The tropical island/beach bum vibe popular a few years ago has cracked and slipped off the map, as life gets even more hectic still. Its no longer good enough to lounge around listening to synth music and catch some rays. We must now sink into the slow-motion world of the Marianas Trench to relax.
This liquid languor was invoked for this installment of Fin De Cineme, where live bands improvise scores over classic cinema. This time, it was Mala Morska Vila, a glittering adaptation from the Czech new wave of the classic Little Mermaid tale from Hans Christian Andersen. The man himself was quoted as saying, “When words fail, music speaks.” Letting the three bands narrate this tale of unrequited longing was fitting, The Little Mermaid being left mute after a deal with the Sea Witch. The three bands used a variety of acoustic folk instruments (marimba, bells, flute, percussion) in addition to modern avant-garde noise techniques (phased guitar, theremin) to simulate the underwater waltzes and adventures on the high sea.
Goodnight Billygoat were the dreamiest of the lot, using a combination of Fender Rhodes, harp, flute, tribal percussion, drum machines and atmospheric guitar to create an otherworldly ritualistic atmosphere. The interweaving male and female vocals gave a bittersweet, haunting air to the first third of the film, and the rippling arpeggios of the guitar, harp, and electric piano beautifully capturing the sub-aquatic vibes. The overall effect was breath-taking. The band was almost frighteningly synched up with the film, quite obviously well-rehearsed, with drum machines beating out a marching beat during a military procession, or Native American flute timed to go with messengers playing conch shells.
Wooden Indian Burial Ground brought a classic, Texas psych touch to the proceedings, as the Little Mermaid feels the first touch of longing, after having saved the life of the handsome prince during a shipwreck. WIBG soldiered on impressively during some technical difficulties, dishing out some low-key Kraut jazz to a blackened theater, even playing two garage rave-ups to pass the time. Their blend of electric piano, twangy surf guitar, and bowed bass drones brought some Sergio Leone dustiness to the table, as the prince and the beautiful mute meet, begin to fall in love. But the prince cannot forget the vision that came to him during the shipwreck. A lovely face at sea. There is trouble in the air.
Blood Bleach finished the evening with a classic, noisy guitar set, but with flourishes of theremin and organ swells to fill the air and round out the sound. Had a crashing, climactic build-up and breakdown, as the Little Mermaid tries desperately to make the Prince fall in love with her, but he has his eyes on the beautiful Princess that found him by the sea. He is convinced she was his vision from the sea, and the Mermaid’s haunted green eyes gaze in horror as they meet, fall in love. She stands over the lover’s bed with a dagger from the sea, but let’s it return to the waves, bursting into blossoms and flower petals. She dies as the sun rises, and the band tastefully switched over to acoustic instruments for this transition, to conclude this beautiful film with rich mandolin textures.
Every band this evening seemed like seasoned improvisors, were totally on point and tuned in, to the mood of the movie, and to each other. The cowboy waltz, married to images of underwater processions, was almost too beautiful to describe, and i had the feeling, for the millionth time in my life, that i was in the right place at the right time, glad to be a music fan living in Portland, Or. For fans of Boxhead Ensemble, Dirty Three, Sonic Youth, i would recommend seeking out any of these bands, and for fans of improvised music or under the radar film, definitely check out the next installment of Fin De Cineme.