A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me that his band would be putting on a show and that it was going to be “a little different.” After the show he asked if I would review it. Naturally I said I would be because it was awesome. There’s the short version right there. The longer one is below.
“Horror movies bring imaginary monsters to life and, for a few hours, make them more real than your fear of the IRS, job security or any of life’s real demons. This is the great escape they offer, and when the movie is over you have defeated the monster. It’s a great ride!”
– Zoog Von Rock, Angelspit
Angelspit Vs. Nosferatu is a cerebral experiment in sound and experience. During the show members from Angelspit, I:scintilla and The Gothsicles perform a live soundtrack to the horror classic, Nosferatu. But rather than playing the original score or an electronic variation thereon, they threw it all out and did something decidedly non-musical and unique. The hour and half performance was not a concert or even truly a screening but rather an emersion in sound and emotion.
Angelspit Vs. Nosferatu revives the eeriness and unsettling tingle that the film lost to nearly a century of cinematic evolution. The show happened in a dark, one-room performance space; the band’s equipment—a mess of wires, homemade instruments, guitar pedals, and mixers—sat at the far end of the hall. As the audience entered a QR code appeared on the screen above the band. ZooG, nodded at the QR code and said, “This is how we’re going to put the demon in the room.” Then he told the audience to scan the code and as they did their phones began to groan. Soon dozens of cellphones were moaning, dripping, creaking along, all out of sync with one another and they carried on for the duration of the film. The disquiet cellphones created an atmosphere of sound that set the stage for the group’s main performance.
Once the ambient noise filled the space the film began and players picked up their frankensteined instruments. The most identifiable creation among them: a contact mic tapped to a mixing bowl with a marble inside, and guitar strings stretched across its top. One after another they began slowly swirling their bowls. For a moment there was silence then the drone of marbles on metal began, first from one corner then from the others. Each instrument was on a delay and each was connected to a speaker in its own corner of the hall.
The combined effect of the multidirectional sound, the dissonance of the out of time phones, and the lag between what the band played and what was heard created a genuine feeling of unease, like a clock that only ticked when the hands were still. The tension ebbed and flowed during the film but even at its lowest was always palpable.
When the film ended the cellphones died away, the musicians set down their instruments, then after a few moments the last of the sound effects faded. It was fantastically strange sort of show. On it’s own Nosferatu is too dated to be scary and it evoked a few laughs at some of the story’s stranger moments. But the show really wasn’t about Nosferatu. The film was more of a roadmap for the emotional journey that the band created than the focal point for the performance. Rather than music or story the show was about creating interesting sounds and leaving the audience with an experience and in that the experiential show was an awesome success.