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Happy2bHardcore - Old Skool Print E-mail
Tuesday, 25 February 2003


Moonshine Movies
MPAA rating: NR
release year: 2003
film rating: Three Stars
sound/picture: Three Stars
reviewed by: Dan Macintosh

This 15-song collection of techno visuals was drawn from the seven-volume Happy2bHardcore CD series, featuring psychedelic eye candy, matched to the hyperactive dance beats of these selected songs. It’s fun to see how director Vello Vikaus has visualized this music, yet much of this overview would work far better on a Jumbotron screen at a rave than it does as an evening of home theater viewing. Nevertheless, it’s a fun diversion – at least the first few times through.
Many of these tracks utilize kaleidoscopic, computer-generated color swirls to form musical soundtracks. Such elements hark back to LSD light shows from the hazy days of the late ‘60s. One movement in particular is a series of black and white squares, which twirl and rearrange themselves into various formations. In another instance, Peter Max-like dotted cartoon characters interact together on the screen.

Sometimes, these videos are just seemingly unrelated blotches of colors, but at other times, they take on the appearance of the symmetrical lines of, say, a structural blueprint. Rarely, however, can one guess a song’s title simply by watching what’s presented onscreen. An exception to this rule is “Blueroom,” which is a collage of growing and shrinking blue buildings.

In many cases, it would be almost impossible to invent suitable viewable storylines for some of these selections. How, for instance, can one illustrate the aural concepts of “Turn Up The Music” or “Super Sharp Beats”? Sure, it’s conceivable that the “Power Of Love 2001” could have been matched with appropriately touchy-feel-y images, but that would have been far too cheesy, and much too sentimental for this brand of metallic dance floor music. The best kinds of instrumental music always give the listener a unique interpretation of what a track means. On this collection, what’s onscreen tends to promote such individualistic reactions.

Many times, images are drawn from such wide-ranging locales as amusement parks, airports and beaches. In almost every location choice, the scenes on the screen pulsate on and off right along with the music. One of the most arresting images is that of a toy doll face, which has been given a female human mouth. There’s something spooky about such luscious red lipstick-coated lips mouthing words inside an innocent little baby face.

During the DVD’s amusement park visit, neon lighted rides blink, spin and meld together. When the cameras take us to the airport, it’s one unforgettable pre-boarding experience. Instead of looking at a simple point of departure, this previously familiar place takes on a frightening and altogether strange appearance here. There’s tangible chill about the way this music is combined with these images – both familiar and unfamiliar – which create a totally new vibe.

The music here is a series of beat-heavy synth soundscapes, with only a few actual vocal songs. Scott Brown is cited on the DVD notes for the majority of these songs, but Q-Tex, Interstate, Bass-X, Smith and Gillian Tennant also take credit, or co-credit, for many of these mixes. Credit is also due to the producers for mixing these sounds together so seamlessly. While nothing truly stands out, everything here seems of a piece. There are no jarring rhythmic jumps, or oddly arranged instrumental moments.

When vocals are mixed in here, they are all of the female kind. Both “Every Time I Close My Eyes” and “I’m The Only One” come closest to actual (verse-chorus-verse) songs. The final track, “Like An Angel,” is the nearest thing to a composition with an honest to goodness story line, as it features various average-looking people appearing to fly just like angels. As with most techno collections, these “songs” are little more than repeated choruses. Then again, this is a style intended to be felt, rather than thought about intellectually. Contemplative listeners are generally not welcome among the booty-shakers of the rave scene, anyhow.

For the most part, this is a DVD intended to enhance the dance/concert experience. Since techno is not nearly as physically and visually stimulating as a typical rock concert, these kinds of videos give the eyes something to do while the body is busily moving. But when one is bound to the couch, with so much hyper-movement occurring onscreen, there is sometimes the feeling that something is missing from the experience. This is the same reaction one can have watching sports, which can often make the viewer want to get up and play the game, instead of just witnessing it. Let’s not forget that nobody brings couches, easy chairs, remote controls and coffee tables to open-field raves. Conversely, it’s nearly impossible to package the experience of a crowded rave party to fit nicely and neatly inside a living room.

This DVD might best be used as something to put on in the background at a block party. Think of it as a sort of high-tech lava lamp, which sounds just as groovy as it looks. It will give any the room the illusion of constant activity, even if the party isn’t particularly hopping at any given moment. Since there aren’t any stories being told within these montages – as with typical MTV videos – it won’t ever tempt partygoers into becoming couch potato wallflowers, with glazed eyes glued permanently to the set. And, maybe just maybe, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear -- just like the old school yellow smile-y face pictured on this DVD’s jacket.

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reference system
DVD player: Panasonic DVD-XP50
receiver: Denon AVR-3802
main speakers: Polk RT 600i
center speaker: Polk CS 400i
rear speakers: Polk S4
monitor: 43” Sony KP-43HT20

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