Somnambule - Writing About Music

D-Fuse D-Tonate_00 (DVD)

What It Is • D-Tonate_00 is a DVD containing 9 music tracks and a number of accompanying videos. Most of the music tracks have more than one (up to four) alternative visual tracks which can be accessed via preset routes on the visual interface or via the Angle button on the remote of a DVD player.

The Method • Rough edits of visuals were sent out to musicians who were asked to use them as the basis for producing soundtracks. The visuals were then edited down and reworked.

The Musical • There are ten tracks by a variety of better and lesser known electronica artists. Ken Ishii’s track as Flare is of customary high standard and shakes the techno template until it rattles and begins to fall apart; Funkstorung’s ‘Syn~Real’ is detailed, crunchy and enjoyably contemporary sounding; Kid 606’s ‘We Accept’ is disposable and in your face (not necessarily a bad thing); Burnt Friedman’s track is disappointingly anonymous and ends rather suddenly; Scanner’s ‘Ltd’ is a cumulative, subtle beast. The artists you may not have heard of – Chi 2, Fibla, Braille et al all contribute sophisticated and enjoyable electronica.

The Interactive • The menu interface is an attractive, multilayered 3-dimensional space which provides access to a number of options (angles and sub pictures) which initially appear a little intimidating. After a fair amount of experimentation and reference to instructions on the cover the functionality made sense. There are a few frustrations however that appear more the result of design than personal ineptness. When playing videos it seems that most of the basic controls are made deliberately non-functional. As a result it’s not possible to pause, forward or rewind through tracks. Also when tracks are playing it doesn’t appear to be possible to discover what is playing without returning to the menu (this may be a failing of DVD technology itself, although the subtitling functionality might have been used for this purpose).

The Visual • Everything in D-Tonate_00 rises out of or develops within darkness. Most of the visuals are abstract and fast moving and their synchronisation with the music is on the one and therefore effective and engaging. Scanner’s visual tracks 1 and 2 focus upon a pinpoint of pulsating light from which extend lines of variegated, rapidly changing colours. Though non-figurative, possible associations include a searchlight, a clubland laser or the output of some form of radiowave sensor focused upon a transmitter mast. The third video track is rather like a remix and further abstraction of the nightdrive scene from Koyaanisqaatsi.

The majority of the visuals on this DVD are detailed, fast moving 3d abstractions. They convey a strong sense of the merging of musical and visual datasets into an immersive synergy. The very level of abstraction and the rate of change and sudden shifts in perspective encourage at least partial surrender to a cyberspace similar to that described by William Gibson: torrents and plains of information interacting in 4 dimensions. The result is like spying on the secret life of data as it travels down internet backbones via routers and hubs. navigating microverses such as internet backbones, routers, hubs, etc.

Of course anything that’s abstract and digital is in danger of being described as ‘eye candy’, surely a pejorative term if ever there was one. If D-Tonate_00 is put on as background ambience then it does assume this quality. On the other hand if attention is paid to it then parts of it become mesmeric, even hallucinogenic. The visuals for Fibla’s ‘Shibuya (In 3 Parts)’ merge recognisable elements – an aerial view of what looks like a Tokyo junction full of scurrying pedestrians and racing vehicles - with abstractions like a lovely closeup of what’s probably a neon sign glowing a rich, dark red against the black background. When the visuals become overtly figurative things become less interesting, for example the Koi carp swim just a little too close to the average screensaver illustration for comfort. So too with the high speed credit card collage for Kid 606, like the music it’s brash and noisy, but it seems rather out of place next to the rest of what’s on offer.

Conclusion • D-Tonate_00 is an interesting exploration of the possibilities proffered by DVD technology. The interface appeared to be a little unintuitive, although it could be argued that negotiation and assimilation of the options is a part of the experience reflected in the infoverse imagery. The abstraction of most of the visuals neatly sidesteps the often glaringly obvious lack of ideas in more figurative work at the same time as it mirrors the nature of the music it accompanies. Now where to find a data projector and some mirrors for a truly immersive experience?

Colin Buttimer
May 2004
Published by Milkfactory