bLuE daHLia
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bLuE daHLia

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Jan
19
bLuE daHLia @ Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Jan
19
bLuE daHLia @ Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Jan
18
bLuE daHLia @ Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

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With the sheer amount of music in the world, it’s to be expected to hear other artist’s influence in any new recording. There’s only so many notes out there, and only so many time signatures and audio effects, so the trick for any band is to find new combinations of what exists and put their own stamp on it. Given this challenge, Blue Dahlia’s “This Floating World” is an album that earns the distinction of being a combination you’ve never heard before. And the resulting combination is stunning.

“This Floating World” is a gorgeous wash of influences and music, picking carefully from a wide and beautiful set of colors, and mixing them to produce songs imported from another realm. Sharp-eared listeners will hear the band’s love of such artists as Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, David Sylvain, Harold Budd, Brian Eno, The Cocteau Twins (and far too many others to mention), but they’ll also hear how Blue Dahlia takes this love and uses it as a jumping-off point to create their own world of sound and sonics. The atmosphere of the album is rich with well-tempered production that enhances what the musicians are doing, rather than smothering it. There’s a thoughtful mix of effects and knowing when to back away and let the acoustics come through, which speaks well of the band’s self-production.

The title track, “This Floating World”, is the best example of all of the pan-cultural influences the band is using coming together in an extraordinary way. Ambient soundscapes giving way to ghostly melody lines, further giving way to chanting vocals, this 11-plus minute song is epic in the correct sense of the word, moving the listener through a lush, aural landscape that moves along a narrative. The interweaving of musical lines throughout the song is at times dense, and at times brittle and spare.
Bottom line, it’s an incredibly well-written song with a hook that rewards you for listening.

The balance that unites this album so strongly is that it keeps one foot in the corporeal (with the percussive and acoustics) and the other in the ethereal (with the gorgeous washes of sustained instruments and other-worldly vocals). Too often this style of music leans too hard on one or the other; “This Floating World” succeeds because it realizes that both are integral to the whole. This album is an aural journey through a world very much like ours and, at the same time, a world in which we’ve yet to arrive.

– review by Paul Sizer (www.paulsizer.com)
- www.paulsizer.com


Imagine being a child watching someone playing a raggedy frantic piano part to an old black and white silent film. They seamlessly stitch in the sad or happy parts as they flicker up on the screen. Now, imagine five people doing this with a variety of instruments and musical styles.

Welcome to “Seven Chances,” scored by Blue Dahlia. This score is written entirely by the band whose musical influences include world beat, ska, rock, jazz, blues and swing and are reflected in their interpretation of the film score. Unlike other film-scoring projects that have generally taken a more classical or standard approach, Blue Dahlia puts a modern twist on their approach and then adds lyrics to bring out scenes.

In 1999, Carolyn Koebel, the band’s percussionist, was asked to score a film for the Sounds of Silence Film Festival, an annual event in Michigan. Since then, Blue Dahlia has scored each silent film project more ambitious than the last.

“Seven Chances” is a Buster Keaton movie. “He’s a legend. That’s why we do a lot of his movies,” says guitarist Derek Menchinger

“Seven Chances” stars Keaton as young James Shannon, a stockbroker down on his luck who learns he will inherit the $7 million that will save his future—but only if he can marry by 7 o’clock that same evening.

Buster Keaton films, by and large, are energetic and captivating with that “don’t look away” feel. The answer to the question: Is Blue Dahlia up to the task of keeping up with the frantic pace of a Keaton flick… is definitely worth finding out.

- City Pulse


The General is the soundtrack to the Buster Keaton silent film of the same name. That's what Blue Dahlia does: combine beautiful music with art. So it's safe to assume that each piece of the collaboration is boring without the other, right? Wrong! The music stands up on its own. It's all very melodic, and flows like a movie would. The first song, "I've Got Two Favorite Things," is light and airy, but other tracks like "Le Tango Dangereux" are anything but. "Annabel Lee," is in fact the Edgar Allan Poe poem, and the other nine songs remind us that music is an art form. -- Nick Stephenson - Recoil


Blue Dahlia's fifth album will be released this month. For anyone unfamiliar with the Kalamazoo quartet, five albums may seem like about two too many. After all, shouldn't they have "made it" by now? Understand though, that for guitarist Derek Menchinger, percussionist Carolyn Koebel, vocalist Leslie Boughton and bassist Levi Strickland, Blue Dahlia is "it," and they're pushing music and art further than every band in Michigan.

One need only look at Blue Dahlia's previous release (2004's The General) to notice that their instrumentation is a little peculiar for a local band. Koebel plays percussion, including bells, chimes, timbales, Cajon, metal cans, the hammered dulcimer and about a dozen other recognizable and unrecognizable instruments.

"A lot of the percussion I do is very non-western in approach, the instrumentation and the rhythms and the playing styles," Koebel told Recoil. "So it kind of inspires other possibilities by the nature of the instrumentation." Boughton sings, and is responsible for what album liner notes describe as "other sonic emissions."


Here's the best part: all these styles, instruments, and work on The General went into a soundtrack for a silent Buster Keaton film of the same name. They work hard trying different rhythms and sounds and melodies only to disappear into the background of a silent film.

"We're kind of deepening the emotion of the situation," Boughton told Recoil.

"The style of music that we do, we kind of refer to it as world fusion," she continued. "So it's sort of more our arty side."

The General is one of four silent films the band has sound tracked since 2000. Koebel added that they'd love to continue working with filmmakers, and perhaps venture into animation. With the band's background, education, and willingness to push the limits, there is really nothing to hold them back from working nationally, and internationally.

