Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble, a chamber orchestra of 24 musicians, that we introduced readers to in an earlier post (Nu Deco Ensemble tests the boundaries of classical music with reggaeton, Daft Punk suite, more) performs music by a range of artists from Aaron Copland to Daft Punk. This week, they plan to debut a new suite based on the music of Radiohead.

Speaking via phone, conductor Jacomo Bairos and composer Sam Hyken admit the music of the British alt-rock band is something they have wanted to present from the beginning. However, they had to be careful with their approach for fear of placing their own ground-breaking group in the shadow of another more famous one.

“Radiohead has been on our minds for a long time,” says Bairos, who speaks from San Diego, just ahead of a collaboration with pianist Ben Folds. “We wanted to do it. We just didn’t want to start there because Radiohead is one of those groups that other classical groups have adapted and mashed up, and we wanted to establish ourselves with original content, done and made and performed before we dive into stuff like that, that other people have also listened to.”

“We talked about Radiohead for a while, but we knew we didn’t want to do it for our first concert, as our first artist,” adds Hyken, who is speaking from his home base in Miami, where he is still working on the arrangements (we spoke a few weeks ago, now). “But, as Radiohead fans, we knew it would be a phenomenal group to cover.”

He won’t reveal what songs they are adapting, but admits that they are skipping the first two albums, Pablo Honey and The Bends. Hyken says of the tracks they are considering, “I’m going to keep it a surprise because we haven’t picked out all of them, and I’d like to keep that under wraps.”

As he is in the works of adapting some of the music, he talks freely about some of the challenges in Radiohead’s music compared with adapting Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, another alternative dance/rock band they have adapted. “Radiohead is very sonically based,” says Hyken. “Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, even though it’s electronic, the grooves are very straight ahead. Radiohead, so much if its sound is electronic. We’re trying to figure out how deep we want to go with that, at this point. Do we want to go with electronic drums? Do we want to make it the exact same percussion? We’re just kind of diving into that a little bit deeper. A lot of sounds that Radiohead have are methodically manipulated by so many different factors. It’s not as straight forward. With Daft Punk you can take the lines that they created and you can put them right into the orchestra, and it really works. With Radiohead, you have to get more creative in terms of color and orchestration.”

As with previous shows, the ensemble will also explore classical music by contemporary composers during the performances at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, including Ricardo Romaneiro and Nicolas Omiccioli. Hyken describes Omiccioli’s piece, “[fuse],” as “very current and very digestible” and the Romaneiro piece as “very  beautiful and exciting and vast, in terms of soundscape. It’s going to be an amazing auditory experience. It’s gonna be almost like surround sound because of the way we do it with the speakers and because of the way he’s written the piece. It’s going to have an encompassing feel to it because the audience is going to feel like they’re deep into the music.”

In their shows, the Nu Deco Ensemble also tries to work in 20th century composers into their sets. They have touched on some famous ones already, like Copland and Ravel. This pair of nights will feature a piece from a composer whose pieces aren’t routinely performed by orchestras, the German composer Paul Hindemith. His piece “Kammermusik No.1, Op. 24” will also be one of the longest works the Nu Deco Ensemble has ever performed.

Bairos says it’s all about broadening the pallet of the audience. “We really felt it was a great opportunity to interject the great music that doesn’t get to be performed so much by regular orchestras,” he says of the Hindemith piece, “and people are going to get to learn about Hindemith a little bit … and it’s gonna make us a better ensemble, too. The wider our artistic pallet is the better musicianship we’re gonna develop over time, and that’s just gonna help everybody at the end of the day.”

Finally, also as with previous shows, the events will feature a collaboration with another group. Earlier, the orchestra played with local luminaries like Afro Beta and The Spam Allstars. These shows feature a group visiting Miami from Brooklyn: The Project Trio. “They’ve become one of my favorite collaborators of all time because they get it,” offers Bairos. “They understand classical music is amazing, but at the same time they understand that it needs to be freshened up and livened up.”

“People of all ages love their music,” adds Hyken. “The intensity that they bring to the stage is just ridiculous. They just bring this high octane energy that’s just infections and gets the audience really engaged.”

 *  *  *

You can read more about this show in Pure Honey Magazine, which is also out in print, available for you to pick up for free at the hipper indie shops, bars and cafes in South Florida, from Miami north to West Palm Beach. Jump through the publication’s logo below for the article:

pure honey

Hans Morgenstern

The Nu Deco Ensemble performs with Project Trio on Thursday, March 3 and 4, at 8 p.m., at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse. For tickets, visit Photo credit: Southern Land Films / Monica McGivern

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Eden posterAnyone who recalls the early nineties dance club era featuring chill rooms, breakbeats and jungle music, before EDM started to drive today’s bass-dropping, dub-stepping electronica and PLUR culture, understands the sudden tectonic shifts of the ever fluid scene of dance music. The scene feels so capricious that even referencing PLUR, much less dub-step, already feels dated. Though I’ve written about music for over 20 years and can say I saw Orbital play a nightclub in Miami Beach, I can’t relate to anything at the long-surviving Ultra Music Festival that my city is so well known for. It’s a whole other world now. It’s no wonder few DJs and electronic music acts have survived the gauntlet of time (again, see Orbital). They could either evolve, become nostalgia acts or worse, disappear into irrelevance.

Eden, the latest film by French director Mia Hansen-Løve, chronicles the path of a fictional DJ (Félix de Givry) in early nineties Paris inspired by the music scene of the time. It follows him over the course of a decade as he earns some recognition as part of a DJ duo and struggles to stay relevant in the scene’s casual drug-fueled atmosphere. Meanwhile, a parallel story line depicts how Daft Punk weaves in and out of his life. This movie is so much more than the simple logline following it around: “Paul, a teenager in the underground scene of early nineties Paris, forms a DJ collective with his friends and together they plunge into the nightlife of sex, drugs, and endless music.”

