Amanda Palmer: The Keening Moment

I’m not the most musically literate person there is out there. I always heard some of my friends constantly talking about musicians that they love and bandying their name all around. And I never understood it really until relatively recent times. I’m also sure that there plenty of musicians that can sing with the intensity that Amanda Palmer has displayed. But the fact of the matter is that none of the others that I’ve either heard or haven’t bring up the effect in me that she can.

Not to this extent.

I don’t even know where to start: though I do know it is going to be short. There is a moment in a few Amanda Palmer songs, particular songs, where she enters what could be called a climactic phase but what I call a keening moment. For Amanda, and from my limited experience as I am not a fully comprehensive Amanda Palmer listener, it is that point where she builds and builds her tone and pitch to the greatest of passion and it … rips through you.

For instance, take her rendition of the song “Hallelujah.”

While she didn’t create this song, and the piece in itself already has a powerful emotional resonance, Amanda increases this frequency to its nth degree. She sings it for Anthony, who at the time was fighting a particularly brutal form of cancer. Her voice is broken. Apparently, when she was singing this and as she is wont to do as she is always on the move, she was physically ill. But, as if that weren’t enough, she was also in an intense place of grief.

But when she reaches that moment of “Hallelujah” … I don’t even know what to say. It is a scream. It’s a scream that, for me, pierced me right to the quick. In that moment, it was real. It was very real because, quite simply enough, it was. It is the terror and anger of life fighting for life. It is primal and messy and only the surface of what is underneath it. It’s like that moment when you try to detach yourself from what’s going on and you don’t understand, or want to understand what your friend is going through and you hide behind something petty only for that friend to scream that this supersedes all of that bullshit and you will damn well fucking acknowledge it: because life takes precedence over the proprietary.

I’ll be honest with you. It’s makes me uncomfortable: to have that surface of pretend that makes most human interaction ripped away to expose the raw. It is a brilliant, uncomfortable feeling made even more poignant that it is from another person being shared with everyone else.

Yet as potent as this is, Amanda’s “Bed Song” is …. something else entirely.

If her voice in “Hallelujah” makes me uncomfortable in that it reminds me of mortality and my very real lack of power, “The Bed Song,” quite frankly, terrifies me.

I’m not kidding. It scares me. It scares me to the point where after having heard it a few times, I just can’t listen to it or watch the music video. It, too, is far too real. But it’s more than that. It’s worse. It is a beautiful song and an excellent series of visuals and storytelling that captures the essence of a relationship dying.

I mean: think about this. You have two people together who love each other and you watch as time and circumstance erode that connection and friendship between them into distance. Into death. I’m not even talking about the physical death that happens at the end and the retrospection, but the emotional death: the slow rot of the soul between the two people living together, but not being together in any meaningful way.

Neil Gaiman, Amanda’s husband, has created many terrifying creatures and stories in his time. He has made “Cereal Conventions” and Other Mothers and all kinds of terrors with and without flesh. But, if I were to choose, I would say that Amanda Palmer in the context of “The Bed Song” scares me more than Neil ever could. She manages to build up to and capture the essence of a living death and the helplessness of watching it happen and feeling powerless to stop it only, at the end, to confront it … after it’s far too late.

That realization, in and of itself, is enough to drive anyone insane or want the embrace of physical death, but “The Bed Song,” the idea of two people lying next to each, facing away from each other, inches away and dying alone, is all the more horrifying because it is a wrongness that becomes accepted much in the way that someone slowly succumbs to an icy death.

It is a brilliant story. It is a poignant song. It takes the spirit of that lack of communication to the point of “too late” and makes it into art.

And it utterly terrifies me: because it makes me feel something I don’t want to feel. Or it brings out something that I already have. Because that keening moment isn’t just the climax of the song or the pitch of Amanda’s voice, but rather it’s that painful and almost transcendent moment of recognizing these qualities growing inside of your own very self.

I could just leave it all at that. I could leave you here with the feeling of raw grief and a lack of catharsis. I really could be that mean and say that this is what life really is. But I would be doing Amanda a tremendous disservice. The keening moment I identify is not merely in the domain of grief but its very opposite.

