We’ve reached another milestone here at the Carbon Freeze–post #270! If you’ll recall, 27 is my favorite number and as a result, it’s tradition that I celebrate 27-related anniversaries by sharing my non-written work. For #27, I explained the process behind the image on this site’s home page. For #72 I shared some pictures I’ve created over the years on my computer. Now for #270, here are some audio-visual projects I’ve been working on. (Maybe for #720, I’ll get around to making a recut of Femina Ridens using as much of the Italian-language version audio as possible but bolstered with the Shameless Cut extensions.)
Thanks for reading the blog so far, and I hope you enjoy these! After publishing this post, I plan to take a break through the rest of the summer, but uploads will pick up again in September.
SMiLE blew my 17-year-old mind wide open to the possibilities of what music, as well as art itself, were capable of. Specifically, how all the rules of a medium could be broken to fantastic effect and how contrasting tones (like happy music paired with tragic lyrics or vice versa) could inspire such inquisitive reflection in the beholder. It became my obsession for several years, served as an introduction to psychedelic rock, the counterculture and the significant flaws of the United States. This nonconformist life-direction led to my finally coming to terms as a woman, becoming a passionate critic of political injustice and an aspiring artist of the written word. That is why one of the “Featured Editorials” on the site’s front page is devoted to this one album, and why I decided to return to the subject one last time, even after my fanaticism has long since subsided. I want to pay a final homage to that which inspired me so profoundly, by perfecting the sequence of this mysterious gem. It’s one of the most enduring sources of intrigue and discussion surrounding Brian’s ill-fated endeavor, and my own opinion on the matter has shifted significantly over the years.
I feel with Aquarian SMiLE I succeeded in putting the recorded pieces of music associated with the project together in an exciting new way that no one had done before. It was created with the purpose of making SMiLE feel new and fresh again even among those who’d been analyzing it for years. With Dumb Angel (Olorin Edition) I tried to get as accurate to an autumn ’66 Dumb Angel/early version of the project as possible. Then with Dumb Angel [the Romestamo Cut] my intention was to meet in the middle between those two extremes: what I felt Brian was going for versus what I thought worked best. Now, finally, with this last attempt I tried to capture what I feel a winter ’66/’67 version of SMiLE would be (after the project got sillier and the name changed). I also wanted to cut back on the use of Psychedelic Sounds bootleg material, which I have to admit even I find somewhat intrusive anytime I go back and listen to Olorin and Romestamo. The name “Voynich SMiLE” is a reference to the similarly indecipherable Voynich manuscript.
I don’t claim to be able to do the kind of in-depth remastering which some fans can do. This project is an exercise in sharing what I, personally, consider to be the optimal sequence for each individual track as well as the album as a whole, rather than creating the best fidelity mixes ever, or a duophonic/stereo transfer.
You can read more about my full analysis of Brian Wilson’s unfinished magnum opus elsewhere on the site, specifically the more complete summations of my mixes (including Voynich SMiLE).
- Heroes and Villains [includes H&V intro segment usually paired with “Fire.”]
- The Barnyard Suite [Old Master Painter/My Only Sunshine]
- Do You Dig Worms?
- Cabin Essence
- The Elements Suite [Fire/Water/Air/Earth]
- Vega-Tables [includes Veggie Fight skit]
- Wonderful [includes I’m in Great Shape segment as an intro]
- Wind Chimes [includes part of Holidays]
- Child is Father of the Man
- Surf’s Up [includes George Fell Into His French Horn]
- Good Vibrations [includes Prayer as an intro]
So, it’s two suites like the others, still following that “American Heritage/Reflections on Our Institutions” paired with a “Childhood Innocence/Reflections on the Self” framework I’ve championed for the last seven years. You can cut it off with Prayer as the ending (like Vosse said it was) or, if it’s important to you, include GV as the finale. It’s composed only of songs listed on the back cover without forcing the clearly unfinished IIGS to be a standalone. There are Psychedelic Sounds skits, as I’ve argued Brian intended there would have been, but not so many as to detract from the flow of the music. (Which, over time, caused me to dislike listening to my previous three mixes.) I limited myself to using the main two, the only ones that were re-recorded by members of the Wrecking Crew. (The Veggie Fight and George Fell.) The “H&V intro” segment is restored to its rightful place as part of H&V proper and, in a move which I’ve never seen any other fan mix do, it begins the entire album on a note of whimsy as well as unpredictability. There are overdubs to Wind Chimes, Heroes and Surf’s Up (from Smiley Smile’s WC, Swedish Frog and Talking Horns, respectively) but they’re far quieter in the mix than previous outings. Overall, it’s just keeping the general outline of what I’ve done before but more toned down and conservative for those who felt I went too overboard in earlier attempts.
