Saturday, March 24, 2012

Re-align your mind: the psychedelic music videos of “Mrs. Muddle”

On the Funhouse TV show, I often refer to the 1960s as “the gift that keeps on giving” (and giving and giving...) The rupture that occurred in the Sixties is still part of the fabric of popular culture, but it’s mostly present as petrified memories on “classic rock” radio and rerun cable networks. The renegade, often completely schizo, spirit of Sixties culture only returns front and center to the public consciousness when it’s time for middle-aged hearttugs in obituaries for Sixties idols like Davy Jones. Some folks, however, still craft their pop culture in a Sixties fashion… and so I come to the enigma that is “Mrs. Muddle.”

The music videos created by the Artist Currently Known as Muddle are mind-warpers that deserve a far bigger audience than they are currently getting on YouTube. In a just universe, the “muddles” (as their creator calls the music-vids) would be playing on some cable network *somewhere* — but, since the days of USA’s wonderfully eclectic Night Flight and MTV “alternative” shows like 120 Minutes are long (long!) behind us, we now must stumble across really great alternative culture on our own in the rabbit-hole that is the Internet, where lotsa trees are falling, but very few hear the sound. (Cable-access is still a great source for alternative weirdness, as I know all too well, but has been mostly forgotten in the rush to reach a higher-level of attention deficit disorder.)

Thus, I want to put the spotlight directly on the creations of this Mrs. Muddle person (my mind flits to W.C. Fields and “Mr. Muckle, honey…”). The vids are made up of a variety of elements: vintage psych and electronic music, new songs from current psych-sounding musical acts, clips from Sixties psychedelic films and sci-fi flicks, as well as “girlie” material (more on that below). Throw in some newsreel and exploitation images (Stecker, H.G. Lewis, the Japanese House), as well as longer clips that keep cinephiles like myself wondering “where the fuck did *that* come from?” and you’ve got this business known as “muddles.”

The videos hew to the original tenets of psychedelia, in that they are either hypnotic or jarring. A mood is adopted, and the visuals meld perfectly with the tune utilized. The copyright holders of the music and visuals have objected on occasion to the muddles and had them removed from YT, but they are short-sighted beyond belief — what is happening here is the music is being *promoted* and the images are being transformed.

In this era where pretty much every young person has an uncanny grasp of the visual language of music videos, thanks to sophisticated editing software that comes with every freaking computer, and celebrities custom-make their music videos to look like webcam karaoke so that their fans can easily recreate them (self-generating memes!), it’s really invigorating to watch someone creating something original using the rules of an era where the “Richard Lester style” was being refined while the undergrounders (like Anger and George Kuchar) were using pop-rock in even more original ways.

I first encountered this intrepid and talented video editor when he (oops, let the cat out of the bag) was doing the wonderful blog “The Lazy World of Arthur Ignatowski.” That blog was awash with eye-catching “girlie” pics from the Sixties, along with these great handcrafted video creations — vintage psych and garage music accompanying stag and “peel” footage.

While the “Lazy World” blog is now gone, Arthur (I’ll stick to that name for a bit) does often dote on the female form in the Muddle vids — however, that is not the sole raison d’etre for ’em anymore (in fact, some of them are — gasp — devoid of cheesecake content entirely). Whether they are “signed” by A. Ignatowski, Butch Tuffington (that was another interim nom du vid), or Mrs. Muddle, the videos are singularly wonderful, leagues beyond the quick-cut crap that gets millions of hits on YT and the other central vid-dump sites.

The music used includes the work of great instrumental composers/performers with a “futuristic” bent — Bruce Haak, Piero Umiliani, William Sheller, Gershon Kinglsey, Raymond Scott, and Mort Garson, Roedelius, Delia Derbyshire — as well as contemporary acts who could easily be labeled “trippy,” drone-y, or just plain strange: Stereolab, Broadcast, Spacemen 3, Spectrum, Boards of Canada, Cate Le Bon, Electrelane, Hope Sandoval and Death in Vegas, Honey Ltd., Girls at our Best!, and two guys name of Bowie and Eno.

