Celluloid stars: Movies intensify the music
It wasn't an evening for the slight of attention span. For those who didn't know what was coming (i.e. the ones who fled upstairs), Saturday's show at Tokyo Rose wasn't the most fulfilling event of the week, but all it took was a bit of patience and openness to witness some singular performances in more media than I'd come expecting.
Grand Banks, a band I always enjoy checking out, served as the local host of the proceedings. Their straight-from-the-Corner-parking-lot sonic throb, which ranges from gently caressing to piercingly nauseating, is well known to patrons of the Charlottesville pretension scene. They coax quite a range of hues from a limited palette, and resist the temptation of The Big Payoff, preferring to delight you with subtler surprises along the way. (And if you happen to own their CD– you know, the one with the napkin cover art and the white-out on the back– listen to it sometime with the fast-forward button taped down. A life experience, to be sure.)
Stars of the Lid finds itself in a similar although more texturally developed vein. Affiliated with Kranky (home of my personal favorites, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, among others), SOTL concocts an enchantingly thick wall of arid drones and lush, arrhythmic ostinatos.
But the luminary of the evening– luminary in every sense of the word– was the spectacular Luke Savisky, the closest I've seen to a celluloid DJ. Film and live music have always gone hand in hand. Consider the necessity of background piano for pre-talkies silents or such recent forays as Anne Watts accompaniment of Steamboat Bill Jr. (which you may have caught at the film festival) or Yo La Tengo's compositions for a series of Jean Painleve films about aquatic life (which was allegedly booked for the festival until Yo La cancelled).
In each case, music gets arranged to fit a particular film: Luke Savisky's proposition– and a startling one at that– is that film can be arranged, live, to fit music.
Savisky's work deals with the most elemental aspects of projection (on and off, forward and backward, fast and slow) but also the serendipitous complexities of layered image. Armed with four 16-millimeter projectors, each with a different color filter over the lens, Savisky adroitly deployed a stunning syntax of loops, samples, and reels of old educational films in his remarkable show-opening montage.
He also provided the lighting and backdrop for Stars of the Lid with a similar although restrained palimpsest of tinted images (which was, frankly, considerably more engaging than the music itself.) In case you're not convinced of Savisky's worth, the man worked on Richard Linklater's Slacker and has taken his projection collection on tour with Mercury Rev, whom I adore, which is more than enough to commend him to your attention.