Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Jack White: High Ball Stepper teaser track and cool video

Jack White's Third Man Records have dropped the news that Jack is releasing an album in June.  It's called Lazaretto (he hinted at that in a Vault chat back in August 2013) and will also be released in a limited format with a mound of tchotchkes for the 20th Vault release.

The first single and title track, or a single and a title track (possible zeugma alert here) called, obvs, Lazaretto, will be released later this month. For some reason, the label put out a teaser track on video with the announcement.

The track, High Ball Stepper, is an instrumental featuring Jack getting deeply grungy on his guitar, which  is presumably en-grungenated by his favorite Bumble Buzz effects pedal.

The video says it's directed by Third Man Grand Fromage Ben Swank and cinephile James Cathcart. (I actually don't know who James Cathcart is but Nashville Scene called him a cinephile and it's good enough for me.) For the video it appears they rigged up nine speakers in a cabinet (facing upwards) and poured in mixtures of corn flour (corn starch) and water, along with food coloring in approved Third Man hues. Corn starch and water mixture is anti-thixotropic, or non-Newtonian, which means, in a nutshell, if you dip something into it, it acts as a liquid, but if you hit it hard, it acts as a solid. Putting it on a vibrating speaker cone means that softer sounds produce an interference pattern, as they would with water, but louder sounds spank the mixture into a semi-solid 3D creature shape that dances like a psychedelic Bill Plympton character until the sound gets quiet enough for it to collapse back into the cone (for which I am sure it is truly grateful - the forced dancing looks exhausting).

Some of the effects in the video

Unfortunately (for me at least) the liquid patterns in the video don't produce the classic Chladni's Figures, but the video makers have thought of that and at several points they insert video of the standard Chladni apparatus, a plate, fixed in the center, on a speaker (or something...hard to see what is underneath it), with salt or other particulate matter scattered on top of it. Cleverly, the salt starts out in three white stripes (Jack White III's symbol, lll) and bounces into the classic standing wave patterns as the pitch changes. The video does an excellent job of looking exactly like Jack's instrumental is producing the patterns and standing waves in real time, but there's just one bit where a bit of liquid plops back into the speaker cone exactly in time with the music that makes me think it's all painstakingly edited together by hand to look simple; if so that's the opposite of what Jack White normally does.

Edit: More of this sort of thing by Nigel Stanford, 2017. Very beautiful!

High Ball Stepper sounds like the sort of name Marc Bolan would have come up with. 

1 comment:

KaliDurga said...

It is a very nifty video, isn't it? Kudos to Swank for that, and not surprising at all that he and Jack would be into Chladni's Figures and such. And James Cathcart does something with films at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville and has been curating the Light and Sound film series at TMR. Kudos to him, too.


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