“The Ukulele Anthem.”

Sometimes nonsensical, sometimes weird, but oftentimes fun and always, for me, transformative. It just expands to the horizon and becomes liminal. There is darkness but it is the song commands, “Ukulele banish evil.” I can just see a glowing, eternal figure facing the growing darkness and playing her simple ukulele: making the shadows scream and, for a time, retreat from her sheer presence, only for her to hand it to someone else cowering in the darkness, smiling and skipping away to make another one.

So while I like the ferocity and anger of the keening moment in The Killing Type and dealing with the loss of a romance as life goes on in the summery fey cabaret of Massachusetts Avenue, “The Ukulele Anthem” is, for me, a reaffirmation that eventually the darkness will be put in its place as people realize they are not alone and they can make the light grow together even sharing something as simple as how to play ukulele.

Maybe one day, when I am less self-conscious, someone will show me how to play one. In the meantime, I am just grateful that through those keening moments I have another way to relate to music. Perhaps, as Neil’s Erasmus Fry once said, all writers are liars, but I believe that at least some musicians tell the truth.

Photo Credit: Glenn Ross

A Game of Statues: Amanda Palmer, Persona, Expression and Life

When I was in Kindergarten, in a school called Adventure Place, we used to play something called “A Statue Game.”

I knew it as The Statue Game. We would listen to this song–which I now know to have been created by Sandy Offenheim and Family–move around and when the song would tell us to stop, we would freeze in mid-motion. We couldn’t move and the song would tease us, play games with our minds by implanting the suggestion of itchiness or needing to scratch our heads, and then it would start again and we would be allowed to dance and hop around as we did before. It turns out that this music and this game are still being played to this very day: and it is a fact doesn’t surprise me.

There is a reason why I’m bringing this up and I will get to it soon. During Amanda’s Art of Asking TED Talk, we got to see a picture and a little bit of a demonstration of Amanda in her previous occupation as a living statue. This is not the first time I heard her mention this: chances are I probably read it on her Blog or in her Introduction to The Absolute Death. But there were two things that struck me about her time as a living statue.

The first is how, in a way, we are all conditioned to be living statues. At least, that is what looking at “Let’s Play a Statue Game” as an adult makes me feel. I mean, think about it: the song and game is really rather instructional. It teaches children pacing and rhythm. It delineates a time for play and then moments of formalism: of needing to be still and having to listen. Making it a group game also socializes children into a group calisthenic: tapping into that unconscious place where we all unknowing imitate and synchronize with each other. It teaches a time for play and stillness, but it also allows us the space and the capacity to laugh at ourselves. I’d argue that it is one of those early methods of making social interaction into a game that everyone plays along with and is both half-joking, and half-seriousness.

Yet what really grabs my attention is that rituals like “The Statue Game” encourage us to build those early personas: a social facade that allows us to interact with fellow human beings. Personas are not illusions nor are they fake in any way. They are just different aspects of us or personalized mask-tools that we use in different situations of interaction. We make these masks from childhood and things like “The Statue Game” allow give us the basic tools, mental shapes, and situations to do so. In other words, you can look at all of this as an experiment not only in socialization, but in communal art as well.

Of course, some of us have a lot of difficulty with these games. Some children do move under suggestion of the song. Other children have slower reaction time or a different sense of movement, balance, and rhythm. And some just plain get itchy regardless of any song or suggestion. Yet the rules of “The Statue Game” still have an effect on them: they either learn the communal rhythm or make one of their own.

That is what artists do.

So let’s get back to Amanda Palmer. I have imagined her, and now seen images of her as this eight-foot living bride statue holding out a flower and trying to make eye-contact with those people who passed her by. On an intellectual level, I think it was brilliant and an excellent metaphor for an artist learning to keep being relatable to a prospective audience.

