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    Lee Ranaldo + Leah Singer – Drift

    Lee Ranaldo + Leah Singer - Drift.

    Since 1991, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo and moviemaker Leah Singer have been collaborating on a series of live performances that combine sound and film. Appropriately called Drift, it’s comprised of poignant, itinerant poetry that glances through decades of Lee’s life supported by dark, meandering electric guitar clouds that blend with blurry 16 mm movie images shot on the road by an apparent errant cinematographer.

    Like some sort of vintage 1960s double feature flickering simultaneously on twin screens, Leah’s projector clicks and clacks as her imagery unfurls: Flowering trees accompany neon signs. A huge electric arrow points toward GIRLS. Blurred city lights, truck tires, abandoned fire trucks and shoes support an x-ray hand that attempts to “reach out and touch someone,” anyone on a floating rotary phone. These photos combine in myriad, random ways to inspire different stories in each viewer.

    Spinning fireworks, a confetti-filled parade, black and white portraits, comic book faces and big city scenes bump up against each other while a creepy, truncated doll straight out of the Twilight Zone steals the show. Then each screen breaks up into quads as a sequence full of random images rolls by in absurd juxtaposition: statues, crowds, jet engines, an S&M session, train tracks, and a negative of children at play plays itself out. The proceedings end in a spectacular fashion as a series of film frames–all super grainy, burned and tattered–smolder and etch themselves into your mind.

    All the while, Lee’s spoken vocals trace his life all the way from “what we did in high school, sittin’ around drinkin’ red wine, three in the morning, playing with a flashlight in the dark,” to Sonic Youth tour snippets to a finely granulated and detailed account of the dust and destruction-filled 9-11 aftermath that all went down three blocks away from his front door in New York City.

    And the murky ambience of the electric guitar stream floats on, occasionally swelling into a discordant climax, the calm before another storm. Random spoken snippets from some of Lee’s other records are sprinkled into the mix, melding with the poetry and movies to form a melancholy document from decades past addressed to some unknown, uncertain recipient in the future.

    I was fortunate to catch a live performance of Drift in San Diego back in 1995, and can vouch for the fact that it’s even more powerful and overwhelming in-person. I can also say this DVD is a fine document of the live version–although Lee is not visible onscreen–plus it comes with a gorgeous 112-page art book full of essays, interviews and Lee’s poetry laid over stills from Leah’s movies. All in all, Drift is one of the best and most deluxe Lee Ranaldo documents ever released.

    Label: Plexifilm Catalog Number: 022 Format: DVD + Book Packaging: Clear plastic case and book inside a slipcase Country: United States Released: 2005 More: Amazon, Discogs, Official, Ping Mag, Unofficial, Wikipedia, YouTube

    Text ©2009 Arcane Candy

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