Sledgehammer sounds

Ding Alley
Swellnet Dispatch

By Ding Alley

As the Wozzle’s biggest, most shameless comp-watching fan, I’m counting down the days ‘til they clear the lineup at Snapper and throw those coloured jerseys into battle. 

Had a crack at watching the Nazaré event the other night, but as I squinted at my misty laptop screen all I felt was shame – I was there for the carnage and when poor Alex Botelho felt the fickle fingerfuck of fate, I felt cheap and ghoulish.

In contrast to those grainy Portuguese peaks, however, the promo spots for episode one of the Woz’s 'At Large' series looked incredible – Peahi, all gorgeous Pacific blues and whites, with shape and quality that threw Nazaré into poor relief.

So a day later I sat down and watched 'At Large', open to the idea that perhaps this might be a watershed for the WozStudios, that the spectacle of those few historic days at Peahi in January would allow the Woz machine to smack it out of the park.

After all, this debut episode of 'At Large' is a statement of intent. This is the direction the Woz are striking out on: convert the masses with compelling dramatic content, All the Ocean’s a stage, etc. 

Now, during my own B-grade design career, when I’m assessing a layout or cover or whatever, I’ll often squint at my screen to reduce everything down to basic elements. I thought I’d take this approach further and do a run through of 'At Large' with my eyes shut.

Just listening to 'At Large' confirms the Woz’s intent clear as day, and that intent is this: Leave no gaps for the audience to fill with their own imagination or experience. You will be led every step of the way by every conceivable cinematic sound effect and musical trope known to man. In parts, the audio’s like that deafening pre-movie promo they run at the cinema letting you know you’re listening to Dolby Sound. 

And it should be said there’s nothing evil or fundamentally wrong about this. Crafting a bed of appropriate audio under the vision is how it’s done. I get that. It’s logical that if you’re taking surfing mainstream you’ll use mainstream techniques, etc. And the Woz is falling over itself to impress. Full marks for effort, then.

Nonetheless, here’s 'At Large’s' 22 minutes of soundtrack and cinematic whooshes compressed into 100 seconds. I’ve tried to cut out the athletes’ dialogue. (It would have been easy to splice their soundbites together and make ‘em sound like total douches but that would be unfair and undeserved). So do your best to ignore the dialogue and listen out for the engineered sounds here, (earphones recommended).

 

 

From screamcore (By God the waves are fearsome!) to poignant tinkling piano (I’ve dedicated my life to this!), from jangly feelgood pop (Gals go surfing!), to swirling and swelling orchestral strings (History Has Been Made!). All selected not on artistry or musical merit, but to bludgeon the viewer with cues for feels. And let’s not mention the SFX value pack of ominous cinematic rumblings and ‘Ssssshhhhhhhhnnnnnnnk’ and ‘Fffffwwwwwwwwmmmmmm’ sounds etc.

And look, I know this is meanspirited, but I can picture Executive Producer ELO calling by the edit suite, watching a rough cut, pausing as the exhausted editors wait anxiously for judgement, then saying patiently, “Guys! I know the brief here is More Of Everything, but Kemper’s tube ride – it’s the climax! Screamcore’s too obvious! Swelling Wagnerian Violins is what we need!” An avuncular wink and blinding smile and he’s off down the corridor, as the team looks at each other knowing they’ve been touched by greatness.

Anyway, without heading too far down the rabbit hole here on this episode, It’s clear that the Woz sees bombast as the way to glory. Use every button-pushing trope and formula in the book, roll out all the clichés with a perfectly straight face. More is better. A very American way to go after it.

But jeez, you lose something taking that route, don’t you. 

Maybe it’s just me, but this kind of reality-TV rapid-fire chophoppery never really gets under your skin. Don’t want to come over like a golden-ager, but compared to, say, Occy at Reunion in 'Pump', surfing to Concrete Blonde’s Scene of a Perfect Crime, there’s absolutely zero emotional resonance in this over-produced Frankenstein’s Monster of artifice.

In a just world, the troupe of WSL content producers and editors would spend a week on retreat with Jack McCoy and a VCR player learning about landing punches and doing more with less.

If Jack’s not up for it, at the very least, the Wozstudio crew should watch Ryan Moss’s ‘Sessions’ (more or less a solo effort documenting the same occasion, half the length, probs a tenth of the budget) over on Red Bull. See, ol’ Mossy trusts Huey to do the heavy lifting: there’re complete rides, interviews that are unguarded moments as opposed to cliché harvesting, and the music has reason to exist beyond signposting the screaming fucking obvious. 

Is it not strange that an Austrian purveyor of a fizzy low-level carcinogen does surfing more authentically than surfing’s self-appointed overlords?

I’m not giving up on the WozStudios though. This is a personal mission for our Elo at the helm. Packaging surfing and taking it to the masses is his own recent journey of learning to surf writ large, and maybe we’ll all be winners if he can apply some of the fundamentals he’s discovering out there every time he paddles out. 

So for all our sakes, Sir, don’t try and jam a million wriggles in every time. Relax and trust the waves to do a bit of the work. And it might seem counterintuitive given your vocational DNA, but try to take it down a notch and chill a bit.

// DING ALLEY

Ding Alley is two mates: cartoonist Dave McArthur and writer Gra Murdoch. They may be the most successful Surf Media team ever to come out of Footscray TAFE.

