TALKING BOOKS #3: THE HELL-RAIDERS
From the Panda Tapers hub, hidden in an secret underwater lab some/wh in East Belgium, comes yet more pause-button tales:
1985, directed by Gope T Samtani. No, really.
A review cobbed off the net (sadly, I've never scored a copy of this film):
"This Indonesian war epic from Rapi studios, the people who brought us THE DEVIL'S SWORD, plays, at some times, with the slanted melodrama of a vintage American WW II pic, and, at others, with the irony and emotional intensity of Sam Fuller on top of his game. It tells the story of a guerrilla army from an Indonesian village during the war with the Dutch in 1945. It has the highest production values of any Rapi film I've seen, which isn't saying much, but what it lacks in resources, it more than makes up for with its crackling energy and genuine heart. The initiated will note that this is true of any Rapi film available in English, most of which are lore-heavy horror or martial-arts fantasy tempered with a weirdness that's never been exceeded by films made anywhere else in the world.
"What sets this one apart is its realized ambition. This is no B-movie diversion; this is a sweat-dripping labor of love. It has an ensemble cast which includes, but in no way defers to, the best-known action star of Indonesia's film boom of the nineteen-eighties, Barry Prima. It's notable that Prima played the comic-book folk-hero fighting the Dutch colonials in the early nineteenth century crowd-pleaser THE WARRIOR. Here he fights them a century later, with guns and grenades, rather than sorcery and swords. He gives a fine performance as a character, not a hero. The heroism in this film is shared by many, including a thief reformed by his thirst for revenge and at least two women who fight, in completely credible roles, with at least as much grit as the men in the film."
The thrilling 'true' story of Indonesia's fight for independence from the Dutch. Of course, Lieven turns the soundtrack into something totally different altogether. Divorced from the visuals, his random cut n paste casette-tape snap-shots of sweaty scenery-chewing dialogue, 'tense' string-sections, mortar-fire, tropical bird-calls, chiming DX7 pads and bass-throbs, helicopter noises, Linn-drum n bongo work-outs, bullet ricochets and cheap cod-philosophical monologues create unexpected new narratives and tensions.
Everything has been air-lifted from its context; we hear what we want to hear. The aural equivalent of a Rorschach.
I love the idea of talking-books - of a medium designed for one sense transposed onto another - but Lieven's cut-up working-methods create deliberately-accidental talking-books that tell a 'story' that is different to the one originally intended. The story is different for each listener; it's certainly different each time I listen to it.
Talking books: they're like a self-contained radio - a monocast; a miniature audio-world - except that (in my day) radios were a constant, on-going sound-stream, a linear narrative; these days, radio is buffered...on demand...archived on the Beeb website for a week - you can pause or rewind; it's a very different animal, or at least it feels that way to me. In theory, any digitised/archived radio-show listened to in isolation is effectively a talking-book (in the way it's walled-off and compartmentalised from the rest of the radio-continuum), but that's not the case -they're still two totally different life-forms - any apparent similarities are purely due to convergent evolution.
Lieven's own take on all this is different yet again. It's as stoned and intuitive as it is PoMo. He says:
"Spaced out synth tunes. Electronic grooves. Gunshots. Mood setting ambience. And random conversations about freedom and beyond. THE HELL RAIDERS is a tribute to nature, freedom, sweet synth sounds, vhs messages and photoshop thinkers. This is part of our ongoing CULTURAL SERIES."
I like where Lieven is coming from (as an artist and as a label-boss); I like his angle of attack.
He also works as Dolphins into the Future (formerly Dolphins of East Belgium). In fact he changes names n identities constantly; shuffles ideas around; plays games with them; refocuses his intent. But there's a series of tropes that constantly resurface in his oeuvre - and it's one I totally dig - his obsession with dolphins, UFOS, telepathy, Jacques Cousteau - that whole strand of lost 70s mystic-futurism.
