Having appeared as the Velvet Underground in I Shot Andy Warhol as well as frequently contributing to indie film soundtracks, Yo La Tengo is no stranger to the dark of the cinema aisles. The contrast between spacious noise drone and gentle melodies that dominates their songs sometimes evokes a mood reminiscent of days spent indoors watching old movies flicker across even older screens. The feeling that the next frame might just be the one that starts something new in motion gives way to an optimism that we're happy to have stick around, if only for an hour or so.
In 2001, the band composed a collection of new soundtracks for the films of French scientific surrealist Jean Painlevé. Capturing the natural world's mysterious and often alien qualities, Painlevé skillfully blurred the lines between science and art, befriending himself to such avant-garde contemporaries as Luis Buñuel, Sergei Eisenstein and Antonin Artaud. Painlevé's three-word mission statement, "science is fiction", not only summarised the magic he revealed all around us, but also the human qualities he portrayed in his animal subjects. Although he spun a mildly fictional narrative of the animal kingdom, in doing so he closed the gap between our worlds, framing their story in a context we could understand.
Released on CD in 2002 as The Sounds of the Sounds of Science, Yo La Tengo has performed these pieces live only a handful of times. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall you will find them revisiting this work in celebration of the BFI's recent DVD collection of Painlevé's films, Science Is Fiction. Featuring one disc that faithfully preserves the original films, the set also provides a second DVD with Yo La Tengo's dreamy re-scoring. Watching these at home may be your only option, however, if you don't act fast: at the time of writing only a few seats remained available for purchase from Southbank Centre's website!
Yo La Tengo: The Sounds of Science at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday 9 September 2007. Cost: £16 or £14. Tickets available here.