Tennant and Lowe continue to herald their prompt return with the second single from forthcoming album Electric. Called “Vocal”, the track makes good on the promise that album number 12 is a return to their dance music roots after the more ruminative Elysium. And boy does the video slam the message home: directed by Joost Vanderburg, the film consists of grainy, authentic VHS footage of ravers of various stripes accompanies the uplifting, outrageous synth stabs and snare rolls. Like the best imperial and late era Pet Shop Boys tracks, the heady tug of nostalgia lies at the very heart of the song, with Neil Tennant declaring, “I like the singer he’s lonely and strange / Every track has a vocal and that makes a change / and everything about tonight feels so young”. Warning: may cause uncontrollable flashbacks and fits of sentimentalism—in the best possible way. Welcome back, Boys. Note: If you are outside Germany watch the video on VEVO.
More Pet Shop Boys videos on tape.tv.
Electric is out via Kobalt Label Services on July 15, 2013.
In the early 2000s, I spent a couple of years working at a video rental spot, which even back then should have been called a DVD renting spot given how quick the market was to jettison VHS. But since my boss was an incredible horror nerd, who also directed some of the cheapest, trashiest horror-sex-flicks himself, the room behind the curtain was not filled up with porn, like it was in all other video rental places, but with slasher movies. And of course most of them were on VHS, as it had been the genre’s preferred medium for years. After all, it was easy to copy (for decades nearly everybody had a VHS recorder), and besides its ease of use, there was always the danger of being liable for having an undesirable influence on the moral development of young people, which led to film indexing and thus a shitload of films were produced as direct video release without ever getting near the big screen.
And though the VHS loophole made the production and distribution of these films possible, it also creates one of the biggest problems when organizing a special program consisting solely of such movies at a film festival, which dedicates itself to screening real (9 or 35 millimeter) film. You see, there’s no film festival warehouse you can call up that has every film ever made on hand and ready for shipment—no, somebody has to go out and find these suckers. This is the reason why we sat down with Katja Wiederspahn, head of the Viennale program department, whose job it is to seek out these cinematic gems for big screen projection.
Katja, you are responsible for the acquisition of the actual film copies for the They Wanted to See Something Different program. How much time did you have to find all these movies in the right format?
In the middle of June, Hans [Hurch, the Viennale director] asked Jörg Buttgereit if he wanted to curate a program. Jörg Buttgereit responded enthusiastically and with lightning speed and less than two weeks later I had a list with his films of choice on my desk.
And henceforth, your work began.
Exactly. At first I asked the curator himself if he had any tips regarding the rights and the whereabouts of copies. Then the actual research starts. By now it’s something of a fact that IMDB is a very helpful source of information. This has been the case since about two or three years ago, especially when it comes to technical details. Via online research I also discovered, for example, that Matango, the Japanese mushroom horror flick, was screened in a new, remastered version in New York a few years ago. I found out that the screening was made possible with the help of the National Film Center Tokyo, which meant I was already hot on this one’s trail.
Sounds like a lucky strike. Most of the other film copies probably weren’t that easy to hunt down. Especially since it’s typical for the genre that a lot of copies are cut, right?
The declared goal of the Viennale is to show the movies exactly as they were filmed. This includes the format, as in whether it was filmed with HD cam or in 35 mm, the original cut and of course the audio version. For example, a digitally remastered Blu-Ray release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out recently, which claims to be the most complete version ever. I had to contact the company who did the release, because they also own the cinema rights for Austria, and they couldn’t understand why we wanted to screen the 35 mm copy instead of the digitally remastered version.
Probably quite an odd request in our digital age.
Yes, it seems to be. But from our perspective it’s not odd at all. Another great example is Cannibal Holocaust. From the moment it was filmed there were several audio versions. We screen the English version, which is especially interesting in light of censorship. According to experts there is no uncut Italian copy.
But wouldn’t it be more fitting to play video in order to be true to the origins of the genre, which indisputably lie in VHS?
When it comes to the question of the perception of the horror genre, there are a number of different approaches. It’s true that 99% of the experts in this genre are almost entirely accustomed with video. Like when I asked the curator of the special program, Jörg Buttgareit, if he knew anything about the original version of Cannibal Holocaust he answered, “I’ve exclusively seen the film in the German version on VHS.” But there is also a longtime tradition of cinema as well. For example, the Werkstattkino Munich. They have played genre films since the beginning of time and it always has been their concern to fight censorship and show original versions. There are even a couple of films of their own that we are showing this year. And there is the interesting anecdote Bernd Brehmer told me, he said they recently played the uncut Blu-Ray version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I mentioned earlier. But after the screening he and his team came to the conclusion that they liked the original 35 mm copy better and will show this again instead of the Blu Ray.
So it isn’t always the case that VHS is best. Thanks for talking to us, Katja.
With our regular columnist Moritz away on vacation this week, this week’s Videodrome is presented by Daniel and Gareth. They’ve each chosen their favorite videos from the past week; hope you enjoy!
1.Teeth – Care Bear
The UK synthpunk group are prepping their debut LP this year; enjoy the Youtube drag aesthetic of one of their most vicious tracks.
2.Cults – Go Outside
Montage that amalgamates news footage of the Jonestown Massacre with clips of the band performing seamlessley. Did someone say amazing?
3.How to Dress Well – Decisions
Tom Krell makes some of the most emotional music I’ve ever heard. ‘Decisions’ is an in-depth look on the process of making his latest EP ‘Just Once’.