He uses the term 'New Age' in a loose and unselfconscious manner - he transmits/mats me back to an era when positive post-hippy 4th-world futurism ('Otherism') ruled the black-light n bean-bag pad, before folks realised there was gold in them thar Von Daniken/Casteneda books and it became packaged and commodified by chains of tasteful trustifarian crystal-shops - Lieven has kinda reclaimed the phrase (reclaimed that whole cultural space) and turned it back into something gleefully odd, rainbow-coloured and willfully Otherist again.
Power to his fucking elbow.
Taped Sounds (formerly Bread and Animals and a zillion other offshoot imprints, sub-labels and harebrained schemes) has consistently ploughed its own skewed mixed-metaphor. Always the same; always different.
*Cue: Frankie Goes to Hollywood style "Huuuuuaghh!" vocal-stab*
This features one track whose title ("Dolphins into the Future") is the same as the project's name. I know this sort of thing winds Dom up something cruel, but, as much I like dreaming up names for things, I do really like that whole aesthetic: band, album and track all with the same title (or variants thereof); there's something innately symmetrical about that.
Anyway, "Dolphins of the Dawn" features John Cale-ish multi-tracked string-scrapings with faux-tribal mumblings and (surprise! (I'm being mock-ironic there; this is one of L's pet-tropes and I admire his persistance with this)) dolphin n exotica noises. The whistles and chirrups sound hilariously mock-alien in tandem with echoplexed detuned mandolin (?), clanging metallic perc. and assorted rattles. The animals sound hypercaffeinated - cetaceans on the edge of hysteria. Backing-vocalists from 600 fathoms. It ends with something that sounds like the burner on a hot-air balloon.
Lieven's take on New Age (tho he would protest otherwise) is anything but meditational; it's just too damn interesting and playful. It's grin-inducing stuff. He uses some standard noodling New Age methodolgies but derails and deflates them; some of the sounds are familiar, but he's photoshopped over their original contexts. The undersea cities, esper dolphins and skylab interiors are seen thru a thin film of liquid blue; we're viewing the past as if it were another planet - we're speculating about something that was once spectulative.
I wonder if he's ever recorded anything with pan-pipes?
The other side is shorter (live?) jams, semi-collaged together. The mood here is more overtly 'weird' and druggy-sounding; sample-loops of sped-up percussion and mammallian-whistlesong warp and clatter against each other as if his beloved dolphins are suffering some sort of group-mind collapse. Evil surface-dwellers are dumping toxic barrels into their habitat. Or maybe this is the sound of dolphin-cosmonauts heading out into The Great Liquidosphere in massive fluid-filled ram-jets, tongue-clicking and chattering to each other thru the aetheric wave-bands.
Odd metal-can n bongo percussives loop ever onwards into eternity, accompanied by accidental, almost subliminal pipe-music; it's like we're stuck between radio-stations (remember them?) or Lieven is showing us the fertility-rites of some forgotten-tribe discovered by an acid-frazz'd TV-crew sometime in 1972 - white safari suits with flares; I'm thinking of the hapless dicks in Italio-Cannibal films, but cleaner-looking and led by some pipe-smoking modernista with fuck-off side-burns; A Spanish Cousteau-esque TV-presenter cum explorer who made a tuesday-nite series for ABC that was never shown.
Elsewhere, it sounds like we're jammed inside a 3-D spin-drier or a retro-futuristic brain-washing machine that plays your memories backward at high-speed until you become the hapless lycra jumpsuit-clad spy-puppet of some Maoist Thought-Control-State circa 2008.
2008. Oh, waitaminute, that's now!
Monkey's jabber n howl at 16rpm, sounding uncannily like humans in pain. We're inside some sort of Zardoz/Final Programme geodesic furnished by Biba; floating robo-orbs queasily orbit the room; lights flash needlessly; an abductee screams and writhes on The Fear Couch. (Bet you thought this New Age stuff was supposed to be relaxing - lol!)
I can't wait 'til he starts experimenting with holographic or binaural sound.
This one is so beautifully packaged...I've had it for weeks, but I'm scared to open it...
I just can't bring myself to tear open that cute 'lil seal sticker.