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Mixed media

interacting with the future

Article from The Mix, May 1995

Your passport to future worlds

As technology continues its exponential curve into cyberspace, keeping abreast of developments can be a nightmare. Rest easy as Mixed Media takes you by the hand and tiptoes through the tulip field of sound and vision that is Multimedia

Psychedelia et lumière

There's more to Bristol than creamers and screamers, as I discovered when I paid a visit to the city's Lakota club, for a funked up night of steaming soul and gripping graphics. The bass was pumping, the room was jumping and the visuals were all over the place, causing my girlfriend to accuse me of spiking her drink. But it wasn't LSD 25 causing her eyeballs to bounce around in their sockets, it was a collective known as Subvision and the Virtual Light Company.

They might sound like a bunch of old hippies, but Subvision and VLC are in reality a bunch of computer programmers who use their expertise to enliven many a venue, and envision many a venture. Formed in 1991 by animators, artists and designers skilled in television, video graphics, fine art and industrial design, Subvision's diverse talents are set to take a sizeable bite out of the multimedia apple. They have built a solid reputation based on their Lakota nights, and programming up original graphics for people like Prince, The Orb, Primal Scream and The Prodigy. Venues are transformed with a combination of computer animation and projections utilising live video mixing, camera and custom-built technology.

Subvision was formed in 1991 by animators, artists and designers skilled in video graphics, fine art and industrial design, and is dedicated to realising the true potential of multimedia in the entertainment industry. Their rapid development stems from working in the widest scope of media formats, from 16mm film to 3D computer animation, modelling and visualisation. They have an enviable reputation for quality work, and their commissions include animated characters for the Bristol Old Vic's production of The Tempest.

The other half of the collective, The Virtual Light Company, was founded in 1992 by key professionals from UK world-leaders in parallel processing, virtual reality, computer game and graphics display technology. They share Subvision's philosophy of visually transforming the club and live music experience, drawing on over 20 years' combined experience of graphics technology.

Amongst their recent credits is 'Light Synthesis', a revolutionary interactive technology for professional and home entertainment. Atari users can enjoy this as an add-on to the Atari Jaguar, where it's known as the, 'Virtual Light Machine'. This generates real-time graphics, initially triggered by the music, which can be further manipulated by the user. A cyberpunk demo version was shown to me, when I visited VLC's workshop high above the Lakota building. It was mightily impressive, generating such an endless variety of patterns, shapes and colours, inextricably linked to the music, that I began to feel like Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy.

The full version should be available by the time you read this, and is well worth purchasing for that, 'club in your living room effect', most chill merchants are after these days. But it's equally attractive to the club interested in generating their own, original projections.

More from: Stefan, SubVision, (Contact Details).

Consigning fascism to the flames

There was a discernable sense of anticipation in a sold-out Q.E. Hall for the London Premiere of Kaddish, Towering Inferno's unique multi-media performance piece on the Holocaust. Fifty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, it is still considered audacious to treat the Nazi genocide with anything but religious reverence.

The religious element of this work, the reciting of the Kaddish — the Jewish prayer for the dead — is interwoven with innovative hi-tech sounds. As with Steve Reich's clatter of wheels on the tracks in 'Different Trains', Towering Inferno evoke the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust through walls of industrial noise. Both the horror, and the hope for the future are given contemporary musical voice through Kaddish's avant-garde synth sounds and layers of rock guitar. The terrifying piece 'Edvárd Király', performed during the first half of this 'dream history of Europe', brings the beautiful, optimistic rejoinder, 'Modern Times' near the end of the show.

Just as the fascist Europe of the 30s and 40s clashed violently with many of the continent's traditional cultures, so Towering Inferno employ modern and traditional musical forms, in harmony rather than conflict. The sounds of the Eastern European cultures, so despised by the Nazis, come through the Romany-style string playing, and the remarkable performances of Hungarian artistes Endre Szkárosi and Marta Sebestyén. Szkárosi, a performance poet, gives an alternately scary and soothing performance, whilst Sebestyén's haunting vocals, particularly in the folk song 'The Bell', are enormously moving, juxtaposed as they are with visual images flashed constantly above the stage.

With a major record deal recently signed, we're going to be hearing a lot more of Towering Inferno's Kaddish, in this immensely significant year for Europe.

Kaddish was re-released by Island Records on April 3, and is being performed across Europe this year, as part of the commemorations of the fiftieth anniverary of the end of the World War II.

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Fade away and radiate

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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The Mix - May 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Nathan Ramsden

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