Arcade Fire gets heavy and groovy in impressionistic ‘Reflektor Tapes’

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Arcade Fire On Their New Film And How Being “Older, Fatter, Lazier” Might Affect Their Next LP.

Wearing a black, wide-brimmed hat, black blazer and black t-shirt emblazoned with a white skeleton print, the Arcade Fire founder and frontman looks dressed for a Reflektor photo shoot (the band would often invoke carnivalesque images such as skeletons in their stage dress), despite the album coming out almost two years ago.In the excellent documentary The Refkletor Tapes (in theaters now), famed indie band Arcade Fire open up about making their smash 2013 album and touring the world.

Neither concert film nor behind-the-scenes doc nor avant-garde objet d’art, “The Reflektor Tapes” attempts to be all three at once, mirroring the musical hybridization that inspired Arcade Fire’s mammoth 2013 double-album “Reflektor.” But what worked for Arcade Fire most emphatically does not work for director Kahlil Joseph.Last week, Arcade Fire’s new tour documentary The Reflektor Tapes premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and this Thursday (September 24) the feature-length film will screen across cinemas in the UK.

It’s an amount of time that, in today’s music scene, usually means a band has moved on to their next album, but Arcade Fire are still very much caught up in Reflektor, the album that was tasked with following up their massive, Grammy award-winning The Suburbs. Fluidly cutting between footage from the recording sessions for 2013 LP ‘Reflektor’, the band’s visit to Haiti (the birthplace of multi-instrumentalist and central member Regine Chassagne) and a multitude of gigs throughout the album tour with snippets of interview laced over the top like an out-of-body voiceover, it’s a tour doc with an artistic, contemplative edge. Directed by rising newcomer Kahlil Joseph, Reflektor Tapes is “an audiovisual overload of quick cuts and overlapping sounds covering the Montreal ensemble’s fourth and latest album, 2013’s Reflektor,” Billboard’s Karen Bliss reported from the fest.

Creating a new sound is not an easy thing to do, especially for a band that became synonymous with an eclectic, folky, anthemic style they introduced on songs like “Wake Up,” from their 2004 debut, Funeral. Having released only four albums in 14 years, the six-piece outfit invests heavily in each one, all of which are packed with baroque pop songs that reflect the Elvis-recommended work ethic and the complex threading of musical forms. We filmed a bunch of stuff from the making of, just for archival purposes, but then [director Kahlil Joseph] said he wanted everything to put it together. This was his introduction to us; he hadn’t seen us before and he wanted to make it as his first impression of our gigs.” “He was an outsider who was excited. It’s one thing to groove to the infectious disco of the title track or the Caribbean percussion of “Here Comes the Night Time,” but another to hear Butler referencing Soren Kierkegaard’s “The Present Age” or his musical (and life) partner Regine Chassagne likening their musical layers to “a diamond with a million cuts in it.” None of what they’re articulating is false — the album is layered and complex, and perhaps does have Kierkegaard as its philosophical godfather — but it’s infinitely more appealing to hear them articulate it through music, not words.

It also failed to win them another Grammy. “I think, at the beginning, we set out actively incorporating things we’d never worked on as a band before,” says bass player Tim Kingsbury, sitting beside singer/co-founder Régine Chassagne in a separate interview. “I think we succeeded. There’s a lot of it that feels like it’s in the performers’ head, which I hadn’t seen before.” There’s a quote in the film where you talk about keeping everything very insular between the band – how was it relinquishing that and letting cameras in? “I’m at a point where I basically don’t care [about intrusion]. Finally, a 7-inch vinyl single of “Get Right” b/w “Crucified Again” will be released on Merge/Sonovox the same day as the Reflektor deluxe digital release. Working with three cinematographers, Joseph does one better than Demme by climbing onto the stage and making the camera an active participant, but the doc’s murky conceit keeps it from becoming a full-on concert film. Songs from the album are doled out in unsatisfying snippets, wedged between a blur of global pitstops, montage sequences, and impressionistic renderings of events like Haiti’s Carnival.

Every time we do it, it’s the most important thing we’re working on.” Butler also credits the recording process with changing how the band worked in the studio, saying it was the first time they worked on the arrangements “with each other, playing as a unit. Just in terms of our musicianship and playing off of each other, it felt like we had more tools at our disposal from when we started.” When asked how this new band dynamic has translated into new music, Butler deflects. “It feels like we never really know before we start making a record, we don’t really know when or where it’s going to go,” he said, adding that the entire idea of an album cycle is “a very foreign concept to me.” His brother and bandmate Will, however, was much more forthcoming while speaking with NME magazine, leading us to believe there’s at least some anticipation within the group for new material. “We’re all itching to play music together and start recording things,” he said. “We’re basically in the demo and play together phase, and historically that’s led to realising that, surprisingly, we’re 30 per cent into a record, so we’ll see if that happens.” According to Will, the new album could possibly even pick up where Reflektor left off. “It’s good to know that we can play rhythmic music together and that we’re good at it,” he said. There’s no shortage of visual ideas on display here: A mix of textures and aspect ratios, video effects from image-within-image to a triple split-screen, and shots that are hyper-saturated with color one second and completely drained of it the next.

There are no plans at the moment, but I think at some undetermined future date we’ll have to get out the pitchforks, clean out the barn and see what’s inside.” “We gave lots of feedback, but we went into it knowing that it would be [Joseph’s] film because it wouldn’t be worth doing if it wasn’t. We brainstormed on what shows he should come to but we basically left it in his hands.” “It was very important for us that he was there from the beginning, so we had the four stages of the tour which was the very tiny Reflektors shows [where the band performed under the pseudonym The Reflektors] at Salsateque and then the promo tour which was a couple of thousand people, then Earls Court which was 15,000 and then also Haiti which is just not on the radar. You can also purchase previously unreleased material from the Reflektor recording sessions, both as a 7” and a six-song cassette, on their website. Camera (B&W/color, widescreen, HD), Lol Crawley, Autumn Cheyenne Durald, Malik Hassan Sayeed; editor, Matt Hollis, Daniel Song; music, Arcade Fire; sound, Ollie Nesham; supervising sound editor, Stuart Morton; re-recording mixers, Simon Hill; line producer, Craig Gledhill. For me, ‘Rococo’ and ‘Sprawl II’ have more in common because of the synth sounds than perhaps they would to an objective outsider.” “We’re not terribly good at schedules and luckily we’re in a position where no one can ever tell us what to do, so it’s good.

I’m of the mentality that everything we do is a Number One smash and we’ve obviously never had a Number One smash, so my radar is good for making the music but not so much for seeing the end result…”

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