Also, it was very subversive of her. Think about it like this: what is an eight-foot living statue of a bride? It–and she–are symbols of of a communal making: an archetype of certain expectations and theoretically immutable traditions. Yet there Amanda was, in a role of monetary exchange granted, using eye-contact and a simple gesture of holding out a flower to appeal to an individual on a basic, human, empathic level. It is ingenious: just as ingenious as making a game for children teaching them how to learn to act as statues and feeling people at the same time. And she was taking that philosophy and applying it to the rest of her work.

She appeals to people directly: or as directly as one artist can to her audience. In addition, she takes the role of a statue–of an untouchable celebrity–and subverts it to remain relatable and to appeal her present and potential fans. Originally, what she did with a statue pose and costume she now does through Kickstarter Projects and her Blog. But one lesson that seems paramount for me is that she originally managed to create this appeal, to hone and develop her own art of asking, but not saying a word. She simply held out a hand and expressed emotion through her facial features and her eyes. It is an experiment in empathy: in relating to people through song, action, and expression through gesture.

Now I’m going to look at how this relates to me.

In a similar way to how her own Blog and Kickstarters function, I have my own 8-foot statue through Mythic Bios. I have admitted that I combine a lot of myself and my observations to make this Blog. I’ve also admitted that I make this Blog to order to find an audience and to relate to them. However much I’m successful is a subjective question. I mean, after all, this Blog still accords me a certain level of distance from everyone else and the role that divides us is still there. I am a writer and you are an audience and sometimes we correspond and sometimes we don’t.

This also functions the same for me offline. One thing that “The Statue Game” does teach children who grow into adults is that there is a distance between us–as fellow statues–but also a closeness in our similar natures. In our statue roles and in a best case scenario, we are polite and formal with a certain social ingrained amount of common decency. But when we get to know each other and playtime happens, we bounce around and jump and sing and dance and cuddle and do all of things kinds of things.

For me, it goes further. Sometimes I feel more like a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who: in which eye contact will freeze me into my vaguely uncomfortable distantly formal polite statue-form, but when others turn their backs I am more like my crazy, warped creative self. Then people leave and I eat the time potential that they leave behind: writing up whatever I glean in different kinds of stories.

Amanda mentioned in her TED Talk that sometimes when she was a statue, people came her way who probably hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks. The Doctor once described the Weeping Angels as “the loneliest beings in the universe since their quantum-lock reaction makes it difficult for them to socialise.” It gets too easy to be the statue and to regain animation when other people are no longer around: a statue that forgets to play or can only dance by themselves now.

I’ve been, and I am one of those statues. So I ask myself what I would feel when someone like Amanda Palmer can actually see through that facade and acknowledge my feelings? I would … feel some discomfort, to be perfectly honest. A statue is often also how we like to present ourselves to the world. And having someone see how I feel makes me feel very … vulnerable.

Don’t misunderstand. I have a lot of people who just see the statue or simply do not get what they see, or ascribe characteristics to it that frankly do not exist. Whenever I acknowledge them, I have plenty of ignorant and misguided people telling me how I feel to last for sometime. But having someone see me for what I am–feeling as though they can see my anger, bitterness, sadness, awkwardness, and general bullshit–makes me feel vulnerable.

I’ve been taught to view the world a potentially hostile place where you always need to have your guard-up–where you always need to save face–and where vulnerability is seen as an exploitable weakness … even when you want, and have the need, to reach out.

On the other hand, I am also an artist. I can write about all of the above through the medium of my Blog and find people who relate who can relate to at least some of it. Artists, to some extent, are empathic beings and have the potential to take their statue-form and open it up to relation. I imagine extroverts and positive, optimistic thinkers who wholeheartedly trust people are better at this.

I am obviously not one of these.

However, I can cheat. I can pretend to be optimistic for a while. I can, as Kurt Vonnegut warns, become what I pretend to be. And I don’t have to pretend to like what I do: because that much of it is true. Also, there are many ways to express vulnerability as strength and I’ve already found a few of these. And as long as I can express it in the best way I know how–through writing–then I will be okay. But more importantly, I am building up to the point where I can ask for help when I need it.

