Woman's Hour - Conversations LP
Listeners first encounter Conversations, the debut record by United Kingdom musicians Woman's Hour, through striking monochrome visual imagery. Black and white can be seen in everything from their album artwork and press photos to their music videos, serving not only to unify the band's music, but to incorporate their underlying interests and philosophies as well. Responsible for their visual branding is Frank and Jane, a collaboration between Woman's Hour frontwoman Fiona Jane Burgess and artist Oliver Chanarin. This article features a Q&A with Burgess and all-encompassing look at the visual collateral connected to the record, to demonstrate how the experience Woman's Hour is crafting is truly an interdisciplinary and thoughtful one.
Woman's Hour - Conversations Music Video

 

V V Brown has released three albums since 2009 -- but it is only now that she is making a foray into the independent music world. Freshly divorced from her former major label home, Capitol Records, V V Brown has recently found renewed strength in herself as an artist with her latest record, Samson & Delilah. Themed around the Biblical tale, which mirrors the themes of vulnerability, slavery, and freedom that led to her massive career change, Samson & Delilah also presents a sonic change into moodier and darker territories, where hints of The Knife echo through, replacing previous tendencies towards mainstream pop appeal. A bold new audio-visual approach accompanies the record as well, in the form of a dramatic, carefully-plotted fifteen-minute short film directed by Jessica Hughes. Comprised into three separate music videos, the film bears similarity to mesmerizing black and white Japanese classics by Akira Kurosawa or Masaki Kobayashi, while catching a mood not unlike that of Ingmar Bergman films. They're transportive from part to part, leaving viewers wondering about the terrains to be crossed next. In this Q&A interview about the creative process of the short film, V V Brown speaks of being inspired by geishas and noir, Biblical stories and archetypal characters -- and the feeling of finding one's own artistic voice.
"Samson and Delilah is a story about strength and weakness. It's about the pendulum between the two. The story for me conjured up the idea of empowerment and fragility. When Samson was deceived by his love and was in the wilderness discovering and finding himself, waiting for his hair to grow back, this represents times in my life I have felt lost creatively. Hair clipped and [with] a sense of vulnerability. Delilah was the deceiver. Samson represents the artist and Delilah represents the cooperation. The Artist can often loose the strength of their messages in the corporate arena, and my own record label exercises my freedom and new strength." - V V Brown
The mythological quest to express the sublime through the human body can be the great mystery and significance of dance. The grace and emotive gravity of dance inspire us to explore shared resonance and to comprehend our substance through a most intimate artistry. Yet we are ever limited by our human bodies, those endlessly elusive entities that enrobe our vocabularies and begin and end our extraordinary worlds. Butoh dancing (舞踏) is an expression of body that has found relevance outside of its roots in Japan, across cultures and generations.
Originally known only as the "dance of darkness" or "dance of death", Butoh has evolved into an encompassing expression of every element to be found through the human body. It does not transcend the human form or express a superhuman consciousness, but challenges us to comprehend ourselves through a different mentality. Despite the fairly recent origination of this dance form, it has quickly appealed and demonstrated that it speaks to something common within us, however we may allow our cultural and geographic borders to define us.

A Background on Butoh

tatsumi-hijikata Kazuo Ohno © H. Tsukamoto Dance is a corporeal poetry that speaks to us through sensual body memory and intangible thought, thus communicating experience and expressing ideals. We may, for instance, find the most exquisite aspirations to perfection in the sculptural forms of ballet and the etiquettes of ballroom dance -- but what dance is there to speak of anguish and terror? What of the uncontainable spirit that seeps from our grotesque beings in spite of vigilant taboo? Would it not be deceptive to express the most visceral of human experience through only forms of chiseled beauty? Dance that declares itself as an encompassing language for human experience yet speaks from under a veneer of piety for conventional aesthetics is fundamentally dishonest. With passionate protest to the void in integrity of expression and against standards of superficiality, Butoh emerged at the end of the 20th century. It was in the shadow of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that Butoh's first breaths were drawn, already shuddering naked and borne by true darkness. Shaped into its ghostly form by dancers Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata, Butoh came to define Japanese avant-garde dance in its embrace of the totality of emotional experience and the absurdity found in the raw body. Ohno and Hijikata composed a new lyric for the human body where nothing was forbidden to experience. The revolutionary spirit of Butoh explored morbidity and sexuality in its most explicit forms. By doing so, it not only transformed the Japanese stage but connected with international audiences and dancers, tantalizing a universal desire for this same purity of expression. Until the '60s, there had been no such dance within Japan that allowed for the communication of the uninhibited body and, as far as technical form, there still exist few such parallels.

