By: Vic Abreu
There is absolutely nothing like an October in Gainesville. With Fest to cap things off the weekend of Halloween, the 2.5 degree drop in temperature brings a slew of shows to the east side of town. The Limin Room, ever pushing the boundaries of DIY, recently threw a screening of Swedish silent film Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages with a live noise score to a packed house. Here’s my take on the first half:
When I say a packed house, I mean a packed house. Lights dimmed, I squeezed in the space between two friends’ chairs, and Penance took the stage to the left. The beginning of Haxan is a brief, mostly pictorial overview of the history of witchcraft and demonic activity throughout the world. The sounds Penance scored to the initial lecture took it far and beyond simple, silent woodcuts; whooshing, sweeping noise preset a feeling of dread. It felt and sounded like the chill wind that hits after seeing something you were never supposed to see.
Antiquark Ensemble from Orlando were one of my favorite parts of the night. They played along to Part II, a series of scenes demonstrating medieval witchcraft in action. A cacophony of crashing symbols, arrhythmic beeps, and drum rolls played during the action scenes (and were interrupted by expertly cued silence during the textual portions). The set hit its peak during a chase scene set off by a love potion: the frenetic rhythm of Antiquark Ensemble’s music stripped any humor from the chase and made it feel violent and animal-like. The noise did its job.
Part III took an even darker turn thanks to Broken Witch. Ambient noise and the occasional downtuned bass pluck set the stage for the witch trial and made it all the more menacing. I’ve become convinced that live noise scores for old “scary” movies are the way to go. With every percussive bass note, I felt more and more dread for the situation at hand- a woman accusing another of calling lightning down to strike her beloved.
Lilac Angel, a mainstay at Action Research shows, played an amazing set accompanying Part IV. There was a theremin- a goddamn theremin. There is absolutely no more of an occult instrument than a theremin. Onscreen, a witch gives her confession and gives up more in her coven. Oscillating beeps and pounding 3/4 bass drill made the witch’s confession ever more dire and her pain all the more real.
I wish I could convey every unique, hollow bleep elevating the images on the screen. One thing is certain though- the Limin Room’s Haxan screening was the Halloween season kickstart Gainesville’s growing noise scene needed. Special thanks to everyone who helped put it together, and I really hope to see more live scoring in town soon.