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A cloudy vision from Margaret Explosion

Margaret Explosion
Margaret Explosion

A hedgehog gallops across the screen. What does this mean?

It means Rochester’s ambient jazz ensemble Margaret Explosion, has just released a new, and typically obtuse, video.

The music of “Clouds to Part” was recorded this spring live at The Little Café, as is so much of the volumes of material released online over the years by Margaret Explosion. So the clatter of forks on plates and the murmur of conversation is a backing track to Peggi Fournier’s snake-charmer soprano sax, Phil Marshall’s guitar, Ken Frank’s double bass and Paul Dodd’s ominous drums.

The evocative images were assembled by Duane Sherwood, who has a long history with Margaret Explosion. He did a video for Dodd and Fournier’s ’80s New Wave band, Personal Effects, that won first place in a Los Angeles festival sponsored by the American Film Institute and Sony; among the judges was avant-garde chanteuse Laurie Anderson. Sherwood’s video for the Personal Effects song “Heroes” made it into the programming for MTV’s “120 Minutes.”

Sherwood also did a video for Margaret Explosion’s "4AM," which was featured in the Brooklyn Film Festival. A decade ago, Sherwood assembled a collage of Coney Island images for the band’s only 45 rpm release, “Juggler,” which you can find on YouTube.

The new video is grainy images of rodeos gone rogue, vehicle accidents, war footage, explosions timed to Dodd’s chimes. If only we could be that hedgehog, and curl up in a protective ball over all this.

Yet the clouds do indeed part. The mayhem gives way to birds in flight, a bicyclist levitating, and a crowd of people working together to push a beached whale back into the water.

Dodd is also an artist, whose works have included portraits that emphasize specific facial features of his subjects. He’s presenting a new show of works that drift more toward collage at Studio 401 of the artist colony Anderson Alley, 250 N. Goodman St. The opening reception is 5 p.m. Friday. Margaret Explosion returns to the space 7 p.m. Aug. 12 for a live performance set to video projection.

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.