Make no mistake, if I want to move forward in my creative endeavours I will one day need help and I will ask for it. And if I can express vulnerability to the point that Amanda Palmer as: to the point of making other people smile, cry, or feel an uncomfortable, awkward, and twisting form of sympathy–of realness–then I will have begun to do my own job.

So when you get right down to it, and look past all the mixed metaphors, analogies, and references here I’m going to say this: for just as Amanda Palmer states that there should be no shame in asking for help, there should also be no shame in striking an honest pose … itching, sneezing, and all.

P.S. I just want to illustrate what happens when Weeping Angels play the Statue Game.

It’s not very pretty. Or maybe it is. They did ask for it after all.

What is FV Disco?

Disko FV

All right, so it’s been a while since I have really challenged myself to do something different. This challenge, however, has been a long time in the making and I’ve been trying to find the best way to go about it. It won’t be perfect and I’m sure that there is scholarship and writing out that is far more accurate and well-written on the topic, but really this is just a possible answer to something that’s been nagging at me for a while now.

Anyway, two years ago I read a really cool graphic novel called Kenk: a comics biography of the infamous Torontonian bicycle thief Igor Kenk. It deals with his possible psychological motivations for his actions, his own personal philosophies, and how his background may have influenced the man he has become. The comic was actually conceived and produced by Alex Jansen, written by Richard Poplak, the photographs and filming it was based from–along with its design–created by Jason Gilmore, and Nick Marinkovich was integral in illustrating and creating its aesthetic. I wrote a review on this at Amazon: with very little understanding of the choice of art-style at the time.

I didn’t think much about Nick Marinkovich’s unique art at the time, aside from its strange sharpened and accentuated angles, the occasional blurry lines, the really incredible contrast of the white stark outlines of people and objects containing an inner gritty grey and black, and the pastiche feeling of it until I watched this interview: conducted by QTV on CBC1 Radio with both Richard Poplak and Alex Jansen. Poplak himself talked a little more about the aesthetics of the graphic novel. First he stated that he and the graphic artist Nick Marinkovich used the fumetti comics medium form: which is basically comic book that uses photos or arrangements of altered photos to tell a story. There is a wikipedia entry and other information on the fumetti form.

However, Poplak also mentioned that he traveled to Slovenia–Igor Kenk’s home country where he grew up–and found another form of art: which the Pop Sandbox team ended up using for their creation. When I first heard him say the name, I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I actually missed the word several times before rewinding the video and hearing it again. Now, I pride myself on finding out as much about the comics medium and associated art forms as I can and this bothered me: the fact that I didn’t know what this word was.

Finally, I made out the word “Faeve” or “Fauve.” But then after some more online digging I came across the Kenk book site and I found out that it was FV Disco that Poplak had been talking about. It was in fact the definition that Poplak provided here and on 12:17 of his QTV Interview that I used when describing the style of Fotonixe’s artwork in my entry on TweakerRay’s Collector Chapter 02: the idea of a gritty-collage like arrangement of photos and images with a dark punk-like atmosphere. As I said in my previous entry, Fotonixe’s style reminded me of this and wasn’t necessarily derived from it. But this did get me thinking.

Because I can tell you that I have tried to google FV Disco several times–specifically as an art form–and I didn’t get very much. It also took me ages–in fact very recently–to realize that FV was in fact pronounced as “fauve” or some equivalent and wasn’t an acronym or a pair of letters. A little while ago, I figured out that the term FV Disco seems to have come from an influential Slovenian alternate theatre turned counter-cultural group or club called Theatre FV 112/15: a group that turned into a movement in Ljubljana–the capital of Slovenia–in the changing former Yugoslavia of the 1980s: where Poplak says that FV Disco itself came from. I found out the name of the group by finding an article on a Goth Rock and Electronic Body Music group called Borghesia: that was apparently formed from some of Theatre FV’s original members.

It was greatly involved with video art as well as music and as it transitioned from an amateur theatre group into an alternative club that made a space for sexual, social, and artistic differences: or so this article here claims.

