If there is a band that anticipatingly connect sound and image, Haiku Salut are it, but you can never quite predict where they will go next. This time they have released two new tracks, both over 10 minutes long. The songs were written for a rescore project commissioned by Live Cinema UK, in which the Derbyshire Dales trio were set the challenge of writing a new score to two short archive films from the BFI National Archive. And if you watch them back to back, with the contemporary scores, there is a heightened stimulation to any weekday evening.
The first track, Pattern Thinker (which is 11 mins 24 seconds), provided the soundtrack for the 1940 black and white short, 4 And 20 Fit Girls (reminds me of 4 and 20 blackbirds). An evocative wartime curio, featuring a group of women in matching grey tunics undertaking a balletic exercise regime in a community hall, like Busby Berkeley directing Passport To Pimlico, there is something pleasing in watching a team full of choreographed dancing. The band’s contemporary score, with the glitches and percussion, and movement away from the more traditional sounds, add a further subtext to the cinema, marrying different eras in time to add contemplation to the text.
The song was originally premiered at an online watch party on July 19th, with funds raised in the event going to three independent cinemas local to the trio – Nottingham Broadway, Derby Quad and the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield. Beautifully synched and married up, this track gives a fresh perspective on this short film, doing what Haiku Salut do best, soundscapes to embellish the visual element.
Second track, Portrait In Dust, (10 minutes 50 seconds), provided the soundtrack for the 1920 short film, Nude Woman By Waterfall, shot by pioneering British filmographer Claude Friese-Greene. This is a much less dynamic, impressionistic piece, an experiment in mood, and their versatility is noted here as they too succeed in capturing the ambience and vibe of this film. Meditative, reflective, this score is more down-tempo but highlights that they work to the visuals, and don’t simply choose cinema that best fits their scores.
Impressive marrying, these scores are modestly wonderful, and indulge the viewer, as they resort back to golden cinema. I could watch these over several times to engage with the pleasing elements on both the eye and the ear.
The rescore project was produced by Live Cinema UK, supported by Arts Council England and Film Hub North, part of the BFI Film Audience Network. Pattern Thinker and Portrait In Dust are both out, via Secret Name on itunes, bandcamp and streaming services.