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Murderous melodies, bringing us back to life

September 10th, 2010

Filed under: MUSIC

Matt Bauer, Dana Falconberry and the Matangi Quartet held us spellbound for about an hour, and although it felt like a few moments, it breathed new life into many of us.

The audience of the Flux-S concert this evening were broad-minded, with varied expectations of the programme. Whether we knew it or not, we were to be captive listeners of many of the numbers from the song cycle The Island Moved in the Storm, an album by Matt Bauer with an extraordinary arrangement for string quartet for this performance. It’s about the murder of a young woman near Matt’s hometown back in ’68. Grisly of topic but pearlescent of execution thanks to the musicianship, care and deliberation of the playing. And then other songs from other albums such as Nandina gave us the titles with wonderful word combinations like “Jordan in a plastic bag”. I spoke to Matt after the show, who is really a shy, genuinely warm and bear-like man … There is a mis-match with this image and the sombre mystical poetry layered with velvety textured music swirling in the abandoned looking space of the former Philips building at Strijp-S.

Matt Bauer et al

Matt and Dana are on a European tour through France, Portugal and the Benelux, and had arrived in Eindhoven only last night to commence rehearsals with the Matangi guys and gal. He is somewhat familiar with Eindhoven, as a city appreciative of his music. “No, I haven’t really seen Eindhoven, except for the city centre and the hotel.” (Oh dear, I hope he doesn’t have the wrong idea – there’s so much more to this place than those two locations!) His appearance at the Naked Song Festival in 2008 was his entree into this year’s Flux-S programme. “In fact, I was actually supposed to play here last year, but that sort of fell through,” he giggles a little and then looks at me carefully, waiting to listen to the next question. The pairing of Matt and Dana with the Matangi quartet was match-made via contacts he’d made through Naked. “They are amazing. It’s been really fun playing with these guys.” Fun doesn’t seem the right word, given much of the subject matter, but I don’t interject. He is sincere when he says how grateful he is that we came to hear his music.

I buy a CD at the stall from Dana and give her my compliments for the extraordinary sound quality in what could have been a real earsore cave.”They got in a really professional company from Germany to do the sound to fit this exact space,” she explains. Her face is positively shining as she speaks to us, compared to the sobriety of this evening’s performance. She has made a sweet lino print to accompany two tracks she made with Matt. I can download them using a code she gives me on a sliver of paper. Again, that strange contrast.

I ask some of the other patrons what they found of the performance. Before they answer, they say, “Uh, what did you think?” I am all enthusiasm and groupie-ness. “Well, you understood it,” was the response, each time. I was surprised. Indeed, the lyrics were absolutely audible to me, and even though at times they were alarming, they gave the music a push and pull, which lured me deeper still into the narrative. “I found it boring,” I heard from Marielle and Suzanne, women with strong artistic sensibilities, but with a desire to know the destination before boarding the bus. “One song, maybe two, but it was so dark! I didn’t know what he was saying!” Contrasts, clashes, opposites. What a great festival this is.

Frankly, it wouldn’t have mattered to me whether Matt sang for two hours in Cantonese. His arrangements are made with great attention, giving an effect that is magical, upsetting, haunting and lyrical; all things that are absolutely necessary when you are making sense of your world on a bleak Autumn Friday night in Eindhoven.

* I trawled the internet looking for Matt’s lyrics and other guff about him but I found this quote, which is better than anything I could hope for: “Music saved my life, and so now I go where it takes me.”

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