All four members are very well versed in their craft. Boughton, Menchinger and Strickland are educated in music theory and performance, and Koebel has a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Percussion Performance. She has also studied different cultures musically, often traveling to places like Ghana in West Africa or Mexico to gain perspective on Marimba music.

"A lot of it has come more through working with the teachers from these places," Koebel said. "it's very easy to study with Congueros, and Bongoceros."

One song on The General is in French ("Le Tango Dangereux"), but that wasn't too much of a stretch for Boughton, who speaks French fluently. However, the band's new album, This Floating World, contains songs in Japanese, French, Latin and Czechoslovakian.

"I'm kind of a linguist, just in general," Boughton said, now with her newborn beginning to stir trouble in the background. "So what we'll do is get together with people that do speak those languages and work on creating something. Not just pure translation, but we work together to find a colloquial way to say the sorts of things that we're trying to say."

The Latin piece, Love and Hate, is just a Silver Age poem written in Latin. A local artist who hails from the country translated the Czechoslovakian piece, and a language student translated the Japanese piece.

"Then we got together with a native speaker to make sure we were correct," Boughton said laughing. "So we weren't saying, ‘cheese and… fingers.'"

The surprising part is how Boughton can draw beautiful lyrics from people who otherwise weren't artistically focused. "I just have enthusiasm for it. Sometimes somebody will say something a certain way, and I'll say, ‘Oh, that was really neat.'"

Like many of their previous albums, This Floating World also mixes two artistic mediums. In April of 2002, Blue Dahlia performed many of the new songs in collaboration with the Wellspring/Cori Terry and Dancers, a modern dance company from Michigan.

"I like seeing the music that I make come alive in people's bodies," said Boughton. Much like the silent films, the band is looking to disappear into the performance.

So the music from This Floating World has actually been around a few years, but Koebel said they've constantly been tweaking the songs and trying new things to improve them for an album and the club dates they play. Boughton added that they brought in flute and French horn players for recording, as well as string players from the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. - Ticket


Blue Dahlia
Album: The General
Label: Independent
Genre: Rock

Fearless prediction time: This is the most eclectic release of the
year.

Originally formed in 1995, this Kalamazoo band has withstood line-up changes, mission changes, an undeserved obscurity and 4 full-length releases on their way to ultimately creating this lean, artistic package.

Conceived in much the same way as their recent Seven Chances, these compositions serve as their accompanying soundtrack for educational screenings of a Buster Keaton film, in this case the 1927 silent film, The General. Unlike Seven Chances, this disc is concise, leaving out the filler, creating a tight package that’s formatted for listening (and programming)
not just thorough documenting.

Not likely many others will cover French cabaret, flute-spiced soul blues, otherworldly Cocteau Twins-inspired harmonies, Edgar Allen Poe and percussion masterpieces (fueled by one of West Michigan’s best percussionists), Carolyn
Koebel) like “Time is Tickin’” and the indie-Celtic dub inspired “Jenny’s
Dub Chickens”. This is the best female-lead local release since Roberta
Bradley & Gypsy.
- Date Entered: April 8, 2004


The artistic yet playful atmospheres of Blue Dahlia’s music are served
perfectly by the Vickers’ Theatre’s acoustics - the natural reverb
carries the band’s distinctive dual female vocal sparring to new levels of elegance. Peppered with orchestrated percussion segments and extended instrumental wanderings, this 61-minute disc displays Blue Dahlia’s
commitment to putting on a show, rather than just showing up at a gig and playing - a professional signature requiring extensive forethought and communication. Live at Vickers’ Theatre represents the successful execution of Blue Dahlia’s vision to make an album that uniquely contributes to the music scene. Watch this band bloom at
www.bluedahlia.com.

Cliff Frantz - INDEPENDENT REVIEW


The streets of Saugatuck, Michigan were deceptively empty during the first couple days of the 2004 Waterfront Film Festival, which began June 10. The steady rain kept the usual stream of weekend tourists away from all the specialty shops and gourmet restaurants in this West Michigan town of just over a thousand permanent residents, but poor weather’s apparently not a major deterrent when films are screened indoors, as the opening night presentation – a restored print of Clara Bow’s celebrated 1927 comedy It – filled the Yacht Services warehouse with enough movie fans to temporarily double Saugatuck’s population.
Character actor James Karen, one of those familiar faces to anyone who’s seen even a handful of movies, acted as host of ceremonies, and It’s piano score was replaced by a live performance by Kalamazoo quartet Blue Dahlia, whose indisputably contemporary approach to film scoring challenged typical notions of silent film accompaniment. Think Cocteau Twins meets The Blue Note meets Natascha Atlas; Blue Dahlia eschews the usual strict matching of sound effects to visual cues and weaves aural tapestries that prove as entrancing as Clara Bow’s immortal screen performance. - www.filmfestivals.com


By TODD R. MCKENZIE

The film festival will showcase Buster Keaton’s classic train caper “The General” (reviewed in last week’s City Pulse) on Thursday, March 18, but there will be a twist. Foregoing a traditional old-timey organ-grinding accompaniment, Kalamazoo’s Blue Dahlia will lend its own lush interpretation of the soundtrack in a live performance alongside the film.

Blue Dahlia originally performed its score for “The General” at the 2002 Sound of Silents Film Festival, but on Thursday it will also be releasing the soundtrack in album form.

Considering the band’s goth, ska and madrigal roots, the leap to soundtracking is an admirable and ambitious goal. But don’t expect to discover the rustic Americana re-popularized by the hit soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” This is historical revisionism in action.

Robert Israel’s Dixie-tinged pianola marches are shucked in favor of a medley of multicultural folk influences. The score is laden with pluck-funky bass, crashing and pattering percