Saturday, July 30, 2011

Filmusik and Federale rock the house with 'The Grand Duel'

Filmusik, Portland's homegrown musical idea whose name expresses exactly what it does, delivered another bang-up performance with the live-soundtrack rendition of 'The Grand Duel,' a spaghetti western of the best (worst?) kind Thursday night at the Hollywood Theater.

Federale, a local band who specializes in the dramatic music of the kind found in this genre, performed a live version of the soundtrack. The main theme is probably better known to most audiences from its appropriation by Quentin Tarantino for the soundtrack to 'Kill Bill Vol. 1.' The iconic harmonium melody, doubled at various times by soprano or trumpet, was accompanied by a perfect high lonesome whistle from one of the band members (and quite an excellent display of whistling prowess it was.) After all, what's spaghetti western music without the whistling?

The performance gave you everything you want from this genre, in which, let's face it, the music is much better than the film. And much more intense from being live and in your face. The film itself was a delicious, laughable bit of nonsense, full of hyperbole, melodrama, gratuitous nudity, stereotypes, and hatchet-faced Europeans with bad teeth somehow trying to pass themselves off as Americans, replete with oompa-loompa-cum-John-Boehner tans. Starring the iconic Lee Van Cleef as a sheriff out to save an innocent man from hanging and bent on revenge agains the cruel Patriarch, this film needed great music to save it from itself.

Federale betrayed a keen understanding of the musical needs of this genre, from gritty verismo atmospherics in which inglorious death is all around, to sinister carefully layered mood music, full of atonalism and sound-effects that also showcased the droning surf-rock origin behind much of the guitar work.

Another worthwhile endeavor from Galen Huckins and Filmusik, the final performance takes place tonight at 8 pm at the Hollywood Theater.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Upcoming Filmusik Madness: The Grand Duel

Filmusik, the unique brainchild of Portland composer Galen Huckins that combines classic cinema with all manner of live performance elements, including live original soundtracks, voice dubbing and sound effects, is at it again this upcoming week with their new project The Grand Duel.

A spaghetti western starring the inimitable Lee Van Cleef, this film marks Filmusik's first collaboration with Federale, a local alternative band who just happens to specialize in writing and performing music that, in their own words, "recapture[s] the haunting, violent atmosphere illustrated in such classic films as A Fistful of Dollars." With their ranchero-style horns and the intensely powerful soprano of Maria Karlin, Federale, besides being an extremely talented ensemble that knows exactly how to achieve their musical goals, is a plain old-fashioned kick in the pants. Marvelously fun, Filmusik and Federale are a natural fit for each other, and for this enterprise Federale composed an entirely new soundtrack and will be on hand to perform for all three shows. The showings are Thursday July 28th, Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th at the Hollywood Theater at 8pm.