The Chromatic Graft Part 1

a Nick Beat EP

Nick Beat lounged on the edge of the second story fire escape, his black wing-tipped shoe dangling into the space above the small alley, lost in the embrace of the music. The guitars of ‘The Piston Falcons’ bounced off the low-rent industrial Japanese buildings, letting their geometry create a chaotically reflected soundtrack to the electricity in the night air. The skylanes above were buzzing with flyers, the running lights on their undercarriage streaking a pastiche of neon blues and yellows across the sky. All his weight propped up by his left arm, he started flicking his foot when the guitars burst into drums. ‘Falcons’ was executing on one of the functions Nick had designed it for: he was getting pumped for the task ahead.

From his place on the darkened rail, Nick had a clear angle through the window of the small office across the alley, his eyes solely on the cabinet prominently in its frame. A balding man sat at a tidy desk and Nick watched him slip a large wad of money into a bank deposit bag and put it and a stack of paper in a briefcase he lifted from the floor. Checking his watch, the man stood, singled out a key on the ring, grabbed the case and his coat, and walked out the door.

When it shut, Nick started tapping his finger, each beat landing exactly one second apart. Thirty eight taps later, another door at the base of the building opened and the moneyman stepped through. He passed a pile of black shiny trash bags on his way out to the street.

Nick hopped over the railing and slid down the drain running to the ground. He gathered the trash bags underneath the window and wedged the pistol he’d been keeping at his beltline underneath.

Beat was ready. He walked around to the entrance as ‘The Piston Falcons’ entered its last period, his steps hitting bap bap bap babap bap, bap bap bap babap bap, bap bap bap babap bap and rapped on the unmarked metal door with the back of his knuckle clack clack clack clacklack clack. He stood there a second before realizing what he’d done. He clicked the back of the plug in his right earlobe and the music from the speaker in the front cut. For the first time since Nick Beat strut in, silence settled over the alley.

Continue reading “The Chromatic Graft Part 1”

Loss Prevention Private Investigator

A short piece I wrote for the Media Arts Center San Diego’s three part workshop on producing short films, under the supervision of the very talented Nate Riedel.

I have to say I’m really impressed by what the team was able to create in only a few three hour classes. It’s got a noir style and playfulness of tone that I imagined as I was writing but expressed better than I had. The choice to shoot in black and white solidified the concept.

The Priceless Canvas Called Fujiko Mine

When Fujiko Mine first stepped onto the scene in Lupin III’s ‘Mystery Woman’, she knocked the master thief on his ass. She used her wits to best his plans, see through his disguises and utilized her ample feminine virtues to charm the arrogant womanizer into giving her everything she wanted. To celebrate the anniversary of Monkey Punch’s manga, ‘Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine’ reimagines and updates the classic from her violent, sexy perspective, adding life to the series in ways unseen since the original hand drawn pages. Like the machine gun blonde beauty, the show is a healthy, vibrant form on a 40 year old body.

Cease what you are doing and gaze at me. Stop everything save for the throwing of your heart.

Much has happened in the decades since Lupin was first put into print and after hundreds of stories, numerous series and dozens of theatrical films, our rogue’s red coat was starting to fray at the hem. Many of Lupin’s adventures featured the unabashed nudity found in M. Punch’s work but few could capture its tawdry, dirty sexuality and Lupin’s borderline sexual predator proclivities. Part of that can be chalked up to the changing of The Times. What was passable in the seventies wasn’t in the nineties and is even more dangerous now. So the tiger was defanged, and turned into a kitten batting at string. The solution was to come at it from a different angle. Continue reading “The Priceless Canvas Called Fujiko Mine”

The Bebop Sessions 02: Freestylin’

Know what the key fictional difference between a bounty hunter and a private detective is? A bounty hunter hunts, a detective solves mysteries. One moves forward, the other looks back. Yeah, there are similarities- both live somewhat laterally to the law and use leads to track criminals for profit- but the bounty hunters open-ended lifestyle doesn’t accommodate sitting in an office and waiting for a client. Time’s money and he’s got a fistful to make.

Understanding that a story’s potential starts with its character archetypes is crucial to identifying why Cowboy Bebop was able to tell 26 wonderful stories. By laying its foundations on space bounty hunters, Bebop gave itself the tools to create a wide range of rich stories and build a series whose every episode exists independent from each other.

The second part of the Bebop Sessions is about those characters and the storytelling opportunities they provide, so we’re gonna start with two that are integral: Punch and Judy. Continue reading “The Bebop Sessions 02: Freestylin’”

Kavinsky’s ‘Outrun’

 

Full Throttle into the Night

To a gravelly voiced narrator and strobing electronics, ‘Outrun’s ‘Prelude’ jumpstarts the legend of the Dead Cruiser, the Testarossa-charged phantom trapped in a time of black shades and high tops and then splits the night in the thunderous crack of lightning. It’s the perfect way for Kavisnky’s 80’s-film-inspired synth-rock ballad to put pedal to metal and throw fire from all twelve cylinders.

But it only sets the stage. With its ambient instrumentation and pulsing beats, ‘Blizzard’ is the cry of tortured souls calling you from the ether. If ‘Blizzard’ is seduction, ‘Protovision’ is salvation. A song that starts with the strong rumble of a motor tearing road towards you, it’s chrome etched in lasers shining under the passing city lights. It’s the theme of a pale rider.

It’s evocative. Through its thick and grimy sounds, only half of the fourteen tracks speak a word but all say a thousand. Listen to ‘Testarrossa Autodrive’, a machinegun spitting race that is every bit as awesome as its name confers or to the digitally-off-kilter vocals of ‘Odd Look’ to see a selection that is varied, thematically consistent but compositionally divergent. As a cohesive work, it’s an album whose every song is another scene in a well-paced movie.

Despite tones dripping with atmosphere, some of its standout songs are the ones with the most explicit messages. ‘Suburbia’ is a laid back rap set against the beeps and bloops of future computers that never came to bear, with winking lyrics including the awesome ‘cut these fools like pizza pies with extra cheese’. ‘First Blood’ stands out as well, with its Rockette-on-a-smoky-stage vibe that could be something straight out of glam rock-opera Streets of Fire.

While the majority of the tracks are exclusive to this album, several have been available since 2007 on Kavinsky’s 1986 LP. They’re great songs rich with texture that shows that his Dead Cruiser concept had been prowling the streets for quite some time. Strangely the only place where it hitches is with ‘Nightcall’, an otherwise excellent song made famous for its appearance in the opening credits of Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ that feels like a congested highway compared to the open-road flow of the rest.

At its most superficial level, Outrun is the soundtrack to a movie that never existed, set in a time that has become more fiction than reality. The truth is really deeper than that. In more ways than one, Outrun- like the red-eyed teen at its center- is a specter from long ago, haunting the asphalt of today.