Félix de Givry in EdenHansen-Løve has a marvelously unglamorous, naturalistic style. What’s amazing about this movie is how slowly the characters come into their own through a rather difficult process: the bliss of music and the disillusionment of the cycle of that music’s scene — sex and drugs is but a footnote. Few can make such a lifestyle last a lifetime, and Hansen-Løve, who wrote the script with her brother Sven Hansen-Løvecaptures the futility of a young man’s attempt with a delicate, patient touch. The director finds an incredible balance that places music at the forefront, as characters are fleshed out through the more universal cauldron of time.

We first meet Paul against the sounds of “Plastic Dreams” by Jaydee. We are told it’s November 1992. He and Cyril (Roman Kolinka) wander into the woods after a night of clubbing, high on drugs and music. Paul is inspired, a vision of an animated bird — the film’s only betrayal of realism — portends inspiration but also false hope. His companion will also become a noted cartoonist who attempts to document the Parisian dance scene in a comprehensive series of graphic novels, which will turn out to be an even greater exercise in futility, something Hansen-Løve seems astutely aware of, as the film maintains a narrative focus on Paul, but leaves Cyril as a peripheral if more tragic side note. With her focus set on Paul, Hansen-Løve never resorts to a literal tight focus. She presents the world around Paul in mostly medium shot. The rest of the world and the people that come and go and sometimes return, including several girlfriends (among them Greta Gerwig), are essential.

Greta Gerwig in Eden

With Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) at his side, Paul seems on the right track toward success after forming the garage duo Cheers. They get some decent headlining gigs at clubs and earn radio appearances. Meanwhile, their friends Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Arnaud Azoulay) and Thomas Bangalter (Vincent Lacoste), a.k.a. Daft Punk, get a few good notices, as well. The Daft Punk duo, however, like Cyril, are presented as a couple of oddballs on the periphery, who still have a hard time getting into clubs, even at film’s end, in “modern times” and riding a wave of many moments of Vincent Lacoste and Arnaud Azoulay in Edensuccess, all of which occur off-camera. But this is never presented as some kind of rivalry. Paul and Stan genuinely admire the early, French house developments of Daft Punk (which began as Darlin’ in 1992 with Phoenix’s Laurent Brancowitz on drums), and they continue to be friendly into the later years. This restraint is only part of the film’s natural unfolding. There’s no obligation to present the exact time where Paul is at in his life, though the film is presented chronologically and references to years appear, like one to 1995 in the early part of the movie. But it never feels heavy-handed. The demarcation of time is more clearly revealed in the changes of music, from recognizable tunes to the evolution of the scene’s sound, or the changes in Paul’s life, from girlfriends to his mother’s growing frustration with his obsession to make DJ-ing a career.

Eden is not some survey or comprehensive account of the genre through the eyes of Parisians, however. That would prove detrimental to Paul’s story, as ironically demonstrated by the fate of Cyril. A film that would have focused too much on the music, would detract from the people in it. If that is all these people define themselves by, what else is there that matters? The film is focused on telling one man’s story and all the others’ lives are filtered through his eyes. In one scene he is rolling in bed with Julia (Gerwig), who is in Pauline Etienne, Félix de Givry in EdenParis on a student visa. A bit later in the story, he is catching up with her in New York City as a guest DJ at a museum rave in the daylight. At this point in our story she is married and pregnant. Paul’s journey as a person flows with the trivializing of a music genre that has to constantly adapt for relevance. This is how the world of electronic music shrewdly informs the film. Music becomes more than a sonic landscape that captures atmosphere and time changing over the course of the film. It is also presented as either a fit for our hero or a foil. The conflict is as much in his trying to fit in with the music as much as in the passive-aggressive dynamism between his girlfriends, pals and rivals.

Eden speaks to character flaws and humanity in a warm, relatable way. If all we have is a list of hits or notable touchstones in this music scene, where is a life lived within this world? Hansen-Løve is clearly more interested in creating a feeling for a life, above all. As she did with her stellar prior film, 2011’s Goodbye First Love, she creates a profound impression of living life and enduring its inevitable life-changing conflicts and surviving them to confront new ones with an informed, unshakable past. She harnesses all the power of the language of cinema, from framing to editing to writing to acting to tell a story without calling attention to the technique. Eden just happens to also have a pretty cool, eye-opening soundtrack that works incredibly well as a narrative device.

Hans Morgenstern

Eden runs 131 minutes and is Rated R. It came out on home video Tuesday, Jan. 20. Support Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon, via this link. Broad Green Pictures shared a preview link to this film last year when it almost hit theaters in Miami. It’s also on-demand on Amazon (follow this link).

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Daft Punk PR stillMore than half-way through the new Daft Punk album, and I feel it’s just Daft Punk lite. The inventive beats have mostly been supplanted by jangling disco guitars. Some of it reminds me of Hall and Oates with robot voices. There are some funky moments in Random Access Memories that recall late-1970s era Prince, but it’s still not as strong as some of the music on that legendary artist’s early work like Dirty Mind.

It’s a weird thing anticipation does. Having followed Daft Punk from the start, this new album seems to seep and swoosh around as easy-listening Saturday morning music, and lacks the sudden impact that earlier albums have had. How appropriate it shows up early in the morning on the weekend as the sun rises. If it’s dull, it’s pleasantly dull.

Decide for yourself, click the image below to visit the iTunes store and open your iTunes player (or download it) to hear it:


Edit: The last five minutes includes a bit of the noisy, driving Daft Punk that I first fell for.

Edit 2: Daft Punk have now released the entire album to stream via YouTube (iTunes stream still sounds better, though):

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)