Rooms is a series of online documentaries about musicians of interest,
coolly interweaving interviews, live concerts and the odd performance
in front of a stunning natural backdrop. Here, for example, is Josephine
Foster, singing on a flower-strewn Spanish hill as a great big sun
sets behind her. It’s all the work of Bradford based Harry Wheeler,
and his mission statement runs thus: “Inspired by the musicians’
ability to transfix spectators and transform a room for a limited but
unique period of time. In love with the history of traditional drinking
houses of the UK, the old smoke stained wallpapers, the way the light
plays with the carved glass mirrors.”
Freeform percussion whiz Chris
Corsano cheerfully and articulately discusses his duo with Vibracathedral
Orchestra’s Mick Flower, intercut with concert extracts. Radical
Van Wissem talks about taking the lute out of the museum and onto
the streets, and how his pal Jim Jarmusch makes films with the sensibility
of a musician. Then we see Van Wissem playing in a New York club with
Jarmusch on guitar.
These are such relaxed films, skillfully edited so your patience is not
taxed, but presenting unpressured, open ended conversations.
The live footage is from small venues and chimes well with the experience
of being present at this kind of event. In an era of time-poor internet
surfing and quick on the draw music journalism, these interviews have
the space to stretch out.
Some films are oddly humorous: Mendrugo
shows Victor Herrero’s group in an absurdly picturesque Spanish
village, paying a surprise visit on a Japanese clarinetist called Taku.
They play in Taku’s house and in the village square, a roaming troupe
of bohemians. Up north in Hull
Boathouse (home of the late Paul Burwell) Mama Baer and Kommissar
Hjuler engage in a screamfest with Blue Yodal and Harappian Night Recordings.
Like a younger Werner Herzog, Hjuler has a calm and sensible German accented
explanation for his very bizarre behavior.
Film maker Wheeler himself plays bass in The
Family Elan, led by bouzouki player (and ex-Nalle member) Chris Hladowski,
and there’s a short
film of their European tour, with audiences dancing to their Bollywood
medley. But one of Harmonic
Rooms’ finest moments is a film about the mystical minimalist,
painter and 12-string guitarist Steffen
Basho-Junghans. Music is being played in a daisy field that looks
like fairyland but is actually in Thuringia, Germany. Wheeler’s
latest project is to put Basho-Junghans in a studio together with young
UK guitarist Cam Deas, and document their collaboration. I’ll certainly
Clive Bell (The Wire)