Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Ajna, Anger and Techicolour Skull 
(Los Angeles 19th Nov. 2011)

Kenneth Anger / Technicolor Skull

    On our recent family visit to California we were able to spend a few days in L.A. 

    The big event that weekend was the official opening of Kenneth Angers show 'Icons' at MOCA with a rare live performance by Brian Butlers band Techicolor Skull; a duo in which Butler pays guitar and Anger theremin.

L-R: Myself, Tyler and Chelsea Davis
    My pleasure was considerably enhanced by meeting Tyler Davis and his wife Chelsea of  The Ajna Offensive prior to, and at, the event. Tyler contributed an essay on the  mandrake to the Side Real Press edition of Alraune and Ajna have just released the debut Technicolor Skull album - they are busy folk.  As you might imagine, we had plenty in common and chatted over tea in a cafe opposite the juggernaut of indie music retail AmoebaThey normally reside in the rural hinterland of Oregon so it was very nice to be able to meet them in the flesh; they are a charming couple and good fun.

   Due to the kindness of Brian (we had previously met in Newcastle as part of the AV festival) I had been placed on the guest list and was also able to have a wander around the exhibition which is divided into two parts.

Brian Butler / Technicolor Skull
    The first is a large room filled with memorabilia from the Anger archive. As one might imagine, there is a considerable amount from the golden age of Hollywood; Valentino publicity photos, posters, newspaper clippings etc, but Anger has also assiduously collected ephemera from the more forgotten stars plus oddities such as a 'signed' Rin Tin Tin photo. This is the type of collecting (and collector) I admire the most - a jackdaws eye for things that others may pass up as too trivial but as a collection finds its worthy place. I was keeping an eye open for Crowley material, but this aspect of Angers interests was sadly not very evident.

    Room two (which was painted and carpeted in red) had a five screen installation showing films from The Magick Lantern Cycle. The relatively small size of the screens (perhaps 3m wide) allowed the audience to wander at will within the installation and at various points in time four of the five screens would freeze frame and the fifth would continue to run whatever film it was showing for a while. This  method worked really well as the element of chance determined what you saw at any particular time. The visuals and sound quality were, as one might expect for MOCA, excellent.

Kenneth Anger / Technicolor Skull
Brian Butler / Technicolor Skull
    The performance itself took place outside on a semi-piazza. It was packed with (one assumed to be) many of the great and the weird of the L.A. scene. To a backdrop compiled from various of Angers films, Butler created a wall of guitar treatments. This was deliberately restrained to allow the squawks and pitches of the theramin to both be heard and to play against them, the overall effect having a crackly feel to it that juxtaposed nicely with the film clips. It was short, perhaps fifteen minutes long. I think had it been much longer the energy generated would have been dissipated as the sound was quite intense.
Kenneth Anger / Technicolor Skull
    Both artists were available to chat and sign autographs after the show, but as I already had another commitment that evening I only managed to thank Brian and say my farewells to Tyler and Chelsea before sliding off into what is something of a rarity in L.A., a rainy night.


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