Material: This was an unusual show. Rather than a traditional band performance, this evening at HM157 (a wonderful art space inside a house that is a protected historical monument) saw Rococo Jet perform a live score to a 1927 silent movie called Sunrise.
The movie was screened in the backyard, on a neighboring wall painted white, and adjacent to a tee-pee. It couldn’t be more perfect a setting for something this artistically unique.
The movie itself tells the story of a farmer, played by George O’Brien, who falls for a city woman (Janet Gaynor). Gaynor’s character tries to convince the farmer to drown his wife so that they can be together. It’s a love story, but certainly one with a sinister edge. So with the movie playing, all eyes were on the screen/ wall, while the band played and sang over it all.
Musicianship: There’s so much to admire here, not least Jimi Cabeza de Vaca and John Perreira’s beautiful guitar work. They don’t play widdly solos (at least not here); rather, they understand that they’re creating a musical blanket for the layered female voices to lay on. There are moments with other instruments in there too, but nothing stands out because it’s not supposed to. The final modern score is certainly the sum of its parts. The vocal work is clearly the focus, and there are elements of haunting Irish vocal group Clannad in there, the women combining elegantly and beautifully to create something majestic.
Performance: There was absolutely nothing in the way of performance from the actual group. Rococo Jet sat on a sofa at the very front, playing while everyone watched the film.
While the instrumentation is minimalistic and gloriously sparse, the women’s voices are so lush and harmoniously on point that you could be forgiven for overestimating the amount of personnel actually involved. This is less about “songs” in the traditional sense and, as it should be, more about creating music to complement the movie, though some of the music is pulled from the new album Mysterium Tremens, the release of which was being celebrated at this show.
Summary: This was as much a movie screening as a concert, but the combination of those things made for a fascinating and very enjoyable night.
If there’s a hole to pick, it’s that the music doesn’t always seem to naturally fit the film. There were moments when something quite dramatic was happening on-screen, and the music didn’t alter to reflect that. But overall, the experiment was a resounding success.
Photo by Brett Callwood
The Players: Nora Keyes, vocals; Jimi Cabeza de Vaca, guitar; John Perreira, guitar; Rebecca Lynn, violin; Carisa Bianca Mellado, harmony vocals; Sarah Allene, harmony vocals; Mitchell Brown, synth; Richard Costigan, percussion.
Rococo Jet - "Open Door"
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