Synken ReviewJan Rohlf / clubtransmediale.de
With its mix of abstract images, graphic animation, digital visuals and complex film sequences, SYNKEN creates a fantastically spaced out, darkly romantic scenery, in which gloomy forests, wasted landscapes, cellars inhabited by hedgehog people, a biomorphic robot and a strange vagabond play the main roles.
SYNKEN is an innovative experiment, the successful culmination of the huge spectrum of activities that Transforma undertook in recent years: the VJs’ spot-on musical editing, the graphic finesse and formal elegance of Motion Design, the animation, the spontaneity and elaborate fantasy of the music video and, above all, the precise camerawork of filmmaking are here melded as a hybrid of narrative cinema, audio-visual experimental video and extended music clip. In snyc with the best achievements of contemporary electronic music, Transforma resists any temptation to present artistic personalities as demigods whose halos never slip – in contrast to the mainstream MTV/ VIVA variety of music clips and DVDs, that still do exactly this. The musician, O.S.T. is not the focus of SYNKEN, nor is his music simply a soundtrack for the story. SYNKEN emerged out of an intense dialogue about imagery and sound, and where this might lead was always an open question.
O.S.T.'s profoundly atmospheric electronic 5.1 surround soundtrack seems to rise from the deepest acoustic depths and bathe the images in an eerily hypnotic flow. Yet there is nothing constant about it. Tension doesn’t build in the linear fashion one so often finds in minimal electronic music, obvious repetition is rare and the meter is discontinuous. O.S.T. samples an organic, technical, biomorphic vocabulary that is in constant metamorphosis. Cagey crackles, arrhythmic rustles, gristly grinds, a throbbing pulse, echoing sub-bass beats and floating, spherical threads of synthetic sound reflect SYNKEN’S leitmotifs: the tension between nature and technology, between science fiction and dark fantasy. The music is stupendously complex. It playfully melds stubborn bulk and sonar fascination in a compellingly dense ambience, skips from fantastical spookiness to ethereal beauty, glides from ingenious visual effects into musical sovereignty and back again.
Image and sound together generate enormous atmospheric intensity. Yet SYNKEN is not only a formal experiment but also, a piece of narrative cinema. What exactly it is narrating is never quite clear. SYNKEN snakes and weaves around its themes: the monster – half round and woven from branches, half plastic tubing and robotic – that lives deep in the forest is mirrored by a hedgehog-type creature that shyly creeps through interlaced, neon-lit, Constructivist-style cellars: technology in the wilds of nature here, a touch of naturalness in an unrelentingly artificial environment there. And amongst all this, the “Backpack” Man, a mysterious traveler between the two worlds, who seems to want to open up communication between them by means of ritual acts: all this, conveyed by images that have been subjected to a powerful, modern repertoire of alienating effects.
Digital artifacts intersperse shots of natural landscapes and create a sense of rapture. Fast cuts, counter-cuts and rhythmic shifts in perspective repeatedly put distance between the viewer and the protagonist on screen. Yet, at the same time, one is irresistibly drawn into the visual flow. It is striking, how frequently the camera angle is reminiscent of surveillance cameras, and of the sudden shifts in perspective when one or the other of them springs into action. It’s as if one is observing unsupervised drones through the lens, or looking through the helmet-lens of a modernly equipped infantryman. Transmission failure due to loss of radio contact generates interference.
From the corners of the eye of this surveillance camera, the viewer catches a glance of an unknown quantity, slipping by on the margins of sight, of life-forms, hidden away in forests and dark cellars, which never completely come into view. One begins to suspect that an animistic force is pulsating forth from nature, from natural artifacts. And yet, one remains conscious of the fact that nature here can only ever become visible due to the distancing mechanism of ubiquitous technological equipment. In this respect, SYNKEN addresses not only alienation from nature but also the great longing for it – as two sides of the same experience.
Imagery and sound together open up subtle leads that can never be read only as a linear narrative. SYNKEN consists rather, of individual narrative modules that can be potentially combined in any number of narratives. Image rotation, smooth camera pans and the flowing soundtrack create at moments, truly psychedelic effects. The viewer’s perspective is skewed; he is disoriented, as dizzy as the bottle in the kids’ game of ‘Spin the Bottle,’ until a new direction becomes clear. This spin effect serves as a hinge for the film’s modular form and leaves the artists free to re-cut the film sequences in any order. The next logical step in Transforma and O.S.T.'s collaboration will accordingly be to take the DVD onwards into live performance, in which the players' real-time decisions will develop further versions of the narrative. Can you stand the suspense?
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