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Lovely people who read The Streetlamp

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Griff says; All aboard the 8-bit data bus

Now, I'm hoping you'll indulge me tonight as, first of all, I want to talk a bit about non-musical art of a most unusual nature. Stick with me though and you'll be pleasantly surprised (and there's some good free music at the end).
My good friend, The Big Chap, is something of a video-gamer and it was he who first introduced the concept of video games as an art-form to me. Initially, I was sceptical, not being fully immersed in that culture I hadn't realised just how much the boundaries had been pushed over the last few years. However, by careful exposure, on his part, to some beautifully crafted and philosphically-rich games I slowly began to realise that video games had developed from the simple 'shooting at badly-rendered alien craft' view that I had formed into something altogether more intellectually satisfying. The clincher, however, probably came a couple of years ago when he and I attended a concert of the entire Royal Scottish National Orchestra providing live on-stage accompaniment to screened video games at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. I've never mentioned this on the blog before, but I'm a huge fan of live orchestras and this particular night was excellent, musically and visually. Shortly after this The Culture Show ran a piece on video games as 'art' and I was able to nod along sagely, claiming that; "Yeah, I've always said that."

Anyway, tonight's artist was a recommendation from The Big Chap and I liked it so much I wanted to share it on The Streetlamp. The artist is Emily Carmichael from New York, USA. A graduate of Harvard University, Emily earned her B.A. with honours in Painting and Literature and continues to distinguish herself as an artist, playwright, and theatre director. In 2006, she entered the MFA film program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and in the past two years has written and directed five narrative short films and an animated short in addition to two short documentaries. In 2008, she founded Kid Can Drive, an independent company committed to the production of creative content across media platforms. It is one of the Kid Can Drive projects that I want to bring to your attention tonight, namely, The Adventures of Ledo and Ix.

The Adventures of Ledo and Ix is a series of animated short films that uses the visual vocabulary of retro video games to explore the human fear of both the unknown and the known. The genius of the concept is that Ledo and Ix are 8-bit fantasy adventurers in the style of the early NES-type video games familiar to so many. However, Ledo and Ix display sentience and a measure of free-will, unlike the automaton-like behaviour of the stock characters they encounter, and after each episodic adventure they muse, wonder, dream and despair. Here's the trailer, for a taste of what to expect:

The Kid Can Drive website describes The Adventures of Ledo and Ix as "a sort of eight-bit tribute to Waiting for Godot", and that, whilst undoubtedly a bold claim to make, is a perfect description. The 8 episodes so far released can all be seen on Penny Arcade TV and I strongly urge you to check it out. I guarantee that you will find yourself thrown into a state of empathy with, and worry for the future of, Ix; who with his winning combination of innocence and growing unease is all humanity reduced to an 8-bit figure. This is a truly wonderful piece of art, please do have a look and let me know what you think.

Now, for some nicely themed music (and some more visual art, now that I've got you in the mood). Firstly, Raquel Meyers is a Spanish video artist, often using low-res graphics to create surreal imagery and eerie atmospheres. She has made video clips and VJ sets for many of the more prominent 8-bit musicians (Glomag, Bubblyfish, Goto80) and also worked with indie, electro and noise acts. Meyers has also worked with print design, installations, and websites. She is perhaps one of the more consistent pixel artists, although she is currently exploring other expressions to create confusion and delight. Check out her website 'here' for more madness. Tonight, I'd like to feature one of her amazing 8-bit videos. This is Dos Policías by Spanish indie-poppers Los Punsetes:

Excellent!You'll be pleased to learn that Los Punsetes have several free MP3s available for download on their page.

Next up is a video by twee, and sweet as candy-floss, Japanese chiptune exponents YMCK. This is J-pop done using the sound chip technology of early computer and video consoles. I find it rather charming. This is their version of La La is Love, a song originally by Thai experimental-pop musician June Somsiri Sangkaew, recording as Bear-Garden:

If you liked that, you can find download links to the entire YMCK back catalogue 'here'.

Finally, director Aaron Novak took the Dealership song, Forest, which the band contrived as a paean to the Nintendo game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and has crafted for it a video of 8-bit inspired fun. The video is a loving homage to early Nintendo game design. It even uses the screen resolution and colour palette of the old NES system. Have a look, and listen, below:

Great song, too. The MP3 of Forest can be freely downloaded on the Dealership website.

Hope that was fun (and thought-provoking too)!


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