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Monday, 05 December 2005

Magnetic Presence
MPAA rating: NR
starring: Alex Grey, Kenji Williams
DVD release year: 2004
film rating: Three-and-a-Half Stars
sound/picture rating: Four Stars
reviewed by: Jeff Fish

This DVD release is a mixture of many art forms intermingling with one another. It’s one part visual art exhibit, one part performance art, one part spoken word/poetry reading and one part New Age music concert. The way these all fit together is through the incredible visual art of Alex Grey, mixed with his words and put to an amazing live soundtrack from Kenji Williams. To be upfront, I don’t think this release is for everyone. To call it visually stunning is an absolute understatement on my part, but this aspect notwithstanding, some of the New Age philosophy probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I totally got into the viewpoints that Grey brings up: that we are in control of our own destiny, that the government is out to screw us instead of helping us and that the earth and the spirit are one. Personally, I buy into these philosophies, but this is only a small portion of what’s offered in this release. It’s all in the spoken word parts of the performance.

As I wrote previously, the artwork is positively amazing. I thought Grey’s artwork was all computer-generated, but through further investigation, I discovered that the artworks are his paintings. Grey’s work is so intense and deep that I thought I was looking at fractals (geometric patterns that are repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry; fractals are used in computer modeling of irregular patterns and structures in nature). Way beyond that, this is artwork that brings you into the smallest dimension and the grandest scale all at the same time. Grey’s artwork and writing also deal a lot with sex and love. My favorite part of the DVD is Chapter 3, “Buddha Embryo.” From conception through birth, the journey is captured beautifully through the artwork of Grey and the music of Williams. The narration works for me, although in one part of the narration, when it comes to the birth, there is a scream that I found rather funny.

The music for this release was created by Williams. A big plus for me is the style of New Age music that was used. This is the type that I’ve always liked the most. Williams’ instrument of choice is the violin, but there is also a bank of electronics that keeps the music going. Organized loops of prearranged rhythms with Williams’ violin floating over the top create most of what you’re going to hear for this release. This is music that floats along with a pulsating and hypnotizing rhythm track, very peaceful yet groovy. The CD included with the DVD in this release is an audio-only version of the live performance. I really like the hypnotic feel that Williams creates with his music. This is music that I like to listen for concentration and stress-release purposes. My only complaint with the CD is that I wish it were more instrumental. Its not that I don’t dig what Grey is saying, it’s just that visual presentation makes his narration so much more powerful. My personal feeling is that this just doesn’t translate as well to a non-visual medium. However, the music that Williams creates is so compelling that it won’t stop me from listening to the CD again. As a live performance piece of art, this combination works very well together and I hope that Grey and Williams do more joint projects in the future. Kenji Williams is a name to remember in the world of New Age music.

There are two chapters that don’t really have anything to do with Grey’s artwork or poetry, but really deserve to be acknowledged. Those are “Journey” and “Aura.” In these pieces, Williams truly soars and the light show takes center stage, dancing both literally and figuratively. This provides a refreshing break, as a nice little psychedelic vacation, so to speak, as I felt it was starting to get a little heavy at that point. Overall, I was really impressed with the mixture of art and music. Grey’s work is so alive and yet hard to describe, with Williams creating a score that just takes you away. This is the best of worlds, with painting and music coming together in a very unique and creative way. This release isn’t for everyone, as I wrote earlier, but most of the truly creative works of art in the past haven’t been mainstream, either. If you’re in the mood, this could capture you.


more details
sound format:
Performance – English 5.1 Surround; 2.0 Stereo; Art Only – 2.0 2.0 Stereo (vocals only & instrumental only)
aspect ratio(s):
special features: DVD With Live Performance and “Art Only” Videos; 40-Minute Documentary; Three Kenji Williams Music Videos, “Spirit Walker,” “Death and Rain,” “Live at Visionquest”; Chapel of Sacred Mirrors Animation
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Denon DVD-2200
receiver: Denon AVR-4802R
main speakers: Paradigm Monitor 7
center speaker: Paradigm CC-37
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-370
subwoofer: Paradigm PW-2200
monitor: Sharp

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