“Everything is fake. Nothing is real,” says New York No Wave musician Von LMO at the start of director Lori Felker’s Future Language, which screens at Northwest Film Forum tonight and tomorrow night. This ethos sets the tone for the documentary, an un-slick cinematic fan letter by a woman who capped her 18-year obsession with her subject by completing this scrappy movie.
With his black, sigil-covered shirt and an enigmatic amulet around his neck lending his quasi-crackpot philosophies a kitschy corona, Von LMO (a self-described “alien hybrid” now in his late 60s and in poor health after a lifetime of hard living, prison time, and being reincarnated) comes across like a wise-guy, Caucasian Sun Ra—but with drug and alcohol problems.
You may find Von LMO’s stories far-fetched and his theories dubious, but he’s never less than riveting, whether being questioned by Felker or belting out assaultive songs onstage with his bands, creating a whirlwind breed of spasmodic sci-fi rock somewhere between Chrome and an unfunky Contortions.
LMO purports to have been born on the planet Strazar in the “black light dimension.” He has come to Earth to serve as messenger for cosmic transmissions from space. Early on, LMO proclaims, “I am the pioneering architect of no wave, post-punk-rock music, alternative music, new-wave music. If it wasn’t for me, there’d be none of that. I’m living in 10 dimensions simultaneously and separately. I take the past, the present, and the future and combine them into one.” I’ll have whatever you’re smoking, man.
Future Language is a quirky portrait of a figure on the fringes of the periphery of music history, bolstered by idiosyncratic animation of LMO’s lysergic reminiscences by Mike Lopez. Certainly, Von LMO merits more attention—as well as reissues of the best recordings under his own alias and with the bands Red Transistor and Kongress. Future Language could be the creaky, freaky vehicle to lift Von LMO out of obscurity.