But very recently I found out what “FV” or “Faeve” is might mean. I found–or perhaps–rediscovered an article by Katja Praznik called Theatre, Emancipation and Political Power: Two Cases From the Past in which she explains that FV “refers to France Verbinc’s (FV) local, frequently used Dictionary of Foreign Terms, page 112, entry 15, where we find the following: C’est la guerre – This is war, that’s how it is in war.” In other words, the group’s name seems to have been derived from a citation or a quote that is appropriate given the climate in which the group was created. This was during the time after Tito’s death where Yugoslavia was beginning to change–to separate–and there were great artistic expressions of socialism and capitalism occurring.

Richard Poplak himself argues that this was what was occurring in Igor Kenk’s formative years in Slovenia and it affected him. There is one element of this movement that Poplak pays great attention to when he discusses it in the above synopsis. He states that the primary medium of FV Disco–what seems to be the artistic as opposed to musical and performative aspects of it–was the photocopy machine: “an agent of democracy because it put publishing – which was until then state-run – in the hands of the people.” It is interesting to note that when I’ve looked at Kenk, the images did seem almost like propaganda posters and pictures rearranged into a different collage form entirely. I can see how–as advertisements for FV Disco’s musical and social scenes and as art in itself–just how subversive it was in that changing environment. Add to the fact that there was a “a gritty punk” element alongside it makes for a really interesting aesthetic and atmosphere.

I think what I find most fascinating about it, at least from what Poplak describes, is how FV Disco takes old ideas and objects and rearranges them: in fact recycles them.  But it’s more complex than that. Praznik in her article likes to state that Theatre FV wanted to create “spaces” or alternative realities in a rapidly changing socialist environment where people could express themselves. She also mentions that one objective of this movement, and those like it, were to blur the line between the performance and the viewer: or art and reality.

In a way, Theatre FV was one of those responsible for creating new wombs of artistic culture and reality and I can see–in that sense–just how all the above might have affected Igor Kenk’s philosophies. He liked to recycle and “hoard” things that North Americans apparently take for granted. The man was also aware of how economic and political systems can change rapidly and the crafting of his own world-view and indeed his life, seems like a haphazard collage of grittiness and innovation. Even Kenk’s own “performance stage”–a Bicycle Clinic filled with so many bikes that he had to spill them from the space of his shop into the streets just to open the door–did not separate itself from the rest of Queen Street West Toronto or the sphere of people it brought in.

Customers, and pedestrians alike were brought into his world of bikes and junk. I never saw it like this until I did some of my own amateurish haphazard research into the matter. It really made me look at the aesthetic of the Kenk graphic novel even more closely. In his article Portrait of a Serial Stealer, Richard Poplak goes into a little more detail on FV and even talks about how his artistic collaborator Nick Marinkovich creates the style of the piece: detailing some of the work that he did. It also hits home the fact that Poplak and the rest of the team that made the book adapted it from actual photo and video footage produced by Jansen and Gilmore: the latter of which are the most references I’ve been able to find on the FV movement aside from those from Poplak.

What I think is a real shame though, in all honesty, is that FV Disco–or Theatre FV 112/15–doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page or a more indepth English language entry of some kind: because it is a really fascinating social and artistic phenomenon to come from a socialist nation that no longer exists and I never put much thought about it at the time. It makes me wonder just how much it might have influenced other forms of art: not just in Eastern Europe but the rest of the world as well.

One more interesting of note is that there is a 1997 documentary called Staro in Novo or The Old and The New created by Neven Korda and Zemira Alajbegovic: who were, according to the site Zank, apparently leading members of the old FV Theatre group and then of Borghesia. They made something called FV Video where they created this documentary: of which I could only find excerpts on Youtube. Copies of the video cassette do exist in some Universities even in North America but I’m not sure if there are any DVD versions, but apparently you can download it here. But it would be an interesting thing to look at.

One thing that I also find interesting is on the site VideoDokument, Korda and Alajbegovic not only talk about the creation of video art, they mention that “Although the images move and we can hear them, video takes much more from comics than it does from film. It was comics that encouraged sequencing and the combination and movement of images, sounds and stories.” I find that a really nice parallel to how Kenk was influenced as a comics form by video and other media from the FV movement. I should also point out that Kenk is also being adapted into an animated film: perhaps making the journey between FV-influenced film and comics come full circle.

