CALIFONE at Ted's Wrecking Yard (549 College), Saturday (April 21). $8-$10. 416-928-5012. Rating: NNNNN
you only have to peek at thesample credits on current hiphop and breakbeat singles or check the number of bands touring with fold-up projection screens to see that today's intimate relationship between music and film goes well beyond the multimillion-dollar business of hit-stacked soundtracks.
Old Bollywood songs, Italian sleaze and dusty European jazz, funk and fusion scores continue to be exhumed for beats. Artists like godpseed you black emperor!, Autechre and Air remain obsessed by the imaginary soundtracks in their heads, bringing the openness and experimentalism of film music to their own epic tunes.
Understated art rock ensemble Califone play decidedly filmic music, full of evocative tones and drastic mood shifts. The Chicago-based outfit also have some very limited soundtrack experience scoring music for underground films that, as guitarist Tim Rutili puts it, "sounds nothing like anything Califone could do under that name."
The group's connection to the soundtrack scene takes a giant leap forward Saturday (April 21) at Ted's Wrecking Yard when Califone, as part of the iMAGES Festival Of Independent Film And Video, provide accompaniment for the avant-garde films of Harry Smith.
Known best for his epochal Anthology Of American Folk Music collection, the legendary archivist and paper airplane collector was also a filmmaker who helped pioneer the technique of painting directly onto film.
Getting Califone to provide a live score to Early Abstractions, a collection of Smith's earlier films, is an inspired bit of booking, even if the members of the band admit they would have never thought of it themselves.
"I'd never even imagined doing something like this before," Rutili laughs from Chicago. "We've done live scores for local people, but never anything like this. To tell you the truth, we just happened to have a show booked in Toronto for that night and someone asked if we wanted to give it a shot.
"They assigned this to us, so it's a bit like a school project. I love the Anthology but I don't really know much about Harry Smith the filmmaker, which makes things a bit odd. We know what we're going to do, though. We're not going to do what people expect, but I can't say anything beyond that. This is going to be fun."
Smith's own unorthodox vision of how music and film could co-exist should give Califone inspiration. Half of Smith's films are silent, and others are as experimental in their cut-up soundtracks as the spliced film itself.
If Rutili and his bandmates decided to play a set of slow jams and Gary Numan covers all night, it probably wouldn't seem out of place.
"Jazz musicians used to play to this film, and the last tape Smith sent out had Meet The Beatles playing front to back," Rutili roars. "He was kind of a kook. We thought about playing Meet The Beatles, but that wasn't as funny as we'd first thought.
"I'd like to think that there's something about Califone's music that works with film, but I really don't know. The one Harry Smith quotation that set everything free for this was "Any music goes with any film.' We can do anything we want with this, which is fairly daunting but also really liberating."email@example.com