Hear and see Olas: The Film

Moving pictures
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  December 12, 2012

YOU CAN'T MISS THE DANCING It's part of the music, too.

Usually, when you've "just gotta see that band live," it's because the recordings don't quite do justice to the energy or "vibe" with which the band performs or there's an improvisational quality to what they do that just doesn't translate to recordings.

With the flamenco band Olas, though, it's because there's a dance portion that's central to their very sound, the percussion of the dancers' shoes against the floor driving the rhythm of the songs in rapid-fire heel-slaps and stomps like hammer-pounds. For them, handing someone a CD must be like must be like telling them about a magic trick.

You have to see it to believe it.

Hence Olas: The Film. The band worked with videographer Scott Sutherland and editor David Camlin to film the creation of their newest three-song EP, Tres Canciones, with engineer Jim Begley at the Studio, while also interspersing short individual vignettes for each performer to give the audience some insight into the lives behind the musicians.

At an hour in length, it's something like the longest music video you've ever watched, not quite a documentary and not quite a concert DVD, but rather like a cross between a performance and a Vulcan mind-meld. The view of the songs being recorded provides incredible insight into how the pieces are crafted, with no overdubbing or wizardry, just as the capsules from each performer's life provides insight into their base motivations.

There is a musicality to all of it, of course, with seemingly every possible sound captured, from the percussive nature of Megan Keogh's cooking to the piercing whistle of the teapot that wakes Chriss Sutherland's child, from the snip of Molly Rose Angie's scissors as she makes the skirts all the dancers wear to the church organ Tom Kovacevic introduces (it's pretty clear the man can play just about anything). As is there an over-arching simplicity to the themes the performers introduce, to match the simplicity of the music they play, which incorporates no amplification, and, sometimes, no actual instruments, just the skin of their hands coming together and the meeting of shoe with floor.

You're forced, really, to consider the body as instrument, its semi-hollow qualities, the differing tones made by differing hands and bodies with more and less flesh. There is also the interesting contrast between the simplicity of the music — and the band's cares — and the technology behind the sophisticated microphones and recording software that brings it to us. Not to mention the high definition cameras.

Oh, and three new Olas songs, recorded and delivered as they were meant to be. "Javi's Song" has an "ooooh-ahhh" chorus that brings a '70s rock vibe to Chriss Sutherland's ode to his son: "soy nuevo, soy nuevo." (All of the lyrics are in Spanish, written in this case by Angie, but there are subtitles provided as Sutherland sings in the film, with translation by Nerea Lecue Pérez.) "Cuervo" opens with a bit of classical guitar from Leif Sherman Curtis then cuts right to the dancer Lindsey Bourassa, who we see prepare for her performance like an athlete prepping for a game, gathering herself and then launching into her role. Later, there's a great shot of Curtis hammering at his strings with every part of his strumming hand, emphasizing his own physical investment. Finally, there is "Las Banderas Republicanas," where Sutherland's vocal that "your love has me in a precarious place" is emphasized by the sensualness of the dancers as they hoist their skirts and shake their asses at the seated players.

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  Topics: Music Features , David Camlin, Jim Begley, Olas
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