At his best, Arthur — actually a Welshman, who was born after the Sixties, but possesses a good eye for, and great taste in, cinema — is a descendant of the holy trinity of Sixties pop-narrative editor-filmmakers (Anger, Lester, and Meyer). A number of the best examples of his recent work are embedded below, but I can’t resist adding in a few others, like:

— a b&w female dance-class scene, clipped to match an instrumental with killer horns
— A study of “health and exercise” from films unknown
— A kaleidoscopic meditation on les femmes
— A horrific freak-out, replete with images from Steckler’s Incredibly Strange Creatures
— A re-dit of Metropolis, set to Link Wray
— Images from a mod Japanese flick seemingly inspired by Seijun Suzuki
— A clip from an unnamed Golden Age musical where some babe recites the lyrics to a tune… and then things get weird…
— Skulls, psych music, trippy patterns, and dancing girls, who needs more?
— A sensory assault edited to a fitting song by the band the United States of America
— From outer space to inner with thermal images, and a great hard-driving instrumental

The alternate-universe Banana Splits — the ones who recorded the Sonics’ garage anthem “Strychnine”:

Bring on the dancing girls! With William Sheller music from the film Erotissimo, which I discussed in my Deceased Artiste trib to Annie Girardot — and had inititally discovered via Arthur I’s “Lazy World” blog.

Image from a 1968 Brazilian sci-fi film Viagem ao Fim do Mundo (1968), with sexy women, Tropicalia, and an overt political message (oh, the Brazilians!)

A key Arthur Ig discovery, the Flemish film Princess that looks as if it might have sprung from the imagination of today’s retro-minded moviemakers (hot babes with machine guns!), but is actually from the sacred annum of 1969:

As with the muddle scored to Delia Derbyshire and the often somewhat upsetting Anthony Newley, here is a psychedelic re-envisionment of AM-radio music, with a cover of “Both Sides Now” by the Collection:

Author Anthony Burgess tells us what’s wrong with today’s youth — but we know what turned him on:

Can a woman really be President? Mrs. Muddle declares an end to the “war on women” with a montage of assertive women — including “Ms. 45” herself, Funhouse interview subject Zoe Tamerlis:

Consider the “end times,” you heathen sinner, with music by Mort Garson:

Psychedelia with ventriloquist dummy and scary insects, as well as an upbeat tune by Snapper:

The muddles are pretty fashionable on the whole, but some are about nothing other than swinging Sixties duds:

A small shard of a muddle, with sound logic and interstellar women:

One of the more hypnotic creations, a vision of “Dead TV,” with a little Mickey Mouse head floating around the cosmos:

There are a number of muddles set to the weird electronic music of the incredibly strange Bruce Haak (the man who made children’s LPs with some of the oddest music *ever* made). Here he brings us to a computerized future (we’re there!), inviting you to “Program Me”:

I don’t think I could ever tire of Ms. Jane Birkin and the nutsy enigma that is Wonderwall. Images from that film crop here, as we reflect on stars onscreen and stars in the skies, as Stereolab informs us about “Celluloid Sunshine”:

A video that is a great example of Arthur’s editing creating a sort of “invisible narrative” involving spiders, Christ, powerful machines, and kids who need to “listen carefully”:

Although he’s done full justice to Bowie’s “Mooonage Daydream,” Arthur has done his trippiest work to tracks by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Here is a vision of “Panic in Babylon” with toys, creepy masks, and marching bands:

Another seminal music act for the muddles is the band Electelane. Arthur has offered us a sexy, quick-cut mindfuck, a survey of dance stylings, and a truly fucking brilliant slice of psych weirdness:

I’ll close out with vision of cinematic heaven: Romy Schneider, seen in extremely trippy sequences shot for Clouzot’s Inferno (1966):

In the week and a half that it’s taken me to put together this blog post, about seven or eight "muddles" have been taken down and another five have gone up (including the Inferno one above).

Thus, I’ll repeat what I’ve said before about rarities and oddities on the Net: if you like ‘em, save them with or, since they could disappear at any point (and you won’t know how to find them again). So the muddle vids (trade ‘em with your friends!), and keep monitoring the work of this talented mindbender.


GingerSlapp said...

Oh, fantastic!! Arthur/Butch is a buddy and a gourmet of the groovy. It's always a cosmic trip on his Space Muddle!

Sister Ray said...

finally figgered why this, and "chaos tv"--the one that used to be on before your show on MNN--seen so familiar and captivating to me. it goes back to the old days at the ritz. the video dj's there must've had some prepared clip reels, because when they weren't showing record label promo vids, they would have mad-crazy mixes. and you knew some of them were live because when the records would change, sometimes these clips would come back around. boggles the mind to think of how complicated this must've been on those old 3/4-inch decks...
still, being an old freak reprobate, i am happy to hear such groovy tunes from a generation not quite as geriatric as mine. crewl.