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Hexstatic Master View Review

Album. Released 11 October 2004.  

BBC Review

Hexstatic have almost created a pastiche of their own work, but then if it ain't broke...

Jonathan King 2004

Master View, the second album from UK AV duo Hexstatic, is a two-disc set: an audio CD and a DVD featuring videos for the same tracks. The eleven videos on the DVD are in a huge variety of animation styles (six of them in 3D - woo hoo!), each different to all that come before it.

Stuart Warren Hill and Robin Brunson lay their video cards on the table from the first track. 'Extra Life' pays tribute to the happy days of Pong and Defender, opening with that trusty square ball bouncing back and forth from left to right. As gorgeous Japanese-tinged synth sings out over a confident, warm bass, our spaceship appears to do battle, travelling ever eastwards over scrolling terrain.

'Chase Me' extends the gaming motif, featuring an excellent little ninja running for the school bus. Everything is there: comedy pesky dog, bad dialogue, battle with evil ninja in the dark. All stock stuff, but the animation is lovingly realised by guest animator Weebl, whose name is familiar to lovers of Flash animation everywhere.

'Telemetron' features classic Ninja Tune sampladelic funk and is the first track on the DVD presented in 3D. Time to get out those included cardboard specs! (Why dont they have arms on them? Can you dance with one arm occupied holding red and blue lenses to your face?). Diagrams of transistors and oscilloscopes float around the screen in trippy 3D along to words like astrophysics! cyclotrons! computers! in suitable 1950s American accent over a nice dubby bass. On this and the other 3D tracks the effect is not a gimmick -- its used to great considered effect.

Other stand-out tracks include 'Perfect Bird' and 'Distorted Minds'. What starts out as vaguely irritating chunk-cut anthropomorphizing of parrots on 'Pefect Bird' develops gloriously as Miki Tanabe's high pure vocals soar over cute Japanese synth-pop and you realise that the birds are beak-synching. Lovely. 'Distorted Minds' fills the screen entirely with hip hop artist Juice Aleem's face in close up. Every word of the vaguely political lyric in text and images flies out of his mouth in 3D as he speaks. It's in turns funny and serious: very very simple, but the effect is entrancing.

The disc is full of great images, but two others that stick in the mind include a needle's-eye view of the groove as it travels round a stereo EP on 'Living Stereo' and crap electronic instruments from the page of a toy catalogue that vibrate themselves into the banging beat of 'Toys Are Us'.

Despite Hexstatic's reputation as cutting edge AV artists it's hard to avoid a slight feeling of déjà vu on seeing many of these images. In Master View they've almost created a pastiche of their own work, but then if it ain't broke don't fix it. These guys know exactly what they're doing and they do it brilliantly. More please.

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