In my last review of the two Electric Orange performances at a thermal baths in Germany, I commented how I do not often write about live performances on record. It general has to be something that is unique, or at least unusual for me to go into this territory (I feel the same with albums of demos and alternative versions… I generally like the definitive version of something that a band have committed to wax/ tape/ digital format… not many of the bands I write about are answerable to A&R people). However, this recording of Canadian band Shooting Guns playing a live score to the classic silent movie Nosferatu is another one with which I am more than willing to make as an exception.
This is something that I had not really realised was a thing, however it seems that the number of musicians covering silent movies in this way is on the increase, from full orchestras to individual artists. Originally, or course, this would have been the job of a single pianist or organist to interpret what was on the screen… but what this also means is that these films were made with that interpretation in mind. This is particularly the case with Nosferatu which employs a range of images that range from stark close ups to panoramic vistas… providing musicians with a rich tapestry against which to play.
This is certainly the case with Shooting Guns, a band whom I have been following closely for a while now, ever since Cardinal Fuzz (re-)released two albums of theirs early in 2015. Since then I have enjoyed getting into their back catalogue which has ranged from relatively straight forward stoner rock albums, to heavy zoned out jams, to two brilliant soundtracks for the cult films Wolf Cop and Wolf Cop 2. They are a band who can play a lot of different sorts of music, and this level of musicianship is evident on this double album which in many ways encompasses all of the above.
At this point I have been wondering whether I should engage in a forensic analysis of the music and how it makes me feel, like I often do, or whether I should try to give you a general overview of what this set is like. You may perhaps be relieved to know that I am going for the latter, mainly because I think that I could only fully judge this if I were watching it in conjunction with the film….
The overwhelming feel I get from this music is one of laid back and zoned out music which you can just sit with and let it take you places. The still from the film of the sailing ship on the cover is a perfect introduction to this, the stillness of the water gives you an almost zen-like experience of emptiness… it almost wills you to empty your mind. It is in this way that the first half an hour of this live score just flies by in a cloud of unknowing.
After that things get to be a bit more stormy, there is a darkness that is added to the mix which shakes you up. It comes over as exciting and almost too much after that feeling of stillness. There are, then. parts of this that are almost overwhelming… and whereas before there was an easiness to the playing (and listening) it now feels a little less comfortable. This works for me because the textures that the band then introduce throughout the next hour or so not only make this experience (and like the Electric Orange Unterwasser albums, this is an experience) an interesting and enjoyable one… but also one that takes you to many different places in your mind. This is not only the accompaniment to a film, it is also a psychedelic soundtrack for the head.
This, for me then, is a remarkable ninety minutes of music that you can just let go to, you become oblivious to what’s going on around you… yet this is not always a congenial listen, do not just go into it expecting to be cajoled. Instead approach it as you would a film, to subject yourself to the experience that the music brings… be panoramic in your thinking. Do this and ‘Nosferatu’ will pay you back many times over and, I suspect, in different ways with every listen.
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