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The Valerie Project


Valerie Project released last year, and although breaking no new ground, definately has it all: lysergic guitars, 60s feeling, cinematic approach (of course), tension, psychedelia and enough dark folk to satisfy even the most hungry of us.I will not tell you much aboutJaromil Jires' "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" movie and Czech New Wave, because you can find a lot in the web, if you're interested.
It was released in 1970 and it's a dreamy-surreal-gothic story about a girl named Valerie, who lives with her grandmother in a central European village, in 19th (?) century. There are vampires, rotten priests, teenagers in love, the battle of good and evil and very obvious references to the classic horror/gothic films. Having watched A LOT of movies from Eastern Europe countries - especially Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (those names seem so old now)- I can tell you that cinema in those countries was much more adventurous than you could imagine. I'll just drop the names of the mighty Ducan MakavejevSzabo, and just mention that 'Closely Watched Trains' (the title of Glorious Din LP from 1985) was in fact the title of a famous czech movie by Jiri Menzel from 1967. Anyway, Valerie is a rather unusual film, because it plays with reality and dream and, essentialy, tries to show a dreamlike story.
Jaroslava Schallerova, the 14-year old girl who plays the role of Valerie is just perfect, the filming is superb (and talented Istvan Jires was already an experienced director) and it's a must-see movie, if you're looking for something different.
I listened to theLubos Fiser'soriginal score for the movie "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" after the Valerie Project. It sounded strangely familiar and the reason is that it reminds me a lot of Manos Chatzidakis' score for Makaveyev's "Sweet Movie" of about the same era. It was proffessionaly written and performed by a symphonic orchestra. Fiser was not a soundtrack composer, although he has an impressive filmography -especially in the 60s and the 70s- his work varies from compositions for classical orchestra, concertos, operas, chamber music etc. As for this soundtrack, I must say that sounds to me more renaissance inspired, than gothic or psychedelic or anything that would ring a bell to a rock listener. It's based on a central theme with several variations, as 99% of movie scores are (excluding music films) and it's certainly tied with the image, because it was written by someone who knew what he wanted and how to create it - i.e a professional composer. In addition to these, it's not at all academic but has beautiful, fresh melodies, romantic and innocent and I think that was the combined result of the image and music that attracted the musicians involved with Valerie's Project, 26 years later.

But now it's time to ramble about Valerie Project. Valerie Project includes Greg Weeks, Brooke Sietinsons and Helena Espvall (of Espers), Mary Lattimore, Tara Burke (Fursaxa), Jesse Sparhawk (Timesbold), Jessica Weeks (Woodwose, Grass), Charles Cohen, Margie Wienk and Jim Ayre (Fern Knight), and, as they say in VP site, this is just the first part of the consept "of recontextualising the filmic meaning and impact of a particular work through the substitution of a newly composed soundtrack". They started performing this music at the end of 2006 and this record released in 2007 (you can listen a few songs from a 2006 performance here, although I prefer the darker sound of the record).

There are two sides in Valerie Project: the 'electric side' which is heavily fuzzed acid guitar sounds, slowly climbing up and up, White-Rabbit-rhythms that makes you expecting for Grace Slick to appear in the middle of the haunting arrangement of distorted guitars, cello, harp and synthesizers and the 'Ethereal/folk' side, which is more close to the original soundtrack and the guitars are held back, to show a more conventional folk/70s-pop-psyche approach (although the use of cello and the voice of Fursaxa makes it sound strange enough). Valerie's Project is a commend on a movie and its soundrack. This last phrase may be not entirely true though, because Valerie's Project musicians wanted it to 'replace' the original soundrtack, but you can't deny that if an artist is working on both the OST and the movie scenes, has a totally new perspective than the original composer's. That's why I'm thinking of Valerie's Project more as a comment and less as a soundrtack, or to put it better more as music about a movie. Gregg Weeks and his team were losely based on Fiser's music when they create their music on the films scenes. They used some of his ideas and his melodies and they introduced their views and the "different time and distance" element. You understand immediately that this music was not made in the 70s or in the 80s, although it's surely emerges from this era, and that was not made in continental Europe.

The Valerie Project team are musicians with very strong personalities to keep them hidden. In many reviews Greg Weeks appears as the head of the project, although -as a big Fursaxa fan- I'll tell you that I can easily spot many of her trademarks here. The movie length is 1:13 and that's excactly the running time of the CD. There are 30 tracks, perfectly timed, so if you start the movie and the music simultaneously, each scene will have the appropriate soundtrack. But in Valerie Project's site you can read that "The new soundtrack is meant to be performed live to a sound film, with the original soundtrack turned off or the original music removed". Well, this is absolutely true. I didn't had the chance to see a live show of the Valerie Project, but I did saw the movie with its sound turned off, while listening to the new soundtrack. I realised that Valerie Project was not created to replace the original soundtrack. If you watch the film as I did, you'll see that the music 'covers' the image and makes the movie just a background for it. It's too loud for a soundtrack, it's continuous (that means that although it's perfectly timed, it plays over the actors voices) and it's not so flexible as a soundtrack : the themes have the form of a song rather, than a composition, and this shows clearly when it replaces the original soundrack. Valerie Project was created not to back up the image, as soundtracks do, but to be listened to while the film is playing in the background. The movie is used to back up the music and not the opposite.
So, go and see the Valerie Project live and tell me: if I'm right, it would be a tremendous experience, as the music itself is among the very best of last year and the movie has several very strong scenes and is full of tension and beauty. If you can't see them, get the CD, take a good look at the pictures of this post (or find some clips in youtube), close your eyes while listening and I'm sure you can make your own dream of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.
Just a little teaser

You can find the movie in dvd,
the Lubos Fiser soundtrack (released in 2006) and of course the Valerie Project CD.
Category: Music | Added by: RainyDaySponge (02 May 2008) | Author: Rainy Day Sponge
Views: 1072 | Rating: 0.0/0 |
Total comments: 0

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