I’ll tell you now that I’m not up to the task of making a Wikipedia article on this matter. I’ve said before that I am no musical expert or even an artistic one. I am certainly no expert in Slovenia or Eastern European culture, but it would be nice if someone did this: because I think it’s important. It’s also a shame I can’t find any FV Disco art online as well and I will probably post a picture from Kenk. It seems that the scholar in me doesn’t die so easily, but I just like to write about things that interest me and go on an adventure to see what I can uncover from them when they are being too stubborn to be found.

Some special notes and thanks: the really awesome and emblematic “Disko FV” image seen above this post is actually a hand-made security ribbon taken from the collection of Dario Seraval: one of the former members of the Theatre FV-112/15 group and current member and drummer for Borghesia. The images from the graphic novel Kenk were very generously lent to this post by Alex Jansen and Jason Gilmore. Believe or not I underestimated how much time and effort making this post and finding images for it would take, but in the end thanks to correspondence with Aldo Ivancic (another former member of Theatre FV and current member of Borghesia whom I talked with about using said ribbon) and Alex Jansen, as well as Richard Poplak, Neven Korda, and museum counsellor Breda Skrjanec of the MGLC (the Mednarodni Grafični Likovni Center), it was all worth it.

Addendum: If you are particularly interested in FV Disco, you can try to track down the MGLC’s art catalogue from its FV Alternative Scene of the Eighties 2008 Exhibit. It has a Slovene and an English language translation as well. The book is composed of photographs, art samples, an introduction, three essays, and a chronology of events and developments in FV Disco.

An Interactive Music-Making Epic: TweakerRay’s Collector Chapter 02

Many posts ago, I set myself the challenge of writing something about Sarah Howell’s silent comic. Today I’m doing the exact opposite. I have been given the challenge of writing an article on a music CD: namely TweakerRay’s Collector Chapter 02.

This might be a little unusual for me, but I have always loved epic music and TweakerRay’s Collector definitely falls under that designation. But how do you write about music? For me, I’ve learned to do that in my own writing: describing the harmonics of certain songs that I like and trying to find words to approximate the sounds that I hear. Certainly I’m not completely familiar with music or music-mixing terminology enough to write about it under those terms. My friend who gave me the request to write this, however, requested that I write about what the music makes me feel and what story is revealed to me by listening to it. In some ways, looking at the soundtracks with that frame in mind makes it easier for me to talk about.

First, let me give you an outline of what you should expect to find on the CD itself.

There are thirteen tracks in Collector Chapter 02. In addition, there is a Demos and Instrumentals section where TweakerRay gives you different mixed versions of his songs, a PDF version of the booklet included with the CD which I will go into more detail about later, and an actual Commentaries section dedicated to many of Collector‘s tracks by TweakerRay himself. So if you want to know more about these soundtracks in a technical way or by music terminology, TweakerRay explores his tracks in that fashion far better than I could.

There actually is a narrative that TweakerRay himself creates in his CD. TweakerRay’s Extended Play Collector Chapter 01 (the second half of which was called “Digital Ghost” and can be found on this Youtube link here) sets up a very strange scenario. Essentially, you hear messages on what appears to be TweakerRay’s voice-mail: a few praising him, one woman asking him what he wants and a man threatening him. The voices all mix together until you hear a man come in, who meets a woman waiting for him there. Not long after, she shoots him and the man calls out TweakerRay’s name before he presumably dies. I always interpret this haunting but active rhythm of hard beats to be TweakerRay himself on the run.

