thing about Public Address Life is – whether you’re dancing to it, having it as background music (or heaven help me, making love to it) – after several minutes, the beat disappears. It has become one with the pounding of your heart, hás become the pounding of your heart. What remains is the rhythm: the rises and falls of the filters, the high hats, the build-ups and breakdowns. The passion. Steve Stoll’s passion, and now your passion.

In my opinion, Steve Stoll is the Béla Bartók of Electronic Dance Music, the Philip Glass of Techno. He understands that minimalistic music, like no other, is meant to be tóld. It is meant to evolve as the minutes pass, surely but slowly. Like a primate evolving into a human, like a drizzle into a rainstorm, yes, like a smile into an orgasm.

It turned out Steve Stoll’s life performances are not greatly different from his studio work. Yet where his studio-albums contain tracks like beads of similar texture yet separated from each other, this record is a string of them. A train on rails, and you are trying to keep up with it. A train never slowing down, never stopping, but disappearing into the horizon, as your energy runs out in the end. Leaving you staring after it, and breathing loud with the hangover of ecstasy.

This one gets five stars.

Bram Janssen

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Confessions of a closet film-maker

by Suw on November 5, 2003

About three months ago I read a short script on by a guy called Vincent. I was sitting at the dining room table downstairs on a weekend trip home from Reading and as I read the script I giggled and snarfed and guffawed like a maniac.

Vince wanted to cut the script by nearly a half, so I got my editorial head on and offered to take the red pen to it. Since then, he’s reviewed my first feature length script and a short, I’ve read his half-finished novel, and we’ve generally spent a lot of time discussing plot points, characterisation, writing and other stuff that tends to make our respective friends glaze over.

We’ve also discussed at length the making of this short film, currently known by the title Nothing Travels Faster Than Bad News. After three months of repeated offers to help out any which way I can, Vince finally caved in and has made me Co-Producer. (Foolish man!)

If you’re not a film buff and are wondering what a producer does, well, don’t worry – so did I. Basically, though, a producer organises everything from the casting to the locations to the sandwiches and cups of tea. The director (that’d be Vince) is the guy that actually tells the actors what to do.

Now, I was born with a notepad and pen in my hand, and a list of things to do at birth already written out: 1. learn to breath air, 2. scream a lot, 3. wriggle. I make lists the way other people make cups of tea (and I make cups of tea the way other people make… well, name an undrinkable liquid of your choice and you’ve got it).

So, the last few weeks, I’ve been making lists – characters we need to cast, locations we need to find, props and which locations they need to be in… I’ve started looking for music that we can use, cheap alternatives to hiring lights, digital mics. (Ok, well, I’m still looking for the mic.)

I’m on an elephant, I can tell you. Er, I mean, in my element. Most days it’s a struggle to actually get down to the tedious chores I ought to be doing instead of going through the script one more time, or making more lists of things to do. I could do this for a living, if someone paid me for it.

We’ve started casting now and have some locations almost sorted, so I feel as if we’ve begun to make some real progress in turning this film from ‘something we’re going to do’ into ‘something we’re doing’. Vince is story-boarding and tweaking the script, and I’m nagging his and my friends into helping out one way or the other.

(And if you fall into either of those categories and you want to help, let me know!)

I’ll keep you all up to date here as to what’s happening, but I’ve also started the Bad News Blog which both Vince and I can update. The character biographies and location list are both there already and we’ll be adding more info and news as and when we have it.

We expect to start shooting in the first quarter of 2004, and although there’s a very long way to go before we’re done I can't help but be excited by the challenge of doing something so new and different. I’ve started a new category on this blog now and I feel really quite chuffed to say that I am indeed making movies.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }