Movietone certainly isn’t the only band that strives to evoke the experience of the cinema with its music. But where groups like Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Scenic favor wide-screen, cast-of-thousands-style epic sweep, this quintet from Bristol, England, prefers to work with smaller, subtler gestures–a Movietone tune is the musical equivalent of a scene in an early-60s black-and-white French film, maybe something by Truffaut, with a man and a woman wreathed in cigarette smoke talking across a tiny cafe table. Using sparse piano and guitar, melancholy clarinet, gently brushed drums, and keening strings, the group delivers the images promised by titles like “1930’s Beach House” and “Night in These Rooms,” both from its third and latest album, The Blossom Filled Streets (Drag City). The band very rarely cuts loose, so when it does–as in the multipiano pileup that ends the title track–the effect is as jarring as the nightmarish, overexposed hallucinations in Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf. Cinematic bands tend to be instrumental–Godspeed and Scenic use sampled vocals or none at all–but most of Movietone’s songs feature the singing of multi-instrumentalist Kate Wright, whose shy style makes her sound a little like English trad folksinger Shirley Collins. Her carefully drawn lyrics are as thoroughly permeated with the symbolic language of film as the band’s music: she invents characters and plots and sometimes even sings about the play of light and shadow itself. These shows are Movietone’s stateside debut. Friday, November 3, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Free in-store performance Friday, November 3, 5 PM, Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee; 773-235-3727.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Faisal Rahman.