Friday, May 18, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 6: More Music Action


And now to bands that I had heard of but was seeing at the festival for the first time, beginning with A Hawk And A Hacksaw. I think my Frank's APA pal Mr Henry the Cow likes this lot. Well, now that I have seen them, I like them too! The faux folkies were providing musical accompaniment to a showing of the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by the roffling Soviet filmmaker Sergei Parajanov. It tells the story of people in the past in Ukraine or somewhere like that, only because we were seeing it in Crazy Horse the flat floor and low stage meant that the subtitles were largely invisible and the story impossible to follow. However, from having seen the film before I can reveal that even with the subtitles the film is not very plot-oriented, so it is best appreciated as a succession of beautifully shot scenes of people doing folkish stuff. The Hawk And A Hacksaw musical accompaniment (tinges of Balkan and eastern European folk music) worked perfectly like this. And again, the sheer darkness of Crazy Horse made this all a rather magical experience.

Joanna Newsom was one of the big draws for me at this festival. I had hitherto been relatively uninterested in her oeuvre, seeing her as one of those quirky voiced beautiful women who sell truckloads of records to people who think they are sensitive. But I liked the Joanna Newsom track Scott put on one of his end of year discs (a song which would have been the first Joanna Newsom track I have heard in its entirety). So I became keen to check her out.

I found her live set a bit of a slow burn – at first it seemed merely quite good, but by the end I found the performance mesmerising. I was struck by her technique, both as a musician and as someone who can work a crowd, the whole idiot savant thing being clearly a pose. I was also fascinated the basic instrumentation of the songs (with her playing the harp or piano being the sole accompaniment to her vocals). At the end of the day, the harp is an instrument that makes beautiful sounds so it is easy to like Ms Newsom's music.

Two things struck me about Joanna Newsom's vocals. Firstly, her lyrics often dwell on animals, always a good thing. Secondly, some of the tunes featured wordless vocals, with her singing voice sounding far less mannered on these. Make of that what you will. Her normal singing voice is a bit odd but I can see why people both like and dislike it. Overall, though, there is something about the songs that gets under the skin. And, unlike my beloved, I do not think that Ms Newsom would be improved by a face transplant from Mark E. Smith.

NEXT: The Final Episode

An inuit panda production

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