Film Review: AI Music Documentary “The Computer Accent” Inventively Analyzes the Creative Process
Written by: Hannah Tran | October 21st, 2022
While most of us look at the future of artificial intelligence with reasonable apprehension, electro-pop band YACHT steps into that future with an open mind in The Computer Accent, a documentary about the making of their seventh studio album, Chain Tripping. Their intentions are far from the nefarious ones we might imagine lurking in the minds of our world leaders and tech overlords. Instead, they dream of their album being fully produced by AI. And in the hands of first-time feature directors (and longtime producers) Riel Roch Decter and Sebastian Pardo, their journey is given a smart, stylish, and personalized approach that challenges how the band thinks of the creative process, the ethics of their goal, and the limits of technology, and of themselves, in completing it.
Founded by Jona Bechtolt, who aptly named his experimental band after a business sign for an educational program, an acronym for Young Americans Challenging High Technology, YACHT is well-established as a band that embraces the unknown. The Computer Accent takes a fascinating look at their origins, when YACHT was a one-man band making music from laptops and smashing them onstage just like a musician might smash a guitar. It then neatly traces the band’s transition into a trio, with the addition of the charismatic members Claire L. Evans and Bobby Birdman and their development leading to Chain Tripping.
Throughout these segments, Decter and Pardo are unafraid to probe into controversy that has surrounded the band after releasing a poorly received promotional idea that featured a faked, comical sex tape. Moments like this are surprising, but their inclusion is extremely effective. They allow the band the opportunity to reflect on their past and speak in a vulnerable, candid manner about how they view their artistic drive.
The documentary is at its best when it sees the band members working together to sort out their challenges and question the greater ramifications of what they’re doing. They all pose interesting questions, although the documentary is understandably unable to give many answers. The subject feels important, although the dialogue surrounding it can occasionally seem overly broad and can overstay its welcome. When focused on the band’s collaborative process and the AI system whom they refer to as a new member of the group, however, the documentary feels much more enlightening in its presentation of the musical difficulties the band confronted as they pushed the boundaries of technology.
And although some of this may be mentally taxing on the viewer, Decter and Pardo wrap it in a stylish aesthetic approach that makes the concepts easier to understand. The use of archival footage, varying aspect ratios, automated voiceovers, and computer-screen imagery gives the film a sense of energy and cohesion with its subjects. Combined with the absorbing music of the band, The Computer Accent cultivates a full-bodied viewing experience with a distinct tone.