Just Stellar

By Chris Mineral

Music is a large part of Minneapolis, as is self-taught animation artist Tom Schroeder.

The third and final instalment in Tom Schroeders Bike trilogy screened at this year’s Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) at the Australian Centre Moving Image (ACMI), Federation Square.

At the 2017 MIAF, Schroeder visited Melbourne as a guest of the MIAF animation posse, to present a retrospective collection of his hand-drawn animation works. At this time, he gave the audience a sneek peek of his work in progress.

The preview lasted about the time it took Rekindling to win last year’s Melbourne Cup at Flemington. The full length (though no doubt edited and pared down version) is more than 10 minutes long.

Bike Trip 2018 is a documentary style film and it features the drummer/percussionist from The Bad Plus, Dave King, playing an improvised piece on his drum kit. The music meshes very well with the action and the siesta seen on the screen.

The film’s animation artists Tom Schroeder and Anna Taberko worked in a monochrome palette. Graphic white line on black background, in many ways a very Melbourne feel.

It’s kind of a free-flowing Norman McLaren style. The script, written by Tom Schroeder and Hilde Deroover, comes across as a dialogue between a country bumpkin from the mid-west and his uber cosmopolitan girlfriend from Belgium. Sometimes you get lucky.

They reminisce with fondness about their 500 mile bike odyssey. The two riders end up chatting in a bar that has photographs of legendary Tour de France riders.

Kraftwerk, of course, wrote the musical track Tour de France, inspired by the riders and the race.

Dave King’s jazz drumming music interpolates and counterpoints this conversation. King’s music is magnificent in accentuating the narrative, following and at times pre-empting the cadences of the bike riders on their journey, racing storms, hoping to find the sun and wind on their backs.

King utilises the full kit, sticks and brushes. He has tremendous feel, discernment and empathy for this beautiful love story.

Each of Schroeder’s films take two years to make and he utilises a flow of consciousness in his drawing style that is akin to jazz musicianship. Schroeder’s choice of guitars no doubt would be a double cutaway semi-acoustic jazz guitar.

Schroeder believes his drawing process is similar to his guitar playing, where he works off and improvises from structures, scales and chords, seeking an epiphany.

Early in his animation career, Schroeder would listen to Glenn Gould’s Goldberg variations, and 1950s bebop music whilst working away in isolation like a 16th century monk. Drifting along in his creative field.

Schroeder is a huge fan of Jacques Tati, the French director (Mon Oncle) who was superb in integrating music with the choreographed action of his films. He was at the 100th anniversary of Jacques Tati’s birth in 2007 at the Paris Cinematheque.

And like Tati, there is a subversive element to Schroeder’s work that encapsulates the travails, joys, anomalies and achievements of life. All these elements are in the Bike trilogy. Stoicism is one paradigm that Schroeder may be familiar with.

Schroeder has an aesthetic that would appreciate the story of the punters who backed Just Stellar in the sixth race at Echuca on June 20. The horse was in front at the half way point of the race and was first past the post – holding off the field in a most gallant fashion. Superb, except the horse was riderless, having lost its rider somehow just after the start. As a punter, you can identify with anyone who had a ticket with Just Stellar written on it. Yeah, the horse was first past the post … That is a Tom Schroeder moment. There are many riderless horse stories.

The musical track to Bike Trip 2018 tweaks and manipulates the emotional response of the audience. In a way, this is like a jazz group – the creative team of people, the animators / writers / musicians that Schroeder has assembled.

The film is very detailed and has a lot of drive as the bike riders strive to reach their goal of finishing their 500-mile journey. And David King propels the action along in a juxtapositional counterpointing-esque lilt.

Melbourne’s own Epic Brass wowed them up in Sydney at The Factory Theatre on June 2. Led by the sublime trumpet player Jack Howard, Epic Brass burnishes and puts a brilliant polish on a whole clutch of songs from many of our favourite bands and musicians.

Mark Gardner, Ash Davies, Fiona Lee Maynard, Nicky Del Ray and John Archer are some of the luminaries, along with the charismatic, enigmatic X singer/ guitarist Steve Lucas. Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil and Steve Kilbey joined the Victorian musicians on stage.

Add in Penny Ikinger and Ron S Peno of The Superstitions and Died Pretty and you have one sensational musical experience.

Epic Brass is phenomenal. Jack Howard, from Hunters and Collectors plays in a most succinct and accurate style, always positioning his music with poise.

Gigs / Shows 

The Royal Parks, Gasometer Hotel, June 28

Machinehead, Forum Theatre, July 21

Get Down, 3RRR,  12pm , Thursdays

Rockwiz Salutes New York, State Theatre, Arts Centre, Friday, July 20

Ear of the Behearer, Paul Kidney, 3PBS, 12am Tuesdays

Superorganism, 170 Russell, Sunday, July 22

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