August 24, 2016

picture dis(c) 1: David Michalak ~ Dreamlife the soundtrack


photos by Styrous® 

David Michalak ~ Dreamlife
picture disc detail

I came across this recording while organizing and documenting my collection last week; I had completely forgotten all about it. It could have fit nicely in my 45 RPM section but it sparked a desire to start a brand new record section, picture dis(c), with it as the subject.

I have always been fascinated with vinyl LP picture discs. To be honest, the sound is often inferior to regular vinyl discs but the imagination that goes into creating one has intrigued me.  This was not the first picture disc I ever bought nor are the physical characteristics particularly spectacular but it is the caliber of the music on it that I love. No other picture disc is as intriguing and captivating musically. Also, there is a personal history I have with Michalak, although I have never met him, and Dean Santomieri, whom I have met, that comes full cycle for me; more on that below.   

This is a 12" 45 RPM record that did not come in the typical vinyl LP cardboard jacket cover but rather in a clear vinyl envelope.

David Michalak ~ Dreamlife picture disc in plastic envelope

Picture discs are usually issued in limited editions. This pressing consisted of 1,000 copies, this is copy number 323.
David Michalak ~ Dreamlife picture disc edition number tag

The soundtrack is a mostly acoustical, with some electronics, sound trip through a dream that at times becomes a nightmare. It is experimental music at its best utilizing acoustic instruments, voice and synthesizer played by Dean Santomieri.       

David Michalak ~ Dreamlife picture disc, side 1

The first piece on side one, Time Theme, is quiet with a slow echoey flute, clarinet and sax. Carry On (The Worst Is Yet To Come) is a  gentle, ditty with voice, piano and sax about the vocalist's hopes and dreams. 

The third piece, Musical Metropolis, consists entirely of an echoey, metallic, mechanical beat that never changes with occasional electronic highlights. The final cut, Sax To Max, is a short, dissonant and erratic sax solo. 

David Michalak ~ Dreamlife picture disc, side 2

Side two opens with, Temptation, a slow synthesizer fade-up that goes into a slow, dreamy, multi-layered drone.

The last Rainbow starts suddenly with a bouncy clarinet that is joined by flute for a short but brilliant interpretation of We're Off to See the Wizard

The third piece, Strangulation, is a slow dissonant doppelgänger-like trio with a short burst of static at the end. 

Carry On (the Clone Sings) opens with guitar then goes into a slow, stroll kind of beat with vocals that speed up then fade out. Not sure if it is meant to be humorous or sarcastic.   

The last cut on this side, Song for the Victims, is terrific! It is slow and VERY weird! Although, it is dreamy, it has a nightmare edge to it. It concludes the album with synthesizer and an eerie chorus of groans and hums. A maniacal laugh comes in at the end, repeats over and over then slowly fades into oblivion. A nice touch!  

David Michalak ~ Dreamlife 
Dreamlife picture disc, side 1 detail

David Michalak, who created the film/album, has made over 50 films with original soundtracks. He worked exclusively in super-8 for ten years, completing over 25 films, including 3 features. He was a guest writer for White Ox Films in Rochester, N.Y. and for the international magazine Super-8 Filmmaker in San Francisco. In 1978 he moved to San Francisco and started a mail-order record business called EARWAX to produce 16mm films.

Dreamlife, the first 16mm film by Michalak, premiered at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in 1982. This 45 RPM picture disc soundtrack of the original music was released later in that year. A two-part retrospective of his work was held in San Francisco from 1992 - 1993. Part 1, When Dinosaurs Roamed The Earth, was held at The No Nothing, and Part 2 Eye-Full Films Revisited at the Cinematheque.  

David Michalak ~ Dreamlife 
Dreamlife picture disc, side 2 detail

In 1996  Michalak completed Inside-Out, which featured The Kate Foley Dance Company, a score written with Nik Phelps and performed by the Club Foot Orchestra. The film had it's premiere with the orchestra playing live, at The Victoria Theatre in S.F. as part of his 2nd Retrospective called 25 Years Of Eye-Full Films.

His work, When The Spirit Moves, premiered in 1999. It is a mystical fairy-tale featuring (Joe Goode) dancer Vong Phrommala and silent-movie style actress Billie-Marie Gross, at The Film Arts Festival.

I caught his performance of Ghost in the House at the Berkeley Arts Center on University Avenue in Berkeley, CA (link below).   

David Michalak ~ Dreamlife 
Dreamlife picture disc, side 2 detail

Dean Santomieri has been working with electronic music and musique concrete since 1971. He moved to the Bay Area in 1975. I would meet him thirty years after the recording of this album when he performed at the Berkeley Arts Festival in 2003 with Sarah Cahill.

He worked in the media center of the California College of Arts & Crafts (now the California College of Arts).

You can check out the 2003 Garden of Memory performances, in which he appeared; and the Michalak and Santomieri performance of Ghost in the House at the Berkeley Arts Center on University Avenue in Berkeley, CA (links below).   


Side one:

Time Theme
Carry On (The Worst Is Yet To Come)
Musical Metropolis
Sax To Max

Side two:
The last Rainbow
Carry On (the Clone Sings)
Song for the Victims


Michael Austin - sax, flute, clarinet, vocals
David Michalak - voice and kitchen sink
Dean Santomieri -  sybthesizer
Muziki - piano
Billie Marie Gross - voice

Thanks to 2.3 Children and Dana Frischer 

Net links:                      
Ghost in the House         
Garden of Memory         

There was a hell of a lot of stuff packed into this 45!

Styrous® ~ Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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