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Asphalto/ Routemaster & Routemaster live remix DVD review [2006-10-26]

Both Asphalto and Routemaster represent finish art house directors Ilppo Pohjola fascination with car culture and its darker side, as it links deeply into our unconscious mind and say’s telling things about are sexuality and bonding with cars. Both films are brought  to in your face and ears reality with the soundtrack work Of Merzbow. Routemaster remix is the material played with two different sounds tracks in a live environment

Routemaster and Asphalto - DVD 

Routemaster and  Asphalto come packaged together in two version- one a standard DVD case and the other a rather nice art like item- featuring a ring bound  58 page booklet with fold out pictures- that mix’s text, images and female models  from the films, and really gives an nice extra  depth to both films.
Routemaster is the shortest of the two films at 17 minutes, it’s a speeding past collection of grainy and altered black and white images, relating to a racetrack and car crash test dummies. That in it’s self,  doesn’t sound terribly captivating, but trust me it is- the images are looped and repeated building up to such a disorientating feeling, added to this you have the choice of three soundtrack.

Firstly there’s the San Francisco  soundtrack by  Jim McKee And  Wieslaw Pogorzelski  which uses streached out racing car like drones and  car crashing sounds to  a sinister dwelling effect,  with images it gives the feeling of some strange drug altered state- you almost feel you’ll break into a cold sweat- slowly but surely a guitar tone appears along with crashing metal percussion and the pace builds, the atmosphere seeming getting and tense, before dropping out again towards the end.

Next up is  the  London soundtrack supplied by  Lee Digi-Dub which mixes car accelerated sounds with a  slight back beat,and various electro like cold techno swirls and sadly comes off as the least interesting of the soundtracks. 

Lastly come the Tokyo soundtrack by  Merzbow, which really gives the film such an intense impossible to get away from feeling, and that’s on the small screen, it would deeply intimidating on a large screen. Merzbow really has locked into the images and seems  to pull out even more- so you feel trapped in your seat unable to move, feel both pumped with adrenaline and on edge. Merzbow offers a collection of tightly wound, electro pluses that build and build on each other, again utilizing car engine sounds, but this time tighter and speed right up .

Asphoalto -subtitled An Aria for 13 demolition Derby Cars & Cash stations.Is A forty minute  film that Mixes  images of  grainy road footage and altered footage of 13 gas station along a major road in Finland, linked in with the images of females dressed in fetish and kinky super hero like costumes- emblazed with car related badges. Also we have images of a demolition derby, bizarrely in what seems like an underground car park. Along with a sub plot of a failing or failed relationship. Pohjola mangers to create a quite on-edge and not partially pleasant atmosphere, with out the use of any real violence or shock tactics, which should be admired in it’s self. He also makes a film that builds and grows with each new viewing. I wont go too deeply into what I think it’s all about, I feel with Art films and experimental works, it’s better to let the viewer make up their own minds. And to top it off we have a great Merzbow soundtrack, that has moments of been fairly subdued and ambient- as well as moment of electro chaos. But never reaching really extreme heights, that we all know he’s cable of. He composered this  purely for the film, bounding  together tightly image and sound.

The two films come  along with extra, two shorter films: Derby chill out which is rather beautiful and melancholy  four minute film showing footage of decaying  and autumnal day at a car scrap yard. The images of car seems to have such depth of sadness and emotion with the slow moving violin and voices and atmospheric environmental sountrack. Bacteroid 1.0 is the second short film  running at 13 minutes again very much linking images and sound together as the electro soundtrack builds and flourishers with various out of focus footage- this is  the least interesting piece here as it seems to have little to keep you watching for 13 minutes, that said both of these films are work in progress films. There a few other bit and bobs extra wise, but those tow films stand as the most interesting.

Routermaster -remix DVD

The second art disk package represents a live playing of Routermaster from Tokyo with Merzbow, and San Francisco with Jim Mckee and Wieslaw Pogorzelski. Each concert presented on its own disk. Each film utilizes eight multipel camera angles. It’s an interesting idea because you really do see each of the artists from every angle imaged and can move through different camera angles. Again the packaging is very plush with the deluxe edition- 58 fold out pages in very arty form, building up of texts and visual.

Though I have to say it doesn’t have the longevity of the Asphalto and Routermaster- it’s a nice collectors item and it’s of course great to see Merzbow live  with Professional, arty concert footage . Along with the San Francisco  show filmed live - it’s just a pity that it only last 17 minutes, sure you can investigate the different angles etc, but at the end of the day it’s still the simlar two 17 minutes of  visuals but with different sound. That said Bizarrely enough as extra on the first disk is the full 60 minute concert -featuring  all versions of Routermaster and  the Bacteroid film with soundtrack played live. Quite why this has been puhed away in a submenu seems rather strange,when it’s  has the longest playing time here and really works better as the whole concert. This highlights a  problem with both releases- the DVD menus, while they  look great, there not very user friendly and puzzling.

More details on both items can be found  here-where of course you can buy direct .


Roger Batty
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