This has been an undertaking I’ve always wanted to finish up someday, because I had come to dislike revisiting my previous attempts, but I kept pushing it off due to other obligations. I came up with the idea for this mix about three years ago and in all that time since, I never second guessed any aspect of it. (As opposed to every other version of the album I’ve ever made, where I felt the urge to change things almost immediately upon completion.) I have to admit, and this may sound melodramatic, but I’m glad to finally be done with the whole thing. In the last four years or so, I’ve developed some bad associations with all things the Beach Boys, between Mike supporting Trump, discovering Brian’s disappointing solo career and some negative experiences in the fan community. As a result, this one was a labor of self-imposed obligation, to complete what I’d promised to do, not a labor of love like my previous SMiLE tinkerings were, and my passions have long since transitioned to other topics and projects. With all that in mind, I feel comfortable saying this is my final, definitive word on Brian Wilson’s SMiLE; you will not see me talk about it again.
The American Metropolitan Circus
This project was originally something I did in college on a whim. It takes Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and combines it with a new soundtrack primarily comprising of The United States of America (1968) and bolstered by some of Joseph Byrd’s other work. (These are mostly from his one-off album with the Field Hippies, but also including “Crucifixion,” a song he produced for Phil Ochs and “Water Music” from Joseph Byrd – NYC 1960–1963.) I call it “The American Metropolitan Circus” a conglomeration of the titles Metropolis and “The American Metaphysical Circus,” which is the first track of the USA album as well as the name of the Field Hippies’ sole album. I believe these two sync up far better than the famous Dark Side of the Rainbow, which combines The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon, if I may say so.
See, I discovered that Metropolis and the USA worked well together in early 2014 when I wanted to watch a copy of the film but avoid the (in my opinion, lackluster) background score. I was also going through a hardcore Joseph Byrd craze at the time, and realized how similar the themes and mood of the movie were to those of his best work. So I had the USA play as ambiance to accompany the visuals of Fritz Lang. I was really surprised how well it worked out–especially the first track with the opening sequence of the workers beginning their shift underground.
Sadly, I never really expected the two to complement each other as well as they had, so I didn’t record the start and repeat points in order to duplicate the exact experience for repeat viewings. Also, at this time, I restricted myself to using the album as originally released so I had to repeat it twice to fit the movie with much time left to spare. I recall the first play-through as near flawless, the second as very good and the third as a total misfire. But still, I knew I was onto something with the idea.
Since then, I got the new 2010 restoration of the film and 2004 reissue of the United States of America which comes with 10 bonus tracks. I understood that those new tracks would be the key to avoid having to play the album 3 times to fill out the movie’s runtime. After fooling around with it on and off in my spare time, I came up with yet another take on the concept. This time, I decided not to mess with the order of the original album tracks, both out of respect and because it’d be a headache to then open the possible sequences up tenfold. That said, I used the bonus tracks because I needed more diversity in the playlist, and since those were never officially released and ordered by the artists, I figured those were fair game to mix and match as I pleased. The 2010 version of the film is nearly fully restored with an additional ~20 minutes of footage which was also a complication. I delved into the Field Hippies’ album for additional songs.
I uploaded this completed video to YouTube in its entirety many moons ago. I wasn’t fully satisfied with it. For example, after Rotwang catches Maria at the end of Act 1, there was a stretch where the music did not sync very well until Freder passes out and has a vision of Maria dancing. The next biggest misfire came at the extended climax with the workers revolting and city flooding. This sequence went on for so long I was forced to reuse tracks more often than I would have wanted to. Nevertheless, I felt then as I do today that the good moments (all of the first act/half, the Maria dancing hallucination segment and the finale especially) were well worth it. Unfortunately, one or two years later, this labor of love was taken down from YouTube. I could have sworn I’d saved a personal copy on my hard drive but either I misremembered or accidentally deleted it.
So, years later, I finally got around to redoing the project once more and here it is again…
I feel confident in saying that this third attempt at the concept is the best yet. There are numerous instances where the song lyrics describe perfectly whats happening on-screen, the tone lines up well, and it actually forms a few primitive musical motifs similar to a real film score. Like “Tailor Man” playing when Maria recognizes Freder as the Mediator, and when he fulfills that role at the end to the same song. I’m happy with the results.
