Dusted Reviews

V/A - Pick a Winner DVD

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: Pick a Winner DVD

Label: Load

Review date: Nov. 2, 2004

Load’s foray into the audio-visual world of music videos on the new DVD Pick a Winner is exactly what you would expect from the label’s roster: an experience at once sophisticated and silly, experimental and campy, captivating and slightly annoying. And it’s further proof that the Providence, R.I., artists who comprise Load’s diverse catalog are still years ahead of the rest of us.

The lineup featured on the DVD and its audio companion matches the label’s renowned stylistic fetishes, confronting the viewer with barrages of noise-laden, rhythmically-heavy aural vandalism. For the most part, these bands tend to favor Load’s unabashedly goofy side: Neon Hunk, Pink and Brown, Forcefield, Gerty Farish (!), Mystery Brinkman. And that makes stylistic sense, since the DVD allows these unpredictable groups further chance to mystify their audience. These music videos don’t foreground the bands themselves, but provide a complementary artistic vision to the tracks, reinforcing the masks of anonymity obscuring the identities of most noise artists.

The selections on the compilation represent the more extreme edges of the Load spectrum, from power electronic dance music to crushing drum/bass to tweaked-out screeching noise. Quietly absent are bands whose records have created a different face for the Load catalog, specifically bands like Noxagt, Vaz, and USAISAMONSTER. But these bands seem to put forth an identity at odds with the veiled fun of Pick a Winner, and one can see them successfully making more traditional music videos.

The DVD packaging of Pick a Winner is glowing with details itself, featuring cut-and-paste collages and a pack of oversized playing cards as the standard DVD informational insert. The introductory sequence to the menu screen is quite possibly the best such sequence I’ve ever seen. Indie-rock-kid marionettes (!) sit around partying like only indie-rock kids can: drinking beer, playing cards, taking in a mock marionette cabaret show with the girls complaining, “Whatever happened to feminism in Providence?” They invite the viewer to join the card game, and the dealer deals out three choices that will determine your fate for the next hour or so: “Dealer’s Choice,” which plays the entire set of shorts in order, “Pick Yer Own Card,” a menu that not only allows you to skip to your favorite short selections (this becomes necessary!) but gives more detailed information on filmmaker, band, and short title, and “Russian Roulette,” which randomly selects a video. It’s a brilliant setup, and one that makes one feel suspiciously responsible for the mayhem that ensues.

The videos are true shorts, most not even lasting the length of a standard MTV pop-son, an amalgam of heavily pixilated graphics, home movies, and DIY animation. Load chose independent filmmakers to create the videos, not coincidentally matching most of the featured artists style for style. Contributors include DIY cartoonist Paper Rad (Wolf Eyes, Mystery Brinkman, Gerty Farish), Peter Glantz (who also co-produced the entire DVD, including that stunning menu sequence), and Japanther producer Devin Flynn (Pixeltan). Additionally, Forcefield, Pleasurehorse, and Neon Hunk provide self-made vids. These virtually unknown filmmakers possess obvious talent and energy, and even though most are frantic barrages of amateur wackiness indistinguishable from one another, there’s a certain brash charm about being so campy and inaccessible. I’ll admit: after about 10 or 11 shorts in succession, one begins to experience a kind of numbing effect, an endless infinity of “unpredictability” that conglomerates into a headache of noise and convulsion-inducing visual patterns. But I hope this caveat won’t deter Load fans from enjoying single shorts, since many of them are, frankly, captivating. Most successful are those that ground their cartoon glee in some kind of narrative, such as the live-action apocalyptic tale of aliens torching the Providence Mall in Peter Glantz’s video for Black Elf Speaks. Brian Gibson (bassist from Lightning Bolt) delivers a heartfelt and stunning computer-generated tale of chickens at the frontier of galactic space conflict that you have to see to appreciate.

By Joel Calahan

Read More

View all articles by Joel Calahan

Find out more about Load

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.