April 10, 2012 - Joyful Noise
Chicago music collective Joan Of Arc have already proclaimed their love for foreign/avant garde cinema (the artwork for their album Live In Chicago, 1999 consisted of recreations of scenes from Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 masterpiece Week End). And there can be no denying the artful leanings of the band's expressive pop, a predilection that makes the (admittedly less frequent) application of the "emo" tag to the band that much more ridiculous.
Thankfully, the organizers of the 2011 Chicago International Film Festival came to their senses and tapped the band to provide the music for a screening of the 1928 silent film The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. This release is a live recording of that performance, with the intention being that you will play it in tandem with the movie. Because while it works just fine as an elongated instrumental exploration by the band, the real power comes from watching it mesh with Carl Theodor Dreyer's incredible imagery and the devastating lead performance by Maria Falconetti.
One of the more particularly bold aspects of Joan Of Arc Presents Joan Of Arc is the unusual and surprisingly moving moments when speckles of sound would appear or a musical theme would shift. A quick burst of tone comes out amid the repetition of guitar chords when Joan is given a sacramental wafer towards the end of the film. When Joan is bled to insure that she does not die from a fever, the music is a swirl of burbling analog synthesizer noise.
For a band usually so full of incident and expression, Tim Kinsella & Co. keep things rather restrained. This isn't a showcase for their musical virtuosity, but instead a chance to add weight and depth to an already moving work of cinema. The band lean into slashing, distorted guitar to drive the opening scenes further forward, give the scene in the torture chamber added ferocity through pounding drums, and ferry towards Joan's inevitable demise with another flurry of post-rock dynamics.
More modern musical outfits could learn a great deal from Joan Of Arc. The band have existed in one form or another for more than 15 years, never releasing the same type of album twice. It's a lifetime of restlessness that has resulted in some of the most incredible work to survive the soufflé collapse that is the modern music industry. And if it now inspires scruffy indie kids to explore the film work of Carl Theodor Dreyer, their legacy has been effectively cemented.