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Christmas Illusion 2

No, it’s not Christmas, but the following event sounds damn cool, and it’s a shame that I’m now entering crunch-time for a bunch of projects from now until I leave for my holidays to Canada (and NYC) at the end of the month. I’ll let Cat Jam‘s Channing explain it:

Cat Jams Label release JAM-013 VHS Entei & Whitesnake with Hiroaki Koshiba / Jerusalem and the Starbaskets Christmas Illusion 2 – an event/work for band, painting, video, performance, and internet Thursday July 28th, 10:00 PM, Ragtag Cinemacaf√©, Columbia, Missouri, USA Friday July 29th, 13:00, Design Festa Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (these events are simultaneous)Entei & Whitesnake is Gregg Lewis and Channing Kennedy respectively, a two-piece post-dronemetal project which came together around the 2004 holidays to record a one-off album, Christmas Illusion 2. Channing (me) runs Cat Jams Label, a ridiculous experimental CD-R label based in Columbia, Missouri, USA; and Gregg and Channing’s other music projects — Swamp Fuck, Animal Family, MC Cat Genius, RAVVEO))), the Diet Soda Supertsars, Sudden Impact 2.0 — have all used the politics of originality, technical prowess, and popularity as touchstones. Christmas Illusion 2, following suit, takes five loosely holiday-themed songs and audio tracks from cartoon soundtracks, video games, and John Cage, and ‘covers’ them, liberally using elements of the original songs, transforming and fleshing them out with drone guitar, prepared synth guitar, real and synth drums, and iBook.

Channing’s friend KOSHIBA Hiroaki, a Japan-based painter who draws influence from Kandinsky and music, agreed to create artwork for the album. Originally slated to come up with packaging, Hiro instead interpreted each of the five songs into an original painting. The group decided that the best way to pair the paintings and the music was to present them as a video; each painting would remain still on the screen while its corresponding track played in its entirety, one after the other, without breaks. The result is akin to listening to a record and staring at the album cover; as the music slowly unfolds, the eye wanders and new facets and details of the painting are noticed, and they in turn bring new connotations to the music. The album’s concrete sounds and remaining vocal samples and pop-structure artifacts also serve in turn to ground the abstract paintings. The end credits include Hiro’s production notes in English and Japanese, and his photos of the paintings taken before the paint had fully dried; after the long staring session, it’s a thrill to steal a glance at the art’s life cycle, to be reminded that the paintings are real and physical.

Also on the subject of media, Christmas Illusion 2 is being released as a numbered run of 40 VHS cassettes, with case artwork by Hiroaki Koshiba (a photo he took of his original CD case design, with his thumb and the ground visible on the edges); unlike DVD, VHS can’t be easily skipped through, reproduced, preserved, or surveyed. An element of uncertainty and limitation is thus present to clear the work of any remaining charges of triteness. The VHS packaging also includes Hiro’s production notes and biography, hidden on the other side of the liner. The show program (for the show I’m about to get to) is designed to slide into the case behind the existing liner, and to complement Hiro’s comments with new thoughts by Gregg and Channing.

On Thursday, July 28th, 10:00 PM U.S. Central Time, Ragtag Cinemacaf√© will host the release show for Christmas Illusion 2. First, the fifty-minute video will be screened; then local space-folk veterans Jerusalem and the Starbaskets will take the stage and perform live reinterpretations of the songs. At the same time (Friday July 29th, 1:00 PM) in Tokyo, Design Festa Gallery will be hosting Hiro’s ‘Sound Images’ show, featuring the five paintings from Christmas Illusion 2. Before Jerusalem and the Starbaskets begin playing, a two-way video link (using Apple’s iChat AV software) will be opened between the two galleries. Patrons at Design Festa will be able to see and hear the live band playing new interpretations of the music, and patrons at Ragtag will be able to see Hiro, live at the gallery, painting new works inspired by the new music. After the show, the connection will be left open for audience members wanting to mingle across the ocean; Japanese translators will be on hand at Ragtag to assist the process.