Kazuo Ohno & Tatsumi Hijikata

"Butoh, as [with] so many true arts, contains the beautiful spectrum of being. Often these first looks at Butoh are early works of suffering individuals. I have found that once the repressed or taboo aspects of life and the soul are allowed to naturally surface through the body and art, the lightness and loving joy must also be revealed." - Maureen Freehill (Seattle-based Butoh dancer, Artistic Director of "Butopia")
Layla Sailor's gorgeous photo series, Kokoshnik, examines the traditional Russian headdress in a gloriously colorful and modern fashion. Historically worn by married women from the 16th to 19th centuries, the customary kokoshnik is generally characterized by a nimbus crest-like shape and decorative design. By contrast, Sailor's photos, a collaboration with designer Lisa Stannard, are an apt abstraction of the traditional headdress, incorporating lively geometric forms as well floral and animalistic elements, while honoring the intense, ornate design of the traditional pieces. The impetus for the series was to challenge how pattern is photographed, but nearing its completion, Kokoshnik took on additional meaning, as a way to show support for the members of the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot, a feminist punk rock group who were protested the Orthodox Church's support of Vladimir Putin on the soleas of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior and were subsequently arrested. In Sailor's photo, the phase “Let Our Sisters Go” is placed prominently and resonates as solidarity for the cause of freeing Pussy Riot. The Kokoshnik project is exemplary of Sailor's affinity for color and her talent for displaying imaginative and cinematic images.In the interview below, Sailor dishes on her dreamy style, her lifelong passion for folk art, and the distinctions between commercial and personal work.

 

In the music video for Strangefruit's "Sea of Fog", husband-wife duo Laura Clarke and Matthew Oaten weave together visual cues from David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, and Mikhail Bahktin, as well as incorporating themes of sexuality and visceral natures. The result is a morbid, eye-catching and initially misleading feast of fools. We spoke with both the video artists and the band below, on the process of shooting the music video, as well as its deeper philosophical context.

Strangefruit (Musician)

"Ghosts" and "Tell Me" come from Strangefruit's debut EP, Between The Earth and Sea, which is out now. "Tell Me" was recorded and produced at Abbey Road with Greg Wells (Adele/Rufus Wainwright/Pharrell Williams/Katy Perry), and "Ghosts" was produced by (The Killers, Goldfrapp, White Lies). Stream both tracks below.   "Ghosts" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Strangefruit-Ghosts.mp3|titles=Strangefruit -- Ghosts] "Tell Me" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Strangefruit-Tell-Me-Abby-Road.mp3|titles=Strangefruit -- Tell Me (Abbey Road Version)]

Laura Clarke (Director) & Matthew Oaten (DoP)

Laura Clarke: "Matthew and I have collaborated on several films over the years, but the film I am most proud of to date is a film I made in 2010 called Punctum. Punctum has been screened all over the world, most recently the Brighton Fringe Festival, but also the Young persons Moscow Biennale, the London Short Film Festival and a show called Screen in Barcelona. It follows a young girl's journey from innocence to experience, exploring the liminal space of puberty."

Strangefruit -- "Sea of Fog" Music Video

Please scroll to the bottom of the post for the music video.
"The original concept was that the music video would become almost like an art film. Something powerful, dramatic and theatrical, drawing on my research into psychoanalytical theories revolving around the origins of desire, sexuality and power. Exploring gender roles, the uncanny, the macabre, and Freudian theories of death and sex. I loved the idea of a banqueting table that looked opulent and decadent at first glance, and then upon closer inspection, was a decaying, rotting mess. The vulnerable, naked woman in the center of the feast, being devoured not only by the men, but by women too. The idea being that a feast is always a precursor to either death, violence or sex." - Laura Clarke
 
There is an inherent danger with really diving full-force into a film festival that has a scope as large as the Seattle International Film Festival. Often, the movies are top notch, well-selected and well-curated, and fit perfectly within the framework of that section of the festival. Other times, after sitting through self-indulgent artsy dribble that someone, somewhere, found interesting enough to greenlight with millions of dollars, you realize sadly that two or more hours of your life will never return. Now that we're through SIFF 2013, we've decided to give the rundown of what we appreciate and what we will never need to watch again.

The African Cypher (South Africa)

Directed by Bryan Little * TOP PICK * Films like The African Cypher showcase what is so great about festivals like SIFF. This documentary takes a long, sweeping look at the different street dance styles across South Africa, where dancing isn't just something people to do for fun, but something people to do to live. Director Bryan Little takes a backseat and lets his story tell itself through captivating dance sequences and enlightening interviews, as his subjects go from the confines of their neighborhoods to compete with the best at the "Big Dance Competition". Although The African Cypher's run has already passed at SIFF, mark it down as a film to place on hold at the library in the near future -- if anything, for the jaw-dropping dance sequences Little captured forever on film. - Peter Woodburn