Blindfolding strangers is always fun, and as any good gimp’ll tell you – tis also a gentle reminder of how much our eyesight can dominate. Witness the blindfolded peeps always in need of warnings about little things such as steps, intersections, low-hanging branches, cliff-edges, train tracks etc etc. On the flipside, cinema can reveal much about our reliance on sound to explain the world. Nice then, given that we’ve come from musicians playing along to silent movies, to be hearing a blossoming of improvised sonics to film in 2004.
Chokkas: Asian Dub Foundation Vs ‘La Haine’
Brimming with 2,3 or even 4 thousand hooded herbalists, the Sidney Myer Dust Bowl recently hosted a stellar performance by the Asian Dubbas – a live soundtrack gorgeously tempo-tuned to the unrelenting tension of the French feature film ‘La Haine‘. After dusk, the 9 or so Dubbas gently shuffled onto stage and with a minimal introduction, began tweaking their instruments along to the giant black & white cinematography unfolding above them. From the get-go, the Dubbas locked into the film’s tense core and accentuated the drama, added a consistently tasty and contemporary feel to the urban surrounds and characters on-screen. Alongside the drop-jaw camera choreographics, and the film’s potent social agendas, the Dub_sonics oozed flair and style.
This film bites – and rarely loosens its grip all the way to it’s brutal punchline. Part of the experience hearing a live soundtrack to it then, is that you become so immersed in the grit and drama, your awareness of the band performing ebbs and flows, in and out. Does this mean the musicians are doing a good job if you don’t notice them? The Dubbas were never in juxtaposition to the vibe of the screen, only rising up and down with intensity, albeit with a widely mixed melting pot of musical flavours well suited to an inner-city French cosmopolis. When the action cranked, they heightened the electricity, added a gnarly momentum to events, and then on-cue with a sudden scene change, switched effortlessly to another mood, other atmospherics. Bam – it’s over, the credits roll, and with the film’s themes echoing in your head, the Dubbas rock it out a few songs more. Sublimely executed. Wah-spect to all involved.
BloodSukkas: Nosferatu gets a workover.
Another film with bite, and a long-time favourite of soundtrakkas, vamp_flick Nosferatu has been given sound at various festivals by the likes of Frost (melb), one of the Biftek kittens & Lawrence English (Bris). More recently it was given a work-over and re-shooting by Melbourne VJs kos vs game_over @ their ‘Floating Point’ AV event. Sound was given the live tweakery by Melb bleeptronic artist Isnod. Gorgeous black and white shadowplay mixed with inevitable blood-reds, and the moods oscillated between a-z grade horror as the local actors alternated between looking like they were pissing themselves with fun, having a great time biting necks, and looking more suitably morbid and morose. In this case the video clips were all being triggered live, so the live soundtrack has more chance to influence the pacing, or to suggest a change. In the end, a nicely crafted set of spook.
While someone may improvise a future soundtrack to vomiting catho-lick girls… what I mean to reference here is the kung-fu kru of Sydneyside live improvised soundtrakkas, Sub Bass Snarl – who deserve credit for their fantastic drop to The Running Man @ The Metro, linking the sound FX in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s killer gameshow with a grindy drum n bass. No doubt this was seasoned from the many improvised soundtracks that went down when Frigid was @ the Dendy in Martin Place. Never made it there myself, but the hills have ears, the hills have ears.