Timber is a collaboration between Coldcut and Hexstatic. The visuals and music for this piece were created at the same time, hence the very close tie between image and sound. Timber is classed as the pinnacle of audio-visual work. The piece was created as a political statement against the destruction of the rainforest. The video clips have all been “sampled” from National Geographic and TV wildlife documentaries. The sounds that the music is made from are that of the image on-screen, for instance the drum beats are created by the sound of axe chopping word, and synths are made from the sounds of chain saws.
The video starts off slowly with a medium close-up of a tree in the rainforest which pans upwards. It proceeds to transition with a water-globule type of effect as you hear the sounds of saws coming in to the image of a tree falling down. The sound of a saw is combined with that of a close up of a morse code machine being tapped – this rhythm is also the code for SOS. This represents a distress call for the forest which needs saving from man. These images are looped, much like the music and as each new sound comes in another image plays in time with it e.g. a stump being split, a large saw, heavy machinery. Before the piece gets going the morse code fades out and becomes an echo – this is visually represented by the image getting further away.
The main beat of the tune comes in which is made from various sawing, chopping and machine noises. Again, the image is cut in time with each of the sounds. There is a slight breakdown as the beat stops, and a “melody” is created from the sound of a chainsaw being looped, this again is visually represented by the exact image that created the sound, which is that of a man cutting down a tree in the rainforest. The beat returns with the same images as before cut in time with the sound. A synth slowly builds on top of the image, as this happens the image changes as a colour effect is applied. The middle eight comes in next, and juxtaposes the images of the rainforest being destroyed before with images of the native people who live in this environment along with the animals. These images are not shown destroying anything, but living in happy coexistence and manageably in the environment. It cuts to an image of a native woman and child who sings (a traditional song) – this sound is used in the music as well as the image overlaid on images of trees flattened and being processed by machines, which take away her people’s habitat.
A simple warping effect is applied to the background image. Further destruction is shown through different machines, again looping, which represents the constant repeated destruction of the forest. The piece repeats this section but in-between, very quick images are flashed of the local tribespeople along with barren images of destroyed trees and power stations.
As the music comes near the end, the image of the lady singing, is overlaid this time on top of a mirrored image of flowers, which are visual representations of new growth, but possible also have connotations towards death. The piece concludes with the sun setting.
Timber uses some very powerful imagery which was very representative of the mood at the time. Although the destruction may have slowed slightly, it still continues at a fast pace. Without the collaboration between Hexstatic and Coldcut at the point of creation, there may not have been such a synergy between image and sound. As the piece was created, sounds were taken from images and vice-versa to create the track. Very few pieces combine audio and visuals this well, this is because either the sound is created first and the image last. Instead of an afterthought after the music is created, this visual piece is a highly integral part of the music.
Hexstatic are Stuart Warren Hill and Robin Brunson, and together they have been consistently breaking new ground in Audio and Visual entertainment since 1995. Hexstatic started experimenting with video at the first Big Chill festival and then went on to become resident VJ’s at Ninjatune’s famous Stealth night and a host of other UK clubs.
They collaborated with Coldcut and Greenpeace for the Natural Rhythms Trilogy, which included the award-winning AV single Timber. Hexstatic released the UK’s first completely AV album entitled Rewind in August 2000.
Past work includes collaboration with David Byrne at Lisbon Expo and the first live AV show at the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Ex-art teacher Jonathan More and computer programmer Matt Black have been a team since the mid-eighties. Both Matt and Jonathan had been building their DJ reputation on the nascent rare groove / warehouse party scene. as important as the art was, the politics – tracks like ‘Timber’ and ‘Atomic Moog 3000’ – set out an anti-corporate, ecological, anti-authoritarian vision that found its technical expression in the group’s continuing interest in interactivity with their audience.