Sonic Outlaws

The second annual edition of “Sound Unseen” highlights the subversive side of music making in the era of media consolidation.

 

but back to the subject: What does the post-Napster music lover do to fight the power? Vinyl (9:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 3 at Bryant-Lake Bowl), director Alan Zweig's Hi-8/lo-fi portrait of obsessive LP collectors, argues that plunking down a few bucks for, say, a used vinyl copy of Neil Young's Harvest--as opposed to Universal International's latest CD reissue of the artist's once-ragged glories--registers a blow to the corporate labels whose consummate greed consigned a groovy technology to the cultural trash heap. (Thus, Vital Vinyl is to Best Buy as Tatters is to the Gap.) And yet Zweig, a self-described "bulimic" vinyl consumer who admits on camera to having spent years regretting the day he purged himself of a Curtis Mayfield platter, has made a film that's more personal than political, more psychological than scholarly--and more neurotic than reasoned. Relate to it at your own risk.

For the Toronto-based director and several of his subjects (most of them pudgy male geeks who appear seated before endless stacks of their fastidiously catalogued fetish objects), the rampant accumulation of vinyl is a ritualistic means of treating narcissistic injuries felt since childhood. (It's also a seemingly safe expression of love stemming from a deep-seated need for stability and control.) Whether or not one interviewed collector is correct that many of his ilk are survivors of child abuse, a number of these men prove intimately familiar with the paradoxical nature of vinylphilic pursuit: that obtaining an elusive platter simultaneously brings a near-erotic sort of excitement and, being that it's the end of the affair, another sort of loss. Indeed, the more rare and exotic the treasure (Zweig's own Holy Grail is the Louvin Brothers' Satan Is Real), the more profoundly it fails to fill the larger void.

Suffice it to say that these are melancholy people. One compulsive aficionado reports having had friends who "died of collecting"--the actual cause being a symptom of a much bigger disease. Another laments that he'll never have time to hear some of the records he most adores. Another claims that, in order to reach his bed, he has to spend ten minutes every night clearing a path through all the vinyl. Another, Toronto Star film critic and recovering vinylphile Geoff Pevere, admits to having left 2,000 of his records in a dumpster--"so that they would ever belong only to me." As for Zweig, his delivery to the camera of some extremely painful bits of advice--including "Get a life!"--are nearly unique among documentaries for their degree of naked self-deprecation. (Zweig is the Albert Brooks of nonfiction filmmakers.) So, too, this single-minded homebody dares to venture beyond the topic at hand even as he keeps to himself--feeding a last supper of pepperoni pizza to his dying dog, and relishing his talent for trapping mice "near the easy-listening section."

Clearly, Zweig could stand to get out more. But to the extent that he uses vinyl (and Vinyl) to collect his thoughts about things that have more to do with human nature than records per se, he's as well-rounded as the objects of his desire.

 

Digital Underground

All it takes to mythologize the local hip-hop scene is two college grads,
a digital-video camera, and less cash than you'd think

by Peter S. Scholtes

 

maybe it's true that local hip hop is one video away from national massiveness: a Mystikal cream sequence short of universal bootoriety, a Jurassic 5 flight scene short of Box hegemony. Give Young & Da Restless some computer-generated animation and Sandman squib effects and you've got hits rather than rumors on disc. Give Lil Buddy the Eyes Wide Shut treatment and you've got a sex symbol rather than a human-interest series in The Source.

But give them money first. While the economy is in a post-September 11 autumn, music videos still cost more than Ivy League degrees. Back in Sub Pop's heyday, Minneapolis video makers Phil Harder and Rick Fuller were cranking out videos for as little as two large a song. Today, their MTV Video Music Award-nominated work for Incubus was budgeted at $200,000--and that was perhaps a tenth of what 'N Sync spent on "Pop" to beat out Incubus for Best Group Video. For comparison's sake, Lil Buddy's latest video, which got a limited run on BET, was rumored to have run him between ten and twenty grand.

So here's a better idea: Why not capture the slow cultural revolution of independent hip hop through the even slower cultural revolution of digital video--the cheaper, easier 16mm? DV home auteurs would seem natural allies for do-it-yourself hip hoppers. They need the glory, and they have that same hunger. And sometimes, as in the case of producer-directors Cody Hanson and Joshua Bell, they also have talent. This duo's feature-length documentary, Four Degrees Project Presents: Elements of Style, may be the first of an emergent genre: local hip hop on digital video. Debuting Friday at Oak St. Cinema to kick off the second annual "Sound Unseen" film festival, the video captures a small sampling of the Twin Cities community in action: break-dancers the Battlecats; DJs Andrew Broder and Abilities; the graffiti artists behind Broder's Lifesucksdie magazine; and rappers I Self, Slug, and Eyedea.

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