My job, however, is to talk about the songs in Collector 02 … and the booklet. The “Introduction” starts off strong: with a grandiosity and booming power. Years after the events of Chapter o1 and TweakerRay’s disappearance, it heralds and complements the voice of a futuristic dictatorial power: the leader or representative of the R.A.S. (the Royal Audio Supremacy) that talks about how it has banned the dissonance of “old and corrupted” music–declaring it dangerous to people’s minds that is reminiscent of the way that Plato considered art and poetry deadly if not controlled by the morality of the city-state– and how rebels threaten to bring it back. This fascist transmission of censorship also sets the stage of just what kind of world this music exists in. It is a fun, but in other ways a very serious creative premise about freedom of expression and what it faces against a need for perceived safety over that liberty.

Thus begins the instrumentals of Collector Chapter 02: its hard raking beats and piano keys–playing soft like rain–becoming a stride through a fortress city of inhuman glass and metal ruled by this tyranny and one person’s journey in defying this status quo.” Toxic Wasteland’s” rough and wavering rhythms and rising harsh crescendo brings to my mind a panoramic shot of the rest of the world in a stagnant ruin away from the R.A.S. capitol and the passing of forbidden instruments and music between the peoples within it in order to spread this rebellious musical dissonance.

It is “Status Report Sgt. Q” that brings back–with an ominous bell-toll–the vocal to the music. The rhythm is still severe, but there is a realization of horror in it as the rebel Sergeant Q makes us aware of what the R.A.S. has truly done: using censorship and force to pretend to bring peace, but in reality subjugate all people, keep them from questioning and maintain the corruption of their corporations and minions on the Earth. He states that music–the last refuge of creative freedom on and offline–has been censored by the government and its allies. The hard percussive metal beats of the music set the stage for the rebellion that is about to come.

And this is where, as the track title states, some of the citizens of this world “Fight Back.” It starts off smooth and then rises with a reverberating power–with intermittent 8-Bit sounds reminiscent of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s synthesized tones–and the addition of TweakerRay’s voice singing: abjuring that “it’s time to fight back.” But then … something bad happens. In the song “The Shot,” there is one crack of a gunshot that echoes throughout the distance followed by the deep current of a sound almost in denial accompanied by the sad chiming and gradual un-damming of an even more sorrowful crescendo as if the gun-shot itself has become the tragedy. We never know who got shot–if it was a who and not a what … like the idea of expressive freedom itself–but as “The Shot” fades off like a dactyl or a sad lullaby, the listener knows that the stakes have changed.

Sometimes I’m inclined to think it is the death of Sergeant Q that brings on this music or maybe the figure of TweakerRay–the symbol of this rebellion–but those are just my interpretations. TweakerRay himself explains in his Commentary what event motivated him to create this track. As it is, the sound of it just tends to remind me of all the things I’ve lost and it is a powerful song that sings of loss itself.

The tone changes after this. “They Don’t Know” heralds a newer form of rhythmic aggression in a journey or a quest for battle as TweakerRay’s vocal makes its rising fiery resurgence decrying how no one under that government or censorship–that condoned that shot–know exactly what it is that they have done. Aside from the “Introduction” that I love due to its all too seductive fascist overtones and promises of ancient and imminent destruction, as well as the powerful reverberating sadness of “The Shot,” I feel that “They Don’t Know” is one of the most powerful songs of the track and one of my personal favourites. It is empowering in a different way than the trappings of power or deep human sorrow. It is justice and vengeance both synthesized into song.

By “The Hunting,” with its fast–very fast–rhythmic beats and clanking, I can almost see the R.A.S. stepping up its efforts to stamp out the rebels: now realizing that they have only created martyrs by their repressive actions. It’s almost like the conflicting noises symbolize fighting on the streets, in the buildings and in all arenas across the regime. It is the fight for a society’s heart: for a free humanity’s soul.

After this there is an “Interlude,” with even more evidence of winding 8-bit tracks. At this point, it sounds as though there is more subterfuge going on: as though the rebels are passing around more forbidden instruments and sound equipment to the citizens: as though encouraging them to fight for freedom as overt physical fighting happens overhead. Perhaps by “Electronic Beast,” TweakerRay himself, back in vocal form, is abjuring the citizens–who have so far been serving the R.A.S. regime with approved music and mainly silence to “come to him,” to create their own music. While this something of a social perspective, I feel it is a compelling interpretation: where Sgt. Q tells the listener that the Internet has been censored, TweakerRay tells you of “the electronic beast”: of the passion in the communal machine that must yet be released.

