Spotlight on The Great Nordic Sword Fights

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You see a portal open above you, one made of glitchy patterns of various colors. You crawl through and explore a world that resembles a broken PS2 game. In front of you, a low-polygon version of Morpheus from The Matrix quaking in terror while pointing his gun in your general direction. You have entered the world of the strange, the uncomfortable, the surreal.

You have entered the world of The Great Nordic Sword Fights.

The Great Nordic Sword Fights is an experimental director duo made up of visual artists Kristel Brinshot and Ricky Johnson Jr.. They have made everything from music videos, to web-based promos, to random acts weirdness. If you’re looking for an act that can provide something you’ve never seen anywhere else, look no further.

Okay, what do they make?

In terms of the music videos they’ve worked on, there’s always this trippy little gem. Take a look at the video set to “Personal History” by Alpine Decline.

Or, if indie rock isn’t your thing, maybe take a look at what they imagined for “Cadillac Dreams” by Birdy Nam Nam.

For a look at their original short films, It’s hard to go wrong with BEACH BUMS. Just a bunch of surfer dudes looking to catch some waves. Take a look.

Cool! So where can I find more about them?

You mean like who they are or what inspires them? Well, that’s a little tricky. These two don’t seem very interested in talking about themselves on their own time. Their official site only contains links to their contact info, social networking pages and where to watch their work. And even on their social pages, the biographies don’t do much to provide insight.

But there is one thing that might scratch that itch. A tiny bit of research led me to an article from Los Angeles I’m Yours, where they interview Kristel and Ricky about their work and what motivates them.  It’s worth a read.

Alright. Anything else I should know?

Well, there’s one more thing. They made a video game. For a single, “Girl Behind The Glass” by the electronic group Groundislava, they essentially made an interactive version of one of their music videos you have to download it from the band’s site, but it’s definitely worth a look.

That about covers what I know, but I only showed you a small sample of what they’ve done. I definitely recommend you check out their Vimeo and YouTube pages and do some exploring. There are few out there that do what these two do, and they deserve all the credit in the world for what they’ve put out.

Something to Listen to: “Mind Bokeh” by Bibio

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So, today I thought I would take a look at a slightly older album that I’ve recently gotten the chance to listen to. Music producer Bibio released an album back in 2011 that he dubs Mind Bokeh. Described by Bibio as “a balance between the familiar and the non-familiar” and you haven’t started listening to this guy’s work yet, this isn’t a bad place to start.

Bokeh refers to the blur produced by an out-of-focus camera. Mind Bokeh does a great job of playing on the idea of a mind out of focus. Whether the sounds used verhe on the experimental or the traditional, they are often muffled or otherwise obscurely textured, giving me the sense of wandering through a hazy dream.

There is hardly a track on here that doesn’t stand out in some way. From the guitar-heavy soundtrack-worthy “Take Off Your Shirt”, to the retro jingle-powered “Feminine Eye”, you can find plenty of individual tracks to revisit on multiple listens.

No doubt about it, Bibio has always had a unique sound in his work, but not one without it’s evolution. He’s not afraid to experiment and venture into different territories. In this case, he’s crafted a colorful and varied listening experience. One populated by different textures and is as cheerful in some parts as it is poignant in others.

You can find Mind Bokeh by Bibio on iTunes, here.

Something to Watch: “Rainbow Narcosis”

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Welcome to the weekend! Wanna start off your stay with something especially trippy? No? Well you’re getting it anyway!

Just added to Vimeo’s staff picks is a weird little piece from animator Jonathan Monaghan. He calls it Rainbow Narcosis and… I really have no words that can describe it. Um, it’s about a sheep? Enjoy!

Confused? So am I! But if you want to see more of Monaghan’s work, feel free to check out his site.

Something to Watch: “Victor”

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Have you ever had a moment as a kid where you were completely alone? You know the kind. The one where your mind starts to wonder, your imagination brings the toys around you to life and the characters become a new kind of company. Well, some people have those imaginary adventures well into adulthood.

Enter today’s short film, Victor, the latest addition to the Vimeo Staff Picks playlist and the latest effort from directing duo Yeah Haus.The subject of the piece, a lonely craftsman named Victor, whose story wanders through the themes of “imagination, solitude and the sometimes blindfolded quest for happiness”. It’s a quiet, atmospheric and heartwarming seven minutes. Take a look!

For more about Victor, you can visit the film’s official site.

Something to Listen to: “Dynamo”

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One piece of the independent music landscape I haven’t gotten to talk about yet is Moodgadget Records. An affiliate of indie label Ghostly International, Moodgadget focuses on exploring the diversity of electronic music, showcasing established favorites as much as they do the up-and-comers.

They’ve also just reached their 10th anniversary.

In celebration of this milestone, Moodgadget has just launched their 100th release, Dynamo. A compilation album collecting a whopping 22 tracks from many of the fresh faces in Moodgadget’s stable, including some new exclusives. The best part? They’ve made it available to stream right now on SoundCloud!

So that’s cool and all, but what is you want to take this album on the go? Well, they’ve also made it available for purchase from iTunes for the low, low price of $6.99! Let me reiterate: $6.99 for 22 tracks! That’s a really good, really rare deal. I wouldn’t pass this up if I were you.

You can find more about Moodgadget Records by visiting their official site.

Something to Uhhhh…: “The Marvel Experience”

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(Note: I have no idea which category to put this one in, and I don’t think I’ll write about enough of these attractions to make a new one.)

