Posts Tagged ‘Los Jaivas’

DVDs: Magma, Los Jaivas, Joanna Newsom

Friday, January 12th, 2007

I’m not generally a huge fan of music DVDs. Over the years I’ve developed a certain way of listening to music that allows me to multitask while still listening fairly actively. This is good and bad, because while it means I can listen to a LOT of music, it also means that the amount of time I spend doing nothing but listening to music has decreased — at some point I would like to go back to doing what I did at one point, dedicating an hour every night to doing nothing but close listening. But back to the DVDs thing: I can’t multitask when watching a music DVD (or any music with a video element). Sadly, this has become a pretty strong disincentive. That said, I’ve watched a few music films lately that completely engrossed me.

A while back I got the new Magma DVD, Epok II, with performances of Wurdah Ïtah, MDK and “De Futura” from Üdü Wüdü. A few nights ago I finally got around to watching part of it — just the Wurdah Ïtah performance. It was excellent — not jaw-dropping, but perhaps the rest of the film will floor me. I really loved the Trilogie DVD from a few years ago (wow, was it really over five years ago when that came out?), so I have high hopes for these new Epok DVDs. Still have not gotten my hands on the first one though, which I need to do as it sounds like folks generally are thinking the first is better than the second.

Yesterday I got the Los Jaivas Alturas de Macchu Picchu DVD, in which they “perform” the entirety of their most famous album at Macchu Picchu itself. The scare quotes are there because this is so obviously faked: the musicians are shown in various settings in Macchu Picchu playing sans any amplification or microphones, so clearly there’s some serious dubbing going on. I have not A/B’ed the DVD with the actual album, but I think (and I could very much be wrong) that it’s not a direct transfer of the album songs onto the DVD. There are some parts which sound slightly different to me, although this is very minor — it is likely a remix rather than a completely different performance.

As befits a DVD produced by the Peruvian government in 1981, the overall look of this DVD is very 80s; a bit fuzzy and definitely a little cheesy by today’s standards, but there are still some breathtaking moments. Also nice are the little bits interspersed between songs where the viewer is given some basic history of Pablo Neruda and Macchu Picchu. All this stuff is in Spanish of course, but reasonably accurate English subtitles are available, and in a nice touch, the song lyrics are also subtitled as they are sung. I didn’t watch too many of the extras last night, but it didn’t look like there are any subtitles for those.

The whole DVD feels like something a lazy teacher would show his students in order to take a day off from working. I’m not sure it’s worth the $25 or so that it seems to be going for from most places, but I’m glad I got to see it regardless.

Finally, and best of all, I downloaded from Dimeadozen a 90-minute amateur video of Joanna Newsom’s performance in Philadelphia this past November. This was a seated show and the camera must have been tripod-mounted as the view is very stable (though the panning is clearly amateurish). More importantly, the sound quality is fantastic and so is the performance. It’s a real treat to see Newsom sitting behind her harp with a mike pressed close in, and watching her fingers fly while her voice works overtime. I feel that on her albums, The Milk-Eyed Mender especially, some of her beautiful harp playing gets trampled by her rather attention-grabbing vocals. Actually seeing her play the harp remedies that to a certain extent, and she is quite a fabulous harpist. She is also, in this show, charmingly genuine, mouthing “wow” at the adoration of the crowd and giggling through her vocals during the encore when the audience cheers wildly at the beginning of a familiar song. Like Ys, this video brought a smile to my face and I watched the whole thing straight through with no lapse in attention. Many, many thanks to the taper and seeder; this is one of the best things I’ve downloaded from Dime in a long time.

ProgDay ‘05 and Los Jaivas live!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

It now seems fairly clear that the Cathedral reunion announcement I cited is probably a hoax. Joke’s on me. I should know better: don’t believe everything you read on the Internet — especially bulletin boards.

A couple live shows I saw that I should have mentioned earlier: ProgDay, and Los Jaivas. As regards the former, I actually only saw four of the eight bands due to prior engagements and the fact that my girlfriend lives in Chapel Hill, and my trip down to NC was as much to see her as to see the festival. To be honest, I was totally unexcited by the lineup anyway, and the only band that I was really interested in seeing was Cuneiform chamber-rockers Far Corner; however, I was happy to support the festival by buying two weekend passes, in the hopes that every little bit of help will encourage the organizers to move ahead with a 2006 incarnation.

Far Corner didn’t disappoint. I am lukewarm about their studio disc; it has moments I adore but a lot of the quieter, more ambient parts lose my interest quickly. Their live performance was more intense and rocking than anything on the studio album — including a sweet jam that the band seamlessly segued into after Dan Maske’s keyboard rig lost power during a new composition. William Kopecky was a joy to watch on the fretless bass. After seeing this performance I’m a bit more understanding of the comparisons to other chamber-rockers like Present, and would gladly see these guys again. However, seeing this performance still didn’t do much for my appreciation of the studio album. Oh well.

The first band I saw was The Spacious Mind, which had some moments of brilliance, but I think they’re the reverse of Far Corner in that I’d probably enjoy their studio work better. The long, spacy sections lost my interest live, where in a different environment — say, sitting in my apartment in the dark with headphones on — I could get lost in them instead of them being lost on me. Happy the Man I was as indifferent to live as I am to their records. The band just doesn’t really do it for me, although I did enjoy their extremely high-energy NEARfest show back in 2000.

The next day I saw Far Corner and the Glenn Phillips Band before having to leave. Glenn Phillips is a pretty phenomenal guitarist. Unfortunately, his band is definitely his band, in that they basically play little more than a backing role to his incendiary solos. Fun, but it got old without more compositional rigor — guitar solo after guitar solo, no matter how excellent they were, wasn’t really my bag. I did have a tremendous amount of fun just watching him rock out, though.

Just a few days after the ProgDay weekend I was treated to an amazing outdoor show by Los Jaivas, playing at the Kennedy Center here in DC. The crowd was quite large, probably at least 500 people, most of them Chilean. At times I almost felt like I was at a soccer game. The band was tight and incredibly energetic (and incredibly loud — I was really thankful the show was outside). Since they have an enormous discography — after all, the band was founded over 40 years ago — I didn’t recognize a lot of their set; however, they did play a fair amount of stuff from Alturas de Macchu Picchu and Canción del Sur, stuff I am familiar with. In particular, seeing hundreds of people blissing out to “La Poderosa Muerte,” a truly progressive piece of music in the symph-prog sense, was pretty awesome. Also, seeing the bewildering array of native/traditional instruments used to create the sounds found in those old classics was really fun. In contrast, listening to the studio albums now just doesn’t cut it; the live sound was so much better. An awesome, fun show.