In modern music, the guitar has an unsurpassed history as the choice instrument for cutting-edge musicians. From Julian Bream stuffing one Bach voicing after another into its six strings to Derek Bailey eschewing standard melodies altogether in favor of harmonics and overtones, the challenge to create a new voice for the guitar has been irresistible for musicians for over half a century. These rapid developments happened in the context of a larger cultural shift, as technology has increasingly given experimental musicians not only the outlet they need, but also the ears. More importantly, as in the case of Yoshihide Sodeoka, this expansion has led directly to the creation of new contexts, indeed new art forms, wherein these ever-advancing techniques can be placed.
Video Metal is a prime example of the new musical artifacts. At eleven minutes, Video Metal is comprised simply of three chapters, each one featuring Sodeoka’s guitar playing accompanied by abstract visuals.
Sodeoka’s playing is fascinating on several levels. Much of Video Metal sounds similar to Keiji Haino’s noise-via-guitar approach circa The Book of Eternity Set Aflame, yet there are other enticing elements at play. Not content to conjure a violent maelstrom of feedback and strumming, Sodeoka’s playing is interspersed with hyper-technical fragments, including lightning-fast precision runs and other extended techniques. Although these fragments represent a small minority of the playing, they provide startling contrast, effectively cutting up the noise in an industrial fashion and lending the miasma a degree of rhythm and percussion.
Unfortunately, Video Metal leaves the listener wanting on a few fronts. The first is the most forgivable: the short 11-minute runtime. Sodeoka’s playing style is a novel hybrid, possessing an energy that somehow approximates both martial industrial and the Boredoms from moment to moment, so it is disappointing that there is neither an extensive exploration of his aesthetic nor an attempt at an overarching structure. There is just not enough time here to establish a narrative or even linger on anything.
This shortage of music exacerbates the disc’s second flaw: the visuals. It is clear that certain visual patterns are dictated by the underlying music, and in this way, when the face at center is subtracted, Sodeoka presents an appealing visualization of the sonic textures he creates. His website too presents very attractive, expanded stills that, given the similarities between them and the gorgeous hand-screened DVD sleeve, are seemingly derived from this project. But overall, the patterns flow from the screen’s center with all the originality of the Windows Media Player Visualizer. Even the cartoonish face ultimately detracts from the aggressive, noisy mood.
Sodeoka has worked extensively as both a visual artist and a musician proper, and his distinction highlights the conceptual uncertainty of this disc. As mentioned, the brief runtime precludes any meaningful exploration of style or structure. So, since this DVD does not stand on its own as a musical work, it must have been Sodeoka’s aim to present the work as something of a visual-musical installation. Yet, on an aesthetic level, its visuals are unfinished, even average, and its value as an ongoing concern is limited. The visuals do not have enough depth to justify extensive consideration beyond the disc’s length.
But the problem certainly isn't the medium. Pan Sonic’s Kuvaputki functions on both a musical and visual level as both a thrilling exposition on texture and a masterful study of the essence of minimalism. Atsuhiro Ito’s Optvision elucidates not only the byproducts of his homemade optron, but also the very nature of the player-instrument relationship. To understand the conceptual arguments Ito is propounding, the visuals are essential. Otomo Yoshihide’s Multiple Otomo Project is the most complete work in this field. Otomo presents austere images of his turntable and guitar manipulations. He too is fascinated with the physical aspect of music-making, but he creates a compelling argument that all objects are musical, that destruction is musical, and that witnessing destruction, and the artists who mimic it, is a sacred experience.
Unfortunatley, Sodeoka fails to forge such a symbiosis between his sound and his visuals, hardly touching on any deeper concerns with Video Metal. Hopefully Sodeoka fulfills his potential next time around by infusing more challenging structures with his sound, creating more compelling visuals, and articulating more clearly the fascinating ideas that Video Metal only hints at.
1. Evil Erector
2. Psychedelic Death Vomit
3. Electric Hair Doom