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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Music > Electronica > Mixing-DJs > Modulations - Cinema For The Ear (Documentary)

Modulations - Cinema For The Ear (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Film: B



For all of its success, the world of Electronica and Turntablists are still only passively in the mainstream.  Fans want it to stay that way, and most people could not even define Electronica and Turntablists, let alone name its artists.  Iara Lee’s Modulations was made in 1998, and despite its age, still vital information about the rise of these movements, and their roots.


The film begins with the effect of the atomic age, the rise of making sounds electronically in any way, shape or form via people like John Cage, and how this eventually accumulated in the 1970s post-Beatles era to Giorgio Moroder’s landmark work with Donna Summer.  Hip Hop came out of this era, but this even more advanced and developing set of genres took off, as is often the case, in England.  This includes a “Jungle” cycle that has clashing music types trying to find harmony that is very native to the scene in England.


Kraftwerk’s electronic work is also sited, as well as that of a few other pioneers, but the bulk of the music and interviews involve new artists.  I think the idea that music is being expanded all the time in these genres is a big myth, but it is still some of the most interesting music being made today that you are (still) not hearing.  The majors tried to give this kind of music a commercial push a few years ago, but when the returns were not instant, they abandoned it.  This is not to say that this would be megahit music, but that the labels would rather charge outrageous money for pre-packaged garbage then find something people would honestly like without having it forced on them.  At least these music forms are coming from somewhere honest among the artists, which is why they continue to survive and thrive without major label support.  Modulations documents this well.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image mixes all kinds and styles of footage, tape, film and stills.  The editing is often to the music, but the interview segments are appropriately stable enough.  Marcus Burnett and Paul Yates shot the new material and this is from a film print, so you can see any video and its dulled-down colors. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has some healthy Pro Logic surrounds, but that is only occasionally.  This is mostly word-based.  Oddly, a “VHS Hi-Fi” logo appears on the back of the DVD case, but there is no FM analog sound on any DVD and that should be ignored.  The only extra is a trailer and some Japanese-only text.


One thing that has developed in films is the clichéd movie moment when characters land up at a rave party, where people dance to this music.  You can always tell by the same lame camera shot which is usually a medium shot of several people dancing to the music, which itself is something you never heard before and is usually crap.  Modulations is about the real thing, which just about all such films are not.  The program is only 74 minutes, but it is a volume worthy of Scratch, This Is Skint, or the few others that have actually been competent enough to deal with the subject intelligently.  That is why it is strongly recommended.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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