Comments

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 11:36am

Well, that was a great review.

abc-od's picture
abc-od's picture
abc-od commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 11:39am

Epic video!

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 11:43am

Gold!

Now i have to skedaddle out of here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIoAh7oLpYo

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 12:39pm

Loved this piece.

Swellnet is really firing on all cylinders now. Between Ben’s egghead comprehensiveness and extensive forecast reports bolstered by constant updates , Craig’s puppy like enthusiasm for adventure and dedication to the minutiae of meteorology , Stu’s well formed editorial rendition of the zeitgeist pursuit of purism and curation of our culture and now Ding Alley’s irreverent and entertaining reviews of the permutations of surfing life .....it’s the complete package.

PS Hadn’t realised till now that every iconic surf media HAS to have an in-house illustrator.

Well done and thanks very much for the efforts from everyone.

Jono goes alright manicuring the site too. The addition of the latest comments function is invaluable. Cheers legends

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 12:41pm

Agreed, by far the best surf-based site, daylight second.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 7:03pm

Well, I went and watched with the sound down a bit and it was okay viewing. They could cut most of it and just have Kai Lenny towing though and it would be better.

BUT, I then did some detailed market research on recently trending vids on the youtoob thingo and found the Wozzle is way behind some pretty inane low cost stuff:

WSL Big Wave At Large: JAWS 2020 | MASSIVE BARRELS, INSANE WIPEOUTS!! 112,524 views

Feeding Bill Gates a Fake Burger (to save the world) 7,891,937 views

I Challenged ACTUAL Firefighters To Hide and Seek in their Station! 1,411,821 views

I Got Styled By An Amazon Personal Shopper 3,456,321 views

So a kid heads down to the local fire station and plays hide and seek - production cost - less than $100, viewers 1.4 million. Cost per view - $0.00007

Wozzle spends $$$$$$$$ (say $300,000 as a complete guess) to film a strike mission and gets 112K viewers. Cost per viewer - about $2.60.

Maybe someone, somewhere actually buys something as a result or ….. maybe not.

Frogg

roryshannon's picture
roryshannon's picture
roryshannon commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 7:21pm

I cant stand the whole WSL Corporate commentary any more. to mucj hyperbole. Some bloke in a tight Hawaiian shirt buttoned up to his neck, with socks over his ankles.... sheeesh. Who do they think their target demographic is?

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 7:31pm

Me Rory.

Never underestimate the importance of good clean socks, preferably above the ankle and mid-shin.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 8:07pm

Seppos are still living in that 1980’s dream where the whole world followed their cultural lead. Deluded fuckers think that the surf nerd vibe is universally appreciated.

Can’t really fault them on their foreign diplomatic blindness.It took me a bit too long to realise that Euro chicks weren’t devoted fans of the wobbly boot and Bintang stained T- shirt I rocked through many sweaty nights in Indo.

original smith's picture
original smith's picture
original smith commented Monday, 17 Feb 2020 at 10:45pm

What a perfectly articulate observation of the Wazzle noise machine. You guys go orright for TAFE drop-outs*

*Fact check may be required.

Baron von Spatula's picture
Baron von Spatula's picture
Baron von Spatula commented Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020 at 7:34am

... 'B-grade design career' – ? ... !!!
AAA+ more like it Gra.

Rick Snowden's picture
Rick Snowden's picture
Rick Snowden commented Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020 at 8:26am

This is fantastic. Love the clip, too.

Imagine scrolling their sound libraries. Oh the cheese that would be found!

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020 at 11:09am

This is great. Shared it with a Yr 12 Media teacher. Students will be reading and discussing this in class.

Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch commented Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020 at 12:16pm

Oh God, apologies for the profanities!

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig commented Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020 at 12:46pm

Nothing they haven't heard / seen before. Might have to print it and get the sharpie out.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020 at 12:53pm

“Seppos are still living in that 1980’s dream where the whole world followed their cultural lead.“

Unfortunately I think a lot of the world still does, especially Australia, and of course the internet has solidified this.

The attitude, the music, the language, the sense of humour (lack of irony anyone?) is only flowing in one direction.
Quite a few young people in Australia who’ve never been out of the country talk with partial or full American accents.

And the sledgehammer lack of subtlety and nuance extends of course to music, film and film scores.

You can see the influence in Australia’s hideous “reality” tv shows - I expect there’d be a lot of people who’d be quite confused if they weren’t spoon fed how they’re supposed to feel.

Point being, maybe the Woz haven’t underestimated their international target audience.

Which is a real shame.

curbs's picture
curbs's picture
curbs commented Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020 at 3:33pm

Gra, you made me think of the first time I watched Surfers of Fortune with Beck playing. Blew my peanut sized mind.......still does.

nolocal's picture
nolocal's picture
nolocal commented Wednesday, 19 Feb 2020 at 9:57am

Great article, but the whole time I was thinking "as soon as I finish reading this I'm going to go find footage of Occy surfing Reunion in Pump".

nolocal's picture
nolocal's picture
nolocal commented Wednesday, 19 Feb 2020 at 9:59am

and I did:

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Wednesday, 19 Feb 2020 at 7:07pm

I reckon Occy surfs better on his backhand.

freerider.'s picture
freerider.'s picture
freerider. commented Friday, 21 Feb 2020 at 5:34pm

Elo never learned how to surf---he Sup's..... The Wsl don't surf either---they're in this just for the bucks $$$......