All the same, I still feel the concept could be improved upon someday when I have more time to devote to it. There are some stretches where I left silence between tracks to better optimize when each one would sync with the visuals. I am debating whether to go back in the near future to fill these brief spots of dead air with ambient noise (perhaps factory sounds, crowd sounds or brown noise depending on the visuals) or just go all-in and edit the film itself to better sync with the music. Perhaps this could be accomplished by extracting portions of certain less exciting scenes, maybe removing the cue cards or speeding up/slowing down the framerate in places. (This is all blasphemous to other cinephiles perhaps, but it’s not like the original film isn’t still available to enjoy.) I will probably come back to this project and touch up on things like that in the future and if I do, I’ll amend this post with an update.
For the time being, I fully acknowledge there are places where this doesn’t work as well as I wish it would, or where I had to repeat a track more than once. But this time around that weakness is limited completely to the climactic “worker’s riot”/city flooding sequence. (Joseph Byrd just doesn’t have that many bombastic songs in his career, most of his work is fairly mellow and wouldn’t fit the visuals in this segment.) Maybe at some point, as an alternative to the changes suggested earlier, I might go back and try to do another score for Metropolis that doesn’t rely entirely on The United States of America and/or Joseph Byrd’s discography for material. But for now, I chose to stick with the original parameters of using his music and see what I could do with them. The other big problem is the occassional audio glitches–I’m not sure if it’s a problem with my audio files (they sound fine on their own) or the video editing software (OpenShot) but it was an issue I couldn’t solve to the best of my abilities. At some point in the future, when I have the time and energy I’ll try another video editing software and see if that works any better.
Due to my issues with the aforementioned climax, I chose to take three different swings at track sequencing. So, there’s a Version A, B and C which are identical until the Machine Man (disguised as Maria) leads the workers into a mad frenzy. Below is the track sequence denoting where each song plays against the film’s runtime in case these copies posted below are ever removed from the internet again. (And remember this is the 2010 restored version of the film The Complete Metropolis which runs 148 minutes.)
The 2004 Sundazed Rerelease of the USA contained alternate takes of songs from the album and proto versions of songs that would later be released by Joseph Byrd and the Field Hippies. I will make note of cases where I used a 2004 bonus track which shares it’s name with another song. The time codes in bold denote when the song begins.
- The American Metaphysical Circus 2:05
- Hard Coming Love 7:10
- Cloud Song 11:53
- The Garden of Earthly Delights 15:15
- I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar 17:58
- Where is Yesterday? 21:58
- Coming Down 25:05
- Love Song for the Dead Che 27:43
- Stranded in Time 31:11
- The American Way of Love 33:03
- Phil Ochs “The Crucifixion” 39:45
- Osamu’s Birthday 48:36
- Wooden Wife (2004 Bonus Version) 52:04
- Mr 4th of July 55:59
- Tailor Man 57:54
- Perry Pier 1:01:00
- Do You Follow Me? 1:03:38
- Joseph Byrd “Water Music” 1:06:11
- Nightmare Train 1:18:40
- Kaylani 1:22:00
- You Can’t Ever Come Down (2004 Bonus Version) 1:25:48
- No Love to Give 1:28:27
- The Garden of Earthly Delights 1:31:04
- The Elephant at the Door 1:33:43
- Coming Down (2004 Bonus Version) 1:39:03
- Invisible Man 1:41:31
- The American Metaphysical Circus (2004 Bonus) 1:45:23
- Nightmare Train 1:49:27
- Do You Follow Me 1:52:46
- Phil Ochs “The Crucifixion” 1:55:23
- You Can Never Come Down 2:04:07
- Tailor Man 2:24:00
Tracklist (Version A Exclusive):
- Joseph Byrd “Water Music” 2:06:43
- Hard Coming Love 2:19:18
Tracklist (Version B Exclusive):
- No Love to Give 2:19:26
- Mr. 4th of July 2:22:13
Tracklist (Version C Exclusive):
- No Love to Give 2:06:47
- Elephant at the Door 2:09:25
- Garden of Earthly Delights 2:14:38
- The American Way of Love 2:17:18
Download Version A
Download Version B
Download Version C
^If there’s a problem with any of these links, let me know via email or in the comments and I’ll fix it.
Good to see you finished this labor of Love! I can tell you love this music.
Hearty congrats, C, on achieving your 270th essay. This one rounds off a cycle that has been years in the making. I must admit I still have to read it in full.
So sorry to learn you had travels plans that didn’t materialize. I hope the rest of the summer is kind to you. Go well.
Thanks for both the congrats and the condolences, John. Yeah, me and Saturn had plans for a two week excursion that got changed to two different long weekend events because of covid. It sucks and I’m still annoyed about it, but we ended up having a nice summer anyway. I hope you did too.