Written by: Rexington Steel
Title: City/Ruins: Art In The face Of Industrial Decay
Label: Live Bait Recording Foundation
Cat # LBRF035
Genre: Industrial/Noise Documentary
Written And Produced By Aaron Vilk
Filmed, Edited, and Directed by Stephen Petrus
Narrated by Roman J.
Filmed in Cleveland, OH in the Summer of 2010
This pro-duplicated DVD comes in a slimline case. Limited to 500 copies.
Features performances and interviews by:
The Family Chapter
Order Of Melchizedek
Dead Peaseant Insurance
Runtime: 2 hours
Works such as can really provoke a sense of camaraderie within one and his own circle when one sees the dynamic of a group of artists who have shared a near two-decade history and who are still kicking ass. Personally, it makes me pine for the very same that all these guys and gals share. But while not everyone gets to say that they have or have had the strong community, environment, and life experiences regaled to us in this DVD, we can be grateful that this story is now documented. It is, in fact, crucial that these stories be recorded. This one tells how the Cleveland Noise scene came to be, where it is now, and perhaps we can see an indication as to where it could be in a few years if we look hard enough. The consensus is clear: the city of Cleveland, another jewel on the Rust Belt, seems to have the same impact on the angst-ridden, intellectual, emotionally-charged youth it contains as Birmingham did for our electronic pioneer forefathers back in the seventies. This glaring failure of an experiment in industry has left in its wake a land scattered with crumbling towers of mortar, metal, and masonry, defaced with much more impunity by nature than the desperate inhabitants that live under their shadows.
These beings are seen here expressing the fact that they often feel as if they have become shadows themselves, scraping together an existence and screaming back at their toxic, disintegrating surroundings with voices they craft to be louder [in essence] than those that emanate from the few factories and other places that are still grasping at hopes of another tomorrow. More than one artist featured here will tell you that crime is also a huge factor in the alienation and negativity they need to express, because of course, low-income often times means low-integrity here in the US of A. Literal violence translates here into suitcases full of wires and circuits, and objects that serve no other purpose than to be the much needed and much abused conduit between rage and spectator. These are the tools of one who finds fortitude in embracing the decay around him, who says “These sounds and visions are akin to my suffering, but I can, and will, do much worse, on MY terms.” It appears to be something of a primordial aggression response, like one would imagine a fearless biped thousands of years ago screaming back at a beast in an attack stance, barking, hissing, stamping or what have you.
Most everyone that was kind enough to make an appearance in this project seems to be real down to Earth and happy to share their stories. The first hour of the disc is something of a collection of testimonials and reminiscing of the now departed Speak In Tongues, a place that was as ugly as the sounds it terrorized its immediate neighbors with. Well, at least on the inside, the actual building where all the now infamous no-limits adventures went on is actually a very handsome brick affair. But as it happens, a place that can best be described well by the phrase “you walked in you got a herpe on you” can only operate for so long. So after about eight years or so, from 1993 to 2001, The Speak was forced to close its doors for good. The second hour then progresses into how the newly established Audio Visual Baptism was pivotal in the resurrection of the DIY attitudes of old, giving way to a younger generation of Cleveland noisiers, a very driven and intelligent bunch that includes Roman J., aka, Arsonist’s Prayer, and Aaron Vilk, or Nyodene Derivative.
As much as it is a documentary that has the deterioration of one city and how it has affected culture as its focal point, many artists here also express their own personal motivations that place them in an arena like this one, and the acts provide a wide range of styles, something that comes from a community that is so intertwined, we see many combinations of performers before us as the performances come through between one person speaking, then a short spoken word piece that is part of a look into a bleak landscape, then another tale, and eventually, another live scene. Most of these live shots are pretty awesome, let me tell you…
Standout performances include:
The very first one, an awesome whirlwind of synth noise by Contamination Diet, a very cool chain and pedal piece from Skin Graft, a rather passionate mouthmike and HNW selection by Arsonist’s Prayer, The Family Chapter doing things with machetes, a sander, and a tape machine, and an unexpected two which I really came to appreciate. These two came from Order of Melchizedek and Aaron Dilloway, the first being an ambient, melodic performance with slow slick and sensuous beat, the other, the final live shot of the filmwork, the handsome Mr. D. with a very atonal, clicky tape manipulation. Darin M. Sullivan is a looker, too. Sir, I kindly ask that you re-consider the bandanna. You have great hair.
All and all, this is something that can breath new life, or at least, help to remind many other underground artists all over the world that we all have many, many things in common when we run the darker veins of art. It reminded me personally of why I decided to stay in the position I’m in as a journalist, because, like the very pretty and dedicated Lisa Miralia, one sees a responsibility to nourish a community like the Cleveland Industrial scene, to do what one can to support those who’s only outlet is one as dark as the city that fails day in and day out to bring them any more peace that it can by just collapsing a tiny bit more everyday.
“…for we have flourished in the fallout.”