A few months ago, I attended the Lower East Side Film Festival with artist Caspar Newbolt, who was there representing Joey Ciccoline’s film, 88:88. In just 14 short minutes, the film was able to capture the essence and aesthetic of classic science fiction films but grounded in everyday reality. 88:88 tells the story of Val, a woman who has lost control of her life. Without revealing too many of its details, the synopsis reveals, “those around her deny the reality of the extraordinary experiences she feels powerless against. Realizing she must stand alone, she has only one remaining option—to find a way to fight back.” The film feels almost more like the trailer for something much longer and more epic, building up to the final moments when everything is set in motion, the 14-minute mark ending at a place where most films would kick off. When it crescendos to its apex, the score of the piece really sets in; it’s from there that the film ends and Makeup and Vanity Set’s latest album, 88:88, really begins. “The record starts there and carries out this hypothetical film future through the album,” says Matthew Pusti, the mastermind behind Makeup and Vanity Set, an electronic outlet from Nashville.
After hearing MAVS’s Never Let Go, Ciccoline and his co-writer, Sean Wilson, approached Pusti about scoring their film. Although Pusti had never scored a film before, it seemed only natural for him. “I don’t really think so much about music when I make music,” he says. “I think about scenes and tones.” That sentiment is evident in all of his work. MAVS sounds more like the soundtrack to an imagined ‘80s sci-fi midnight movie; if you close your eyes and let it all wash over you, his music emits a very specific otherworldly feeling—like what would happen if you took the work of David Lynch, set it in the dystopian world of Blade Runner, and let your imagination wander. “I made a nine-minute score to a short film, the film influenced a 42-minute album, which then gets turned into a physical artifact that's particularly nasty and degenerative, where the end user has to have a television and a VCR, has to sit and has to experience it, even in places where it's just the analog tracking in front of them. The screen glows for the entirety of the record. There's something really horrifying and exciting about that to me—that people would sit in a dark room and experience it that way.” To accompany the album, Newbolt created a parallel release for the album in the form of a limited edition VHS cassette and poster that echoes Ciccoline and Pusti’s combined affinity for a bygone cinematic era.
All done on a micro-budget, the film and accompanying album are evidence of the ways in which independent filmmakers are finding unique and interesting ways in which to bring their vision to life and provide something more than a mind-numbing trip to the cinema. “There's been a great resurgence lately of classic sci-fi in the lower budget independent world with films like Moon and Another Earth,” says Ciccoline. When we interviewed Another Earth director, Mike Cahill, he spoke about how, “like Tarkovsky did with his films, you don’t have to have these massive sound stages or these grand sets to make a sci-fi movie. You can place another earth in the sky and you understand that it’s this other place, because the film is grounded in something real, you believe it.” And that’s exactly what 88:88 does and with MAVS’s score and album; the film is elevated to something beyond a simple short sci-fi film, and it takes on a life of its own where you’re left excited and looking to still satiate that need for something more. And that something more is what the cinematic and brilliant 88:88 does with its swirling soundscapes and pulsating beats. The album is available for purchase now on Telefuture. The film has been making its way around the festival circuit, but you can get a taste of it from the trailer below.