Video by Ryan Molloy

This was originally written in triptophonic (is there a proper word for 3 channel?) sound, for three 80s-style mono TVs, each running video, for a total of 10 minutes. Installed in the Crisis show at Detroit Industrial Projects.

Below is a version edited down one screen for a much shorter 2:45. It was accepted into the 2009 OneDotZero festival.

In the Veneerists, Ryan considers the growing use of (graphic) design to sell products, and ultimately, a lifestyle, in post WWII America. The industrial boom prompted by the war resulted in a surplus of goods, which, in order to be moved into consumer hands, required the shift from function and necessity to physical attractiveness and social desirability. In these videos (assembled here into a semi-narrative montage), Ryan presents design as both a filmic element as well as an encroaching, insidious character.

This contrast of blithe 1950s optimism with the darker underbelly of consumerism immediately brought to mind David Lynch films, and in turn, the music of Roy Orbison (since Lynch films were my gateway to Orbison, it’s hard to say whether there’s something genuinely dark about his music or whether I’m mapping Lynch’s noir onto Orbison’s seemingly cheery tunes). The entire (musical) piece is based in a very loose way on Orbison’s “In Dreams.” The original is 10 minutes, in four two and a half minute “movements,” the first being a slightly more faithful reworking of “In Dreams”. From there, it moves into a darker, more modern piece, and then folds in looped audio from the original source footage that Ryan worked from, culminating (of course) in final movement that works with elements of the previous three.

This is probably far more than you really wanted to know.

I think Ryan’s videos are really nuanced and interesting, though, and worth a little jawboning on my part.

Paintings, Drawings, Cut Paper Installation by Amy Sacksteder

This was sort of the song that started it all. At the time, it was a bit of a departure. The first time I played it for Amy she practically swooned, suggesting that it sounded like a ghost town, which henceforth became its name. It happened to fit really well with the feel of an installation she was doing for a show, so she ended up including the original version of the song in it

It was that initial burst of excitement on her part that helped kick me into gear in terms of thinking about the songs I was working on in a more serious way.

Song notwithstanding, the installation was awesome.

Ghost Town (original mix)

Short Film by Jennifer Seibert & Brian Lillie

For this project, Val and I were tasked with writing a goofy, ironic song to be playing in the background at a coffee house in a scene from Edenwood, a tongue-in-cheek neo-Western sendup of American consumerism. Sara Jackson wrote the lyrics for “Low-hanging Fruit” comprised entirely of CorporateSpeak. Ultimately, neither Val nor I could come up with something sufficiently goofy, but we did take several different approaches.

Coffee house/Portishead

I think this one could have worked nicely. It (a) totally sounds like something you would actually hear in a coffee house and (b) the contrast between the overdramatically serious music with the light-hearted lyrics is sufficiently subtle so as to be interesting. You might miss the joke entirely if you’re not paying close attention.

Indie rock

There wasn’t any really good reason for this. It’s a little Shins-meets-Wolf-Parade. The lyrics supply the requisite sonic moustache.

Cock rock

This was…perhaps a moment of giddiness? Or one of frustration? I never thought this would be a good candidate, but must have had the need to get a total crap radio metal song out of my system. I was, in point of fact, laughing my ass off whilst playing the solo.

Radio-style neo-R&B

This was the most boring watered-down not-too-depressing we could get. I don’t like it, but I also don’t like what’s on the radio usually, so it’s kind of effective. Right?

Acoustic

This was more of a jumping off point than finished product. Included here largely for completeness.

And, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the trailer for Edenwood

Some years back I spent an afternoon hanging out with Brian Lillie, and these 3 songs just sort of popped out. We never went anywhere with them, but for never having played together before, and recording on one mic live, I was pretty happy with how these turned out.

Happy Sunny Afternoon Kinda Song

This is like the 10th incarnation of this song

Hypnotic, Sort of Mogwai-ish

Art Installation by Melissa Dettloff

First things first, you’re gonna need to check out the Severed Unicorn Head Superstore (for all your severed unicorn head needs!).

Melissa is one half of the proprietors of the aforementioned Superstore (Mark Maynard being the other half). In Summer 2008 she had an art opening/birthday bash celebrating our good friend the Severed Unicorn Head (SUH), showcasing a variety of fibers-based SUH artifacts. My job was to write the birthday music.

It probably seems overly obvious, but I thought to go with a classic, the much celebrated Happy Birthday. Until sitting down to play it, I never really noticed how FUCKING WEIRD it is. How did this song become the sound of our nativity? It’s a strange rhythm and rather discordant. So, since a Severed Unicorn Head birthday party should feel a little like a bad acid trip, it only made sense that it should sound an extended intro to a Butthole Surfers CD (i.e. a bad acid trip).

I can only take part of the responsibility for this, as Joe Sacksteder lent his considerable piano talents and Melissa herself laid down some of the drum tracks.

Happy Birthday, Unicorn!

It’s worth noting, that the above ditty was accompanied by several spraypainted boomboxes playing 30 second looped answering machine tapes of various moving renditions of Happy Birthday, as well as by a hacked Teddy Ruxpin, in full Unicorn garb, singing a “cheery” rendition of Happy Birthday. (video forthcoming, we can all hope)

This isn’t always about writing pretty songs.

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