Larsen & Friends - ABECEDA
CD/DVD set in deluxe packaging w/ custom die cut slip case & 20 page full color booklet. DVD contains Karel Teige's original ABECEDA and Larsen & Friend's entire performance with the film material cleverly edited in. CD contains the audio recordings of the performance; Larsen featuring David Tibet, Johann Johannson, Julia Kent & Baby Dee.
Larsen & Friends ABECEDA captures an extremely special evening for Larsen, one that places them in a perfect visual and musical perspective revealing more an a little about this enigmatic quartet from Torino, Italy. For one night only Larsen assembled their closest musical friends to play to a sold out crowd at the Teatro Colosseo in Torino Italy. The purpose of the performance was to pay tribute to the work of Czech avant-garde designer, typographer, founder of Devestil and cultural radicalist Karel Teige and his ABECEDA - a 1926 collaboration with poet Vitoslav Nezva which minimalized text down to its basic components establishing a poetic dialogue between text and images.
To ABECEDA Larsen brings their minimalist beauty and melody with this live performance incorporating music, dance and projections. With Larsen are their close musical friends David Tibet (Current 93), Baby Dee (Current 93 member and acclaimed solo performer), Julia Kent (Larsen/Antony & The Johnsons), Johann Johannsson (Touch/4AD). The music swells in gentle pulses of soflty stated melody. Emotion clings to each note while glistening shimmers of electonics dance quietly in the mix. The DVD reminds us of what a rich visual experience ABECEDA was and is. As The Wire so perfectly put it in a extensive write up of the evening, David Tibet's performance “Provides a vital link between the music and the visuals.... At one point he connects beautifully, perfectly with the dancer, breathing deeply into the microphone in time with her movements.” Visual projections, created by Bellissimo, portray a woman in a 20s style bathing suit, much like Teige's original work, portraying letters of the alphabet which slowly become obscure by Teige's brilliant typography.
Thanks to Larsen's discipline and their kindred visual and musical collaborators. ABECEDA is an event of great subtlety and complexity. It is truly a gift that this performance was so perfectly documented in both an audio and visual format. Where the work of Karel Teige was a tremendous gift for the eyes, Larsen & Friends' ABECEDA is a gift for both the eyes and the ears. Hats off to Bellissimo, the design team responsible for Larsen's distinctive packaging, for putting the finishing touches on a perfect evening and a perfect package.
“My dear friends Fabrizio and Larsen honoured me by asking me to interpret the alphabet for their project ABECEDA in the light of Nezval's verses for Karel Teige. Being neither an admirer of dada, surrealism or the avant-garde, I escaped from them all by taking a train from the seaside town of Hastings where I live, to London, after kissing my cats goodbye. I looked at the blurs of sheep, tree, hedge, sea, pond passing me like living clouds. I looked at each letter of the alphabet, and covered Nezval's text with my hand. I ordered the letter to tell me what it looked like. I disbelieved its answer. Letters always lie. So I peered at the shape of the letter and wrote down my immediate responses. They all make sense to me, but 1,000 people will see 1,000 different faces when they look at the same face. That is calling a vanished face back from behind the hill." ~ Love Peace Apocalypse, David Tibet, Hastings 8.IX.1006
David Michael Tibet: vocals
Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo: guitar, electric viola
Jòhann Jòhannsson: electric organ, laptop
Baby Dee: harp, piano
Julia Kent: cello
Marco "il Bue" Schiavo: drums, glokenspiel
Paolo Dellapiana: electronics, accordion, shruti-box, theremin
Roberto Maria Clemente: guitar
The title says it: at the center of attention is the alphabet. In the sense of the single letters. Considered however as elements in and of themselves, gifted in some way with a true semantic individuality: the ideogram A - a hut, C - symbol of the moon ... this is how they were understood by Karel Teige: 1920's Czechoslovakian cultural radical, founder and principle theorist of the Devetsil collective, largest driving force of the local avant-garde surrealists. Designer, student of architecture and visual art, Teige attacked with modern force in the exploration of the possiblity of an interweaving of verbal art and optical expression, industrial technology and mass media, inspired by the poem composed in 1923 by compatriot Vitezslav Nezval: at that time involved in Devetsil: Abeceda specifically. The same Nezval said on the subject of opera: "It is intellectual exercise around the most elemental poetic object: the letters of the alphabet." Language taken back to its minimal terminology, to the essence of spelling and phonetics of its building blocks in which derive the rhyming quarters of every letter - 25 in total - of the Latin alphabet. Ulterior developments of Abeceda made the ominous volume realized three years after Teige, that applied the notion of "poeticism" on the live body of Nezval's opera, that is, the symbiosis between visual and verbal signs which position the same fundamentals of Devetsil. In his words: "The artistic fruit of Poetism is negligent, fantastic, exuberant, playful, anti-heroic and erotic."
Conceived and built as a poetic dialogue between text and images, Abeceda manifests still now the real extraordinary expressive urgency. They are established elements, as well as the verses of Nezval, the photography of Karel Paspa that paints the suggested figuration from the original text on the dancer and choreographer Milca Mayerova (she also, like the same Paspa, adhered to the Devitsil movement). Factors combined from Teige with imprint photomontage techniques, "I have tried to create a photo-style of an exquistely abstract and poetic nature, translating in graphic form that which Nezval expressed in his verses as verbal poetry", Chiosava the author. Drawn into cultural oblivion following the annexation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, the memory of Abeceda has resurfaced only recently. In 2001, when the work was at the center of the exhibition Dreams and Disillusions - Karel Teige and the Czech Avant-garde at the Grey Art Gallery in New York (occasions in which were presented the video of the subject of the year before at Wolfsonian-Florida International University), and again in the last months, inserted in the basic theme of the exposition Modernism - Designing A New World (1914 - 1939) hosted by the London museum Victoria & Albert.
Teige and the other members of Devetsil would have certainly liked the ulterior declination of Abeceda built by Larsen. The Turinian group, active for more than ten years (a passage documented by six albums, the last and most recent being Seies), that communicate an eclectic and multi-disciplined approach to musical material. Specimen, in that sense, the work done years ago by Winsor McKay with his cartoons, put to music by Larsen under the wording of Cartoanimalettimatti (a project premiered in 2002 during the festival Rimusicazioni) and in general the stateless attitude with which the quartet measures the codes of rock, after the zeroing of the same rock provoked by punk, as such to make Larsen more appreciated abroad than in their own country. Reasons for which the artistic interlocutors of the Turinian group tend to place themselves beyond borders. American are both the labels - Young God and Important Records – that have released their music so far, and many of their partners seen often by their side, Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) - in the configuration called XXL, or Matmos and the ex-Swans Michael Gira and Jarboe. All icons of the independent music scene across the ocean.
Some of these accomplices will play with Larsen on Abeceda : David Tibet, brain of the british “apocalyptic” project Current 93, project that also involves Baby Dee, transgender cult icon from the Manhattan off scene, same underground the cello player Julia Kent, of Antony and The Johnsons, belongs to, whereas Johann Johannsson, musician and producer that has worked with Marc Almond and Barry Adamson, comes from Island. Also on stage with the band will be the russian performer and choreographer Snejanka Mihaylova; together with Larsen, and the visuals by the Bellissimo team inspired by Tiege’s Abeceda, they will set up a concert/performance in 25 movements, one for each letter of the latin alphabet; elaborate and fascinating staging, exclusive worldwide preview for the Torino Settembre Musica festival and its audience. ~ Alberto Campo