Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: December 2008, 04

Thursday, December 4, 2008

01:27:13 am , 1145 words, 2257 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, Indie, Music Video

Music vids & Animation Show 2008

I discovered the music of the Fleet Foxes recently, and found that they've got a stop-motion video set to one of their songs, White Winter Hymnal, directed by Sean Pecknold. Gorgeous music accompanied by a nice slow and simple concept for the visuals that winds out and then winds back in. Very pleasing. The calm, complentative puppet animation kind of reminds me of Tomoyasu Murata. There seem to be many people using animation for music videos these days... from Sarah Fimm to Chad VanGaalen to Omodaka to The Blue Seeds to Quantic... to say nothing of ones I've mentioned in the past like Cornelius. The rhythmic chiptune wickedness of Kokiriko Bushi in particular slays me, and the animation is rich and imaginative. The animation in a lot of other videos is honestly pretty crude and not interesting in itself, but when it matches the style of a song, the images come alive and the video works, as a number of the other vids attest, which is perhaps what makes music videos such a rich form. There's plenty of leeway for a more individual, analog, handmade approach that might not work elsewhere. I'm sure this is nothing and there are lots of other great animated music videos. Please feel free to share your own favorites.

Animated music videos almost seem to be enjoying a creative renaissance these days. A lot of bands seem to find the expressive playfulness and freedom of animation appealing, if the bounty of videos and things like the Radiohead competition are anything to go by. It's like they find the handcrafted, lo-fi appeal of indie animation a fit for their songs. Not to mention that it must be a lot cheaper, easier and quicker to just get an animator to make the visuals. Even not in animation, it's possible to create videos with visuals that make us see things in a new way with very little means and just an interesting approach, like Tone Twilight Zone, which has an Eames-like childlike wonder at the little things around us. Cornelius' videos are all pretty amazing in this sense, such as Point of View Point, which is very simple in execution and concept but creates a fantastic visual experience, and even is quite interesting conceptually, as an exploration of light, motion, perspective, how points becomes lines in motion, etc, and ties in to the very rich (but catchy and pulsing) sonic exploration of the music. There seems to be a music video for almost every song on Cornelius' masterpiece of an album Point, so they're all worth exploring. Smoke is interesting to note among these, as it's an obvious homage to two of the fathers (and as of yet unsurpassed masters) of all this music video business: Oskar Fischinger and Norman McLaren.

The video for Venetian Snares' Szamar Madar was a favorite of mine for a long time until a few years later I discovered it to be the work of a brilliant animator, David O'Reilly, whose Please Say Something was a shock to the system when I first ran across it a year or so ago - easily one of the most thrilling recent discoveries for me in animation. Szamar was the first time I'd seen visuals do justice to IDM (putting aside Rubber Johnny). I thought it was one of the crowning achievements in representing this kind of music in animation. O'Reilly's devious playfulness comes through in the film, too. Watch it in full screen to get the intended effect. There's nothing that quite matches the thrill and ecstasy when a piece of animation and a piece of music sync into a pure and unseparable unit of perfection like they do here.

Not really a music video per se, but more like an animated short in the form of a music video that really bowled me over and remains one of my favorite animated shorts of the last few years is Massive Swerve by Robert Valley, set to Massive Attack's Mezzanine. Robert is a brilliant illustrator in his own right, but as proven by the animation he did for Peter Chung's Riddick, he's also capable of putting those drawings together in the dimension of time to create some superb movement. The film's combination of smart and edgy design appeal with loose linework and spare but craftily applied animation creates a texture and tone unlike anything else out there. The dance scene is one of my favorite of its kind, using the strobe effect to depict the girl's wild gyrations with the rhythmic flashing of just a few stylishly exaggerated drawings. The pulsing, hypnotic downtempo anthem helps transform a film about a wild night at a rave party in Ibiza into something that feels like an epic descent into the bowels of a mythological netherworld.

I saw Animation Show 4 the other day. My first question was: Where's Don Hertzfeldt?? I'm sure it's been explained somewhere, but I didn't realize he wouldn't be there this time around. I wanted to see his new film. Without him, honestly, the selection was pretty thin and gimmicky, supported by almost no animation of any intrinsic worth as animation and falling dangerously close to a Spike & Mike's style fest of audience condescension with lowest-common-denominator outrage-appeal. I love Usavitch an all, and so did the audience, and I think it's great to get it seen by people. But some of the pieces on there... yeesh. Schwizgebel's Jeu was the only genuinely inventive and awe-inspiring piece there, which is ironically why it felt out of place. It's great to get audiences interested in animation. I know of a few people who saw the show who aren't into animation and who loved it. But it would also be nice to be able to do so by showing them a little more of the genuinely good work being done out there. This was a fun show for laughs, which is obviously all that Mike Judge was aiming for, so it seems kind of anal to pick on it for not trying to be something it's not. I was happy to see another piece by Luis Nieto, and again, that Schwizgebel piece reminded me why it is I love animation. Pure genius. Pes is also a really inventive animator. I like how he creates these really simple one-note punchline pieces but uses an odd new substrate to do the telling of the piece each time. What I really like about him is that he's doing inventive things with actual things, the way animators used to. I don't doubt that this selection represents US humor pretty well, but I refuse to believe that all US animators today think the only thing animation should do is gags, despite what some people seem to assert. I think audiences would have been far more satisfied with a little injection of depth and beauty here and there.