Then we go into the steady hard rhythms and rough guitar-string instrumental rhythms of “Collector I” (Collector II and I seem to be reversed order for some reason) which also seems to be something of an interlude as well: perhaps symbolizing the secret actions of citizens deciding what to do with the new furtive powers they’ve been given. Certainly, the synthesized hard-rock crescendos of the song are beautiful to hear in any case.

By “Broken Dreams,” I … seem to run out of words. There is something hard and elegant about this song. It is sad, as though someone–perhaps the figure of TweakerRay–is moving on from his task. It is as though he has done what he has had to. It is less a tragedy, and something more transitory and resolute with its echoing vocals and touching piano keys. He is not that person anymore: he is “broken dreams”: a refracted mirror of many other people now. Maybe at this point in the narrative, he decides to fade into legend, into myth and become not just one person but all people in the musical narrative that want freedom. Thus he sheds his persona to let everyone else free themselves without violence but through acceptance of “what is.” This is also a favourite track of mine, as it seems to symbolize a “moving on” to another life but leaving something important–a legacy–behind.

Finally, there is “Transmission.” The CD could have ended by “Broken Dreams,” but some things transcend that. You see, from what I understand, the message or the medium–the music–has spread. Others are now adding their voices and interpretations and only then–at an ominous screeching echo–does the entire Collector 02 end: on a note feels like it is “to be continued.”

Most–though not all of this–was a creative interpretation brought on by listening to the music and if you expected this to be more of a traditional review of a musical score, I’m sorry to have disappointed you. But not really.

I think that I have said more than enough about how excellent I think this CD is, but before I wrap this up I want to talk about its one other feature.

That’s right: the booklet. The comic booklet.

The booklet was created by the artist and photographer Fotonixe. In fact, each included image in this article is actually the result of her work on this CD. Aside from some very professional stark illustrated green, black and grey backgrounds behind comics-style white font lyrics, Fotonixe actually creates sequential panels of figures to go along with some of the vocals within the CD track. For the most part, she seems to have a very fumetti-style of comics creation: using modified photographs and photo shopped images to illustrate a story. The style is also very reminiscent of the 1980s Slovenian FV Disco: a gritty collage-like yet dark and vibrant artistic style derived from the FV 112/15 Theater that used stills of digital footage, photographs and other images to make–among other things–visual art.

What’s also striking about this reminiscence is that FV Disco was described as crazed mixture of communist and capitalist punk made after the fall of communism in the former Yugoslavia. Even though this may not have been Fotonixe’s intent, it has a great resonance with the themes that TweakerRay has made inherent in his piece and as such is an excellent aesthetic complement to it.

There are two more things I would like to mention: both with regards to TweakerRay’s Chapter 01 and 02. The first is that the excellent audio dialogue of Chapter 02′s “Introduction” was written by the artist B.S. of D., while the artist Freshoil read the audio of Sgt. Q in his “Status Report.”

The other thing I’d like to talk about is that both Chapters 01 and 02 have a very interactive element in them. At some point, TweakerRay asked for vocals and audio from some of his listeners. These elements made their way into 01‘s “Introduction” and 02‘s “Transmission.” In addition to the fact that he wrote his artist persona into his musical narrative as a main protagonist, I’m impressed with how he encourages his fans to essentially collaborate with him in his works and even make remixes of their own. As someone fascinated with interactive storytelling processes I find to be an excellent idea and a good way to cultivate an audience of listeners.

If you are interested in buying Collector Chapter 02, you can get the Limited Deluxe CD here or an MP3 album here. Also, if you are interested in TweakerRay’s work and/or Fotonixe’s art, you can click on both of those links as well.

If you buy the CD or the MP3 album, the following are samples or previews of the tracks that you should expect.

I definitely give this musical work a five out of five. It reminds me of the days when I used to go downtown and dance to hard alternative rock and synthesized electric body music and how epic it all was: and how awesome it can be.