4. IFEEL Studio – Watching Stars over the Rubicon Beltway
Freshest 12″ on Uruguay’s International Feel is a cosmic trip through animated universes, complete with the space machines of fifties futurism.
5. Hercules & Love Affair – Painted Eyes
Hercules have a knack for capturing the feel of their fantasy-world late-night disco with their videos, and the elegant, trailing beauty of ‘Painted Eyes’ is no exception.
6.Lil B – Out The Hood
Short video, hard emotion. Based realness. Hater-free.
7.Death Grips – Beware
Analogue synth aficionados have re-contextualized the collective memories of the sonic past into their idiosyncratic renditions – usually aided by an opulent visualization of their music.
Chicago band Gatekeeper are as influenced by Wax Trax! as they are by the mighty John Carpenter and early EBM. Their debut Optimum Maximus appeared on the Kompakt offshoot imprint Fright Records and was followed up by Giza on Merok.
We caught up with the New York based duo to talk about Chicago, their music and, erm, witch house.
Hello Gatekeeper! Tell me, how did you two get together?
We met in Chicago while we were both at school there. I was studying music and Matthew was studying critical theory. We moved to New York last summer.
Did you make music prior to meeting up?
Yeah, we were both making music, but just for fun before we created Gatekeeper.
Were you influenced by the rich musical heritage of Chicago?
Definitely. Chicago’s house music, labels like Wax Trax!, Trax Records, even stuff like Dance Mania. People don’t really pay much attention to it in Chicago these days unfortunately.
This straight dance music aesthetic is different to what you’re doing though. You also draw from other influences – has EBM had an influence on your music?
Yeah, some of it but we’re pretty selective in our influences.
As for EBM, it’s the specific aesthetic of the sound and the rhythm of the music, less the vocals and stuff, which were not quite as interesting for us.
When you got to New York, did you hook up with the whole scene there – the witch house scene? Is it a scene as such?
We don’t really consider ourselves as part of a specific movement right now. There are lots of movements that we cross over, but I think we’re pretty different. We’re definitely not a witch house band. Lot of our friends and communities that are supporting their music also support us.
It’s not music that really sounds like ours. Of course we like Salem, but we’re not trying to sound like them.
What sort of equipment do you work with?
We work with both analogue and digital. Our studio consists mostly of keyboards from the last thirty years. We record everything in Logic.
Does the fact that you both studied music influence the way you look at and create music?
It’s harder and easier in different ways. It’s harder because I’m comparing everything to the standard of quality that has been around for hundreds of years, it’s also easier because I have those tools that I can use to express my ideas. It can be difficult when comparing it to the traditional way people approach music.
But you feel free to defy those things that you have learnt?
It’s like learning a language and than you can speak whatever you want. Once you have the tools it’s up to you to use it in an interesting way. We have a lot of analogue synthesizers from the past and we are using new digital technology.
What would you say is the special Gatekeeper touch?
We think of it as imaginary soundtracks for films that don’t exist. We take a lot from the past, from many different genres, but we recombine it so it never sounds like anything in the past. It’s hard to say what our trademark is, as it’s always changing. That’s probably more to the listener to decide.
Do you have something specific that you do, a little trick that you can divulge?
A lot of times when we’re listening back to what we’ve recorded, to make sure it invokes the right feelings, we’ll play a movie on mute with our music to see how the music informs the action in the movie. That’s important since we heavily rely on cinematic tools.
Visuals are important for your project then?
They’re totally inseparable for us. We rely on the way music looks either in your head, in the form of a video, or in the form of a live set. Some way of creating a visual identity for the music is crucial in the experience of what we’re doing.
What about the semantics of your visuals?
We don’t really choose the visuals. Generally, the visuals that accompany our music are loose interpretations – it would be a colour, fog. Ideas that would conjure images in your head, it’s more like a feeling communicated by music.
You’re planning a VHS release. Can you tell us more about it?
The VHS was created by us in collaboration with our friends Thunder Horse, a visual collective from New York. We also work with them on our live sets, create special effects, etc. We made all six videos with them together and created the VHS. It’s meant to accompany the album in one sense – visuals with each song – but it’s just one interpretation of how it could’ve been done. I feel our music can take many different directions with the visuals.
Did you choose the VHS format to fit with the retro-futuristic sound?
It’s a novelty in a way. There isn’t a lot of VHS around anymore. We are using stuff from a lot of eras and the VHS plays into that. It’s also a medium that Thunder Horse work a lot with and they have huge VHS libraries. There’s also the aesthetic quality issue. When you put something onto VHS – the videos all take this uniform quality and the music sounds overcompressed. It’s a nice experience to watch it because it unifies everything.
What about your latest record – Giza?
We’re drawing from this imaginative desert world. Our last EP drew from John Carpenter, Dario Argento. The new record is a little bit different.
I guess this Goblin horror score music has been omnipresent in the last two years…
That’s what we were interested in two years ago when we made our first EP. As a result of over-saturation, the way we consume media is with a need to hear new things. Once we’ve been into something for half a year or year, chances are we’re not going to be into it anymore to keep us from getting bored.
Do you consider what you do as dance music?
Experimental club music. Not really. On some level, it works in the context of a club with the lights and smoke and people dancing but it’s also very cerebral. But we are both very flattered when it works in a club. It can work but it just has to be in the right context.
What are you working on right now?
Bunch of stuff. We are working on mixes, some new material, a score to a video game. We just started talking to people about doing film scores, T-shirt collaborations, etc.
Are you planning to come to Europe any time soon?
We’re planning a big tour, France, UK, Germany, etc. in April.