“Army of Me (Instrumental)” – Björk – Post – One Little Indian
Two stories consumed my news feed last week: one was the near unanimous praise for Björk’s latest album; the other was about recent music-related experiments conducted by the Neuroscientist Dr. Robert Zatorre at McGill University. Published this month in Nature, Zatorre’s research concluded that listeners’ attitudes toward music could be successfully altered using magnetic stimulation of the frontostriatal circuitry. Effectively, our reward centers — the ones that register pleasure from our favourite songs — can be manipulated by positive or negative transcranial stimulation. Now, I’ve never really liked Björk. She’s had some good tunes, but her quirky, twee voice ruins them. “Army of Me” is a banger, but it should have remained an instrumental. I cannot stand her new record. This, I know, is an unpopular opinion, and makes me wonder how long it will be before they come for me with the Björk magnets. Just please, keep the Nickelback magnets far, far away.
“Borders feat. Jenny Hval (Klara Lewis Remix)” – Carmen Villain – Borders/Red Desert 12” – Smalltown Supersound
Another late addition to the alternate Twin Peaks playlist?
“Duelle” – Roger Tellier Craig – Soundcloud
Beginning with his excellent September release on Root Strata, and culminating in this experimental piece produced at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal, M. Tellier Craig’s music has grown exponentially this year, in both aesthetic and technical complexity. In less than a decade, he has gone from making lovely but anodyne Kosmische-inspired soundscapes with Le Révélateur, to his own brand of fully realized Musique concrète. I think that Roger Tellier Craig is one of the most exciting and yet criminally overlooked electronic musicians working today, and won’t be surprised to see him get his fair dues.
My Own Private River (2012) – James Franco and Gus Van Sant, Dirs.
Until this week, I had no idea that James Franco and Gus Van Sant made a film in 2012, called My Own Private River. Ostensibly, it’s classified as a documentary, but what it actually is is a Genettian paratext of the highest order. Essentially, the pair made a contrapuntal film out of pick-up shots, outtakes, and B-roll from Van Sant’s 1991 picture My Own Private Idaho. The result is something like the perfect mixture of Rashomon, Buffalo ‘66, Easy Rider, and River Phoenix fan fiction. It’s amazing. How far we have fallen when what was left on Van Sant’s cutting room floor in 1991 is better than anything the A-list film industry has to offer today.
“Chick Habit” – April March – From the credit sequence of Death Proof (2007) – Quentin Tarantino, dir.
Early this morning, I logged in to twitter, and saw this tweet from the NYU AI scholar Kate Crawford. It’s about the widespread and sexist use in digital imaging processing of a 1972 Playboy magazine centerfold model called Lena Söderberg. Apocryphally, the photo was chosen almost by accident when researchers at the University of Southern California Signal and Image Processing Institute were looking for a complex new image to digitize. A colleague came in with the November Playboy issue, and the rest is history. Lena has ever since been at the center of a simmering controversy over the continuing objectification of women in an already male-dominated field.
This reminded me of the story of the LAD girls: benchmark images developed by Kodak for the color printing of motion picture film. An acronym for Laboratory Aim Density, a method by which film-processing labs strive for uniform emulsion consistency, LAD girls essentially became the most photographed women in cinema, their headshots appearing on three or four frames at the head and tail of nearly every reel of color celluloid distributed globally over the second half of the twentieth century.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, many projectionists, lab technicians, and film nerds — who were almost exclusively male — began collecting the images, in the same way that men might collect Playboy magazines or pornographic playing cards. One of them was Quentin Tarantino. You might recall having seen his LAD girls in the credits for the 2007 female revenge film, Death Proof. That sequence also contains the song “Chick Habit” by April March, an English-language revision of France Gall’s Serge Gainsbourg-produced 1964 hit “Laisse tomber les filles” — a song warning men to “leave the girls alone” lest “you be the one who cries.” And who produced Death Proof? Harvey Weinstein.
Was Tarantino subconsciously using the LAD girls to send Weinstein a message? Perhaps. Looking back ten years on, it’s a delicious coincidence. Nonetheless, in Hollywood cinema, computer science, and beyond, we can no longer use chicks’ images simply out of habit.