Skaters - Diminishing Shrine Recycles (Self-released VHS)
That's right, it's time to drag out your VCRs - the Skaters have put out a tape, and not the kind you can pop into your car's deck either (although they've made plenty of those kind too). Me, I just recently dragged my VCR out lately anyway, albeit for other reasons. I recently bought the RRRecords "Moby Dick" compilation tape. It's a doozy. So it's a happy coincidence that this came along at the same time I had all my ghetto technology hooked up. I'm not really sure what prompted the Skates to put out a video. "Diminishing" comes with a Xeroxed insert listing five different "tracks" (one with a 12-line paragraph as a subtitle - oh boy!) and says in small print at the bottom "all works will be screened at the Hawaii Center of Crystal Recreation Aug-Sept '96". Well that would've been ten years ago and Google turns up absolutely nothing for a Hawaii Center of Crystal Recreation so I don't know what to think. Maybe it's a sly reference to something I'm not privy to, who knows. Like Aerosmith once said, all I can do is just push play.
It's kinda hard to pick out where the tracks start and stop but there are some pretty distinct shifts in sounds and in images. The opening "Clarity, Melted Knowledge (Deconstruction of Aural Planes)" features kaleidoscopic images and sounds with flashing triangles and the only discernable object being the word "LIGHT". The music is a lovely organ-sounding/tinged muck...I hate to be John Everyreviewer but it's kinda the Perfect Visual Manifestation of the Skaters' Sound. Let me tell you something though, the lo-fi VHS grunginess and the sinus-thickening sounds are not a good combination if you're battling a headache, or epilepsy for that matter. The duo are in usual form in terms of sonics though - heavy, thick and impenetrable. The next clip I think belongs to "Wheel of Heaven" but it's weird because it's totally silent, with a negative/neon animation of what looks like a jellyfish and the reflection of a human's face. I actually had to stop the tape and put in another one to check and see if my sound was busted, but nope. No sound. So watching the jellyfish loop gets pretty tedious when there's no music anchoring it. Luckily the following "Archetypal Cruises" features sound, a sound reminiscent of the Skaters' form from the "California" box set with a looped stuttering flute (made me think of the Nath Family records actually) and warbly analogue drones. The pix are bright, saturated psychedelic hues with lots of moving cells and globs. I could maybe make out another face, a pinwheel, and an image of rugged mountaineers but maybe I'm dreaming? My VCR had a bitch of a time playing this and at times the frequent sound/video dropoffs had this thing working like a "Disintegration Loops" for the underground set. Somewhere along the way there's another change into the fourth clip "Decorations of Raising Dream Shrines (Diminishing Shrine Recycles)" which is also the title with that super-long subtext I was telling you about before. But I'm not about to type it all out here. Here I'd swear they're sampling Marianne Faithful's voice and I was so certain I'd used that comparison before that I actually Googled my "California" review and lo and behold I had brought up Mme. Faithful then as well. So, I don't know. Cut from the same cloth? Probably. Anyway along with those bizarre intonations there's a high-pitched, almost giddy sounding hum in the background, and I say background because the sound on the VHS drops out a lot here and I had to crank my TV up to like 50 just to hear anything. Which is when I heard a grinding noise and I thought it was my VCR till I hit mute - nope, just the Skaters doin' their thang. If I got all the order right then the last track is called "Memory" and it too is silent, and pretty fucking terrifying so as not to mince words. Let me tell you. When the soundtrack drops out and the camera's focus lands on the grimacing face of a dummy/doll/mask looking like some cross between Capt. Howdy and Michael Jackson in the "Thriller" video, and it's the first non-effected straight-forward shot of the whole tape...well it makes your heart leap into your throat. At least mine did. And then there's another shot of somebody with the same face (so I guess it was a mask) swinging a knife. So what if I had the covers pulled up to my nostrils, okay? Then that ends (not soon enough) and there's some footage of a dog walking by on the street startling some pigeons - also soundless - and that's it.
Hmm...interesting document to say the least. I guess maybe Nate Young started a trend last year with the highly-touted/impossible to find "Video Madness" tape, which was upgraded to a DVD(-R?) recently. It seems to me like the Skaters are making these to order for the Aquarius Records folk, so you shouldn't have too much trouble trying to score one through them but I could be wrong. I'm not sure if anybody but Skaters die-hards will find themselves totally gripped by the sights and sounds here but it's a fun curiosity nonetheless and since Skaters stuff is so hard to come by, you take what you can get. In case you're wondering, I'd estimate "Diminishing Shrine Recycles"'s length to be around 35ish minutes, give or take 5.