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Looking for a Thrill: An Anthology of Inspiration

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Looking for a Thrill: An Anthology of Inspiration
Directed by Braden King
DVD (300+ minutes)
Thrill Jockey
2005

In the flood of music that hits the market every day, we often get caught up in product and lose sight of its meaning. The fact that we can click through to a purchase in thirty seconds or less is awesome, but it sometimes means that individual personalities and experiences behind the music get lost in the shuffle.

The key word there is "individual," and there's nothing more personally individual than inspiration, the subject of this documentary film—or films, to be more accurate, since it's comprised of 112 interviews with musicians like Björk, Hamid Drake, Nobukazu Takemura, John McEntire, and Thurston Moore.

In the process of looking for a way to celebrate Thrill Jockey's tenth anniversary in style, the Chicago indie label's head, Bettina Richards, decided to shed some light on a few of of the folks who have impacted the label over the last decade. The project quickly metastasized into a vast global undertaking through the creative shepherdship of director Braden King (Dutch Harbor) and with the help of a team of coordinators, photographers, and various others.

You can access the five-plus hours of interviews here in any number of ways. Select by artist, instrument, or theme—or just watch every story unfold in a continuous fashion. There's something to be said for the latter alternative, though there's no human way to make it all the way through without a pause. There are just too many different angles unfolding, each one with its own creative cinematic warp and musical flex.

For the most part the "inspiration" covered in the interviews consists of early musical experiences—recordings or performances—and the main thrust, to generalize, seems to be focused around various discoveries of newfound possibility. The DIY punk aesthetic, which pervades much of Thrill Jockey's work, comes through in realizations that you don't need to be a virtuoso or a poet to get up on the stage and make a personal statement. And there's something to be said for this attutide, especially in jazz circles, where there seems to be an overwhelming obsession with intellectual perfection at the cost of individual freedom.

The most memorable stories come from Björk, who talks about the music of car alarms, among other things; Hamid Drake, who waxes personal on the subject of a lesson well learned about trance music, distraction, and awareness; Tortoise's Johnny Herndon, whose skateboarding trip gets dislocated in many ways but eventually comes back to redemption through Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady; and Thurston Moore, who relates early adventures with in-your-face noise in the big city. The Japanese contributors (including Eye of the Boredoms, Nobukazu Takemura, and Aki Tsuyoko) offer some trippy takes as well.

Very self-consciously (but also fairly) both label head Bettina Richards and filmmaker Braden King also appear with their own stories, and there's something cinematic about King's narrative of African adventure, brought back to sharp real-life focus by the motion of the child in his lap. No sense in wasting time with any of the less inspiring stories in this collection, since they're a quick fast-forward away into oblivion; for the most part, everyone has something meaningful to add. Those who have followed the label will of course benefit the most from the experience, but it's a wide open door for anyone with open ears.

Profits from the sale of this film will go to Greenpeace. (Hey, did anyone notice that the Kyoto Protocol is now a reality, at least for those parties intelligent enough to sign it? Do the world a favor by learning more about greenhouse gases and what you can do to stop global warming.)

Cheers to Thrill Jockey on this tenth anniversary, and here's to ten more! I've had more than my share of personal inspiration from music by Tortoise and Nobukazu Takemura, among others, and I consider myself grateful for the experience.


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