Let me open by saying I really liked Snowtown, the film. Although “liked” is not really the right word for a home-grown body of work that could have come from the camera of Mike Leigh – not since Naked has an equivalent level of menace and societal decay been woven so tightly and frighteningly together.
Snowtown is the sort of product that scares the bejeezus out of you not because you feel one step away from the innocent but in the fear that you are not two steps away from the guilty.
Amazingly, I don’t remember any music in the film. This is the highest compliment I can bestow on the Kurzel brothers: composer Jed for composing that almost subliminal participant in their production, and director Justin for managing to avoid the “leading the witness” trap of so many of today’s films.
So in the Unsound Adelaide: Snowtown Live concert at the Town Hall, two guitars, keyboards and drums and cello re-created what I had missed. In the background played the images to the whole, awful story; desolation writ very large, seemingly random scenes from the cutting-room floor. I was expecting landscapes and suburban abandonment but it was the people – real people, challenging us through the camera – which took me by surprise.
In a week when the news had offered up images not even a Kurzel could have created – a kid killer, drugged and drunk – the music, as heavy as it was at times, made total sense, the paucity of the existences depicted filled with dark, liquid notes until it overflowed and tainted us all.
“You probably have no idea who we are,” said either Adam Wiltzie or Brian McBride, the minds behind the American drone/ambient music band Stars Of The Lid. I think the initiated did. Others probably thought they’d stumbled upon The Necks on a bad day or the bastard children of Fripp and Eno.
At times the wash of music was the leftovers of a dream, notes suspended in phantasmagoria; you want to float there, too. At other times, it was a nightmare rattling the chairs with pure sculpted sound; at best, Arvo Part with an amp, all that sanctity and electronic reverie. Then, like an avalanche, all the mendacity of the previous performance revisited, a wall of noise, loud and unrelenting, windowless and all encompassing, and impenetrable.
It was the latter that gave me cause to worry. Loud simply attests to the ability to be loud. It might be brilliantly built from 52 strings and 24 stunningly talented hands apparently working in the sort of leaderless unison that one normally sees in flocks of birds, but there were moments when the sum of it all it resisted any exploration except by contrast: valid, but dependent simply on waiting, rather than participating or feeling included.
Unsound Adelaide: Snowtown Live was a one-off performance at the Adelaide Town Hall as part of the Adelaide Festival.
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Click here for InDaily’s stories and reviews from the 2014 Adelaide Festival, including WOMADelaide and Adelaide Writers’ Week.
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