"Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" - april 24, 2008
Local artist unveils an inconvenient sound
Writer: Manny Theiner
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
* Where: Pittsburgh Filmmakers Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland.
* When: Wed. 8 p.m.
* Tickets: $6.
* More information: 412-681-5449.
[tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE note: The majority of this article is left out here because it's about my "Mechanically Repetitive / ReRecorded Records RECORD"]
The inveterate prankster persona of Tent rears its head in the full-length movie "Backwards Masking in Rocks," which he'll also debut on Wednesday. "It started out as a simple joke about the recording technique known as backwards masking," he says. "It was inspired by two things: a 'Flash Gordon' episode where actors dress like rocks and speak in an ancient language, which was really just English played backwards, and a book called 'Backwards Masking Unmasked,' written by a minister to expose so-called 'Satanism' in music."
"I found his book to be incredibly stupid," adds Tent, "but one of the examples he used was the Beatles' 'Revolution #9,' which is basically just John Lennon playing around in the studio with some miscellaneous stuff. It's clearly an avant-garde piece, which has nothing to do with trying to turn everyone into homosexuals who overdose on drugs."
[tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE note: As the author of "Backwards Masking Unmasked" might have us believe]
The plotline of the movie, if it can be considered to have one, is that rocks are subliminally controlling human beings to turn them into sex slaves. But it's never that simple with Tent. "I introduced the ideas of Richard Shaver, who wrote that rocks are ancient books that you can read by taking individual slices from them. He did paintings based on these slices, which are of naked women with large breasts seen from multiple angles. I worked that material into it, but then was annoyed by the minister's condemnation of rock music, so I put in different songs that refuted his generalizations or toyed with the word 'rock.' I used the Mothers of Invention's 'Help, I'm a Rock' but also Steppenwolf and Canned Heat, since both have drug warning songs."
"In a way, the film might be considered the weirdest Beatles documentary ever made, because [the Beatles] feature in it prominently under assumed names -- they're called The Crystals, and John Lennon is Lucite while Paul [McCartney] is Pyrite."
In true multimedia performance style reminiscent of the finest '60s happenings, Tent will combine both the sounds of the record and the visuals of the movie with live instrumentation, as Opie takes the stage with theremin, alto sax, clarinet and "a little robot electronic device" to provide subtle, additional touches as "atmospheric fill-in" for the first hour of the movie. Then for the last 20 minutes, Tent will bring up the lights a bit and begin playing two copies of the new LP as well as throwing in samples that went into making the piece. "Throughout the event, there'll be two other people," he adds, "[a] geologist, and [a character called] God's Chosen Person, who will be played by Babs Batera. Both of them will be leaping off the screen into the theater space, doing small parts relevant to the movie."
With both the album and the film's multiple references to popular music as well as the avant-garde techniques, it's clear that Tent is not attempting to withdraw from the mainstream entirely as much as to deal with it from the outside.
"I'm taking different elements of the culture that surrounds me, and turning it into a new culture that comments on the old, turning it into something as ridiculous as I can manage," he jokes. "I'm digesting things so that they become part of my body -- the body of work, or the body politic."
Manny Theiner is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer
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