I like to talk about a lot of indie or otherwise non-mainstream stuff on here. But when talking about the mainstream side of things, I’ll admit to being interested in anything with a superhero in it, including Marvel Studios’ superb line of movies. So when I heard that Marvel was bringing a touring attraction to Dallas, I knew had to check it out. Looking up The Marvel Experience on Yelp, I found my expectations lowered by a cavalcade of bad reviews. But again, as a fan of anything Marvel, I couldn’t let that deter me from going.

So what does The Marvel Experience consist of? Well, it’s comes in a structure made up of seven inflatable domes made to look like a sort of high-tech quarantine area. The domes contain everything from an arcade-type place to a simulator ride, but we’ll get there.

The “story”, by which I mean a loosely held-together premise meant to set up the attraction, places you in the role of a recruit for S.H.I.E.L.D., the fictitious secret intelligence agency of the Marvel universe. A briefing with S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury and the Avengers lets you know that your city has been under attack by something Spider-Man dubs the “Super Adaptoid”, a giant robot that can mimic the heroes’ superpowers, but the robot has been deactivated and contained within the dome structure. Your job is to go in and analyse the remains of the robot to figure how much information it’s obtained, while completing a chain of training exercises.

Training Area

This leads you to the “training area”, the part of the experience where you’ll spend most of your time. The area is surrounded by several mini-games and a food stand. Allow me to talk about what I went through, piece by piece.

First, I took a turn on the Spider-Man themed activity, a rock-climbing wall descending on a treadmill-style setup, meant to resemble the experience of Spider-Man climbing up a skyscraper. As someone who hasn’t done a lot of rock-climbing, I found this exhausting. But it was pretty fun nonetheless.

Next thing I tried was was a “holo-blaster simulator”, probably the most S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent-y thing to do there. Essentially, this is a virtual shooting gallery where you get to pick up a laser gun and shoot a bunch of supervillain-y targets on screen. It can be a little over-whelming with 24 people shooting at once, but again, fun nonetheless.

Finally, I tried “Black Widow’s Agility Maze”, my favorite mini-game at the attraction. You move through a hallway, doing your best to avoid touching the laser trip-wires, as you hit a series a checkpoints from front to back. Through the use of various ninja poses that I imagine didn’t look half as awesome as I felt, I managed to make it through after breaking only one laser, which is more than I can say for a lot of the other recruits.

I counted only three activities that I didn’t try: an “Avengers Encounter” where you can watch yourself interact with virtual Marvel characters, and two video games where you lean left to right and fight as Iron Man or Hulk. All three of these activities use the Microsoft Kinect in very basic ways. If you’ve played any Xbox games using the motion sensor, you know how these work.

After you’ve had your fill of S.H.I.E.L.D. training, you can enter the Quinjet (the high-tech super jet of the Marvel universe,) to proceed to the next segment. This is where things get pretty cool.

The Quinjet

Before you enter this part, you’re warned by staff that you’ll be going 30 to 45 minutes without access to restrooms, so make sure your bladder is emptied out before proceeding. You enter a 360-degree projection dome where you tag along with the Avengers on a secret mission. This 3D footage completely surrounds you, meaning you can turn around and look in any direction and still see something happening.

I thought this was one of the coolest parts of the attraction, and if nothing else, I’d recommend you go to this just to see this part. Without spoiling too much, things go awry in the plot, and this segment leads you to the big finale, a motion-simulator ride aboard a Quinjet, where you help the Avengers face off against the big bad-guy of the story. I’m always a fan of these type of rides, and this one was pretty awesome. After all is said and done, you’re deemed a full-on agent, and are free to take on your most daring mission yet: the gift shop.

Pretty awesome, but where are the flaws. Well…

What Went Wrong

Okay, so a lot of the things you’ll see people complain about are things that, by my experience, are pretty typical for stadium events. You’ll be charged for parking, there are lines for everything and the food items are somewhat overpriced. The real problems for me come in the technical difficulties.

For instance, I waited for nearly an hour in the crowded staging area at the very beginning of the experience. As an enthusiastic staff member tried his best to keep guests entertained, I watched as the tech support hard-booted the computer several times before getting the video presentation to work. We were supposed to be given RFID bracelets for use during the attraction, but none of those were working at all and weren’t present at any point. Finally, the motion ride at the end was supposed to be in 3D like the dome before it, but apparently that wasn’t working either.

Aftermath

But those last two issues did little to take away from my enjoyment. At the end of the day, I got to play in a neat looking Marvel-themed playground, go on a fun ride and pretend to be an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a couple of hours. For a Marvel fan like me, there’s a lot of fun to be had in that. The production values for this are impressive and there are a few fun surprise cameos here and there.

Unless you’ve never been to a theme park before, none of this is going to blow you away. But if you’re a Marvel enthusiast (or if you have a kid who’s one), it’s a fun and unusual way to spend the night. Is that worth $40? I’ll leave that up to you.

You can find out more about The Marvel Experience by visiting the official site.

The New Schedule (Right Now)

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Up until this point, I’ve tried  to release posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But right now, without going into too much detail, my personal life id changing quite a bit and I’m a lot busier than I used to be. As a result of this, I wasn’t able to come up with a post in time for a Friday release last week. Time for a change.

I’m now limiting posts to a minimum of two a week, coming out every Tuesday and Friday. This will give me a couple of days in between posts to write new ones. If I find the time, you may see me release a post outside of that schedule, but those posts will be in addition to the Tuesday and Friday posts.

Lastly, know that this schedule is in a state of flux right now. I’m experimenting with what works and what I can balance with real life. If I make any further changes, I’ll let you know.

I want to thank you all for reading and coming back week after week. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with thoughts on the touring attraction The Marvel Experience. Not really an indie thing, I know, but I found it very interesting. See you then!