Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Misinformation - Central Office Of Information + Mordant Music

If you’re familiar with Baron Mordant’s music you’ll know not to expect anything as obvious as cheesy synths applied to footage of Britain from the 70s and 80s for the purpose of pure nostalgia. Oh no. This is something far stranger, at times amusing, simply odd, and in one instance, very disturbing.
   Whoever dreamt up this concept of getting Mordant to create music for Central Office of Information films deserves a medal. The result is 14 films, re-edited, reconfigured to warp notions of nostalgia and mutate the mundane (a simulated ship’s deck, for instance) into the bizarre.
   The two stand-out films for me are also some of the longest, thankfully. ‘New Town’ may contain common imagery of urban existence circa ’74 (teenagers, old folk, housing etc), but it also has the exceptional animation by Halas & Batchelor. Add to this the contrast between Mordant’s bleak futurist music and the visions of supposed concrete utopia circa 1974 and the whole thing works brilliantly. ‘Attenuated Shadows’, however, is shocking. It features nothing but youths sniffing solvents and, combined with Mordant’s music, sometimes looks like a sci-fi horror film about some evil spawn imagined by Kubrick and Windham as they stagger through various landscapes.
   I do think two of the longer pieces (‘The Dry Dock Dybbuk’ and ‘Ridyll’) are less successful since both rely on largely uninteresting imagery. The first is all sea, lighthouses and coastal wildlife, the second prehistoric sites. But viewed again as separate entities I may feel differently. I did watch all the films in succession, possibly lessening the effect of each individually.
   Peter Greenaway’s 1979 film about the inkjet printer provides fascinating footage, and Mordant’s music perfectly complements the original wonders-of-technology idea in which egg yolk, flowers, fingers and sausages are all tattooed with ink. That said, his mechanised sounds and the site of a sausage with ‘sausage’ inked onto it provide a very strange highlight.
   The footage will satisfy nostalgia buffs, but thanks to the Baron this project succeeds in being much more than a mere trip down memory lane. His music sometimes reacts to the images as a normal soundtrack would, but on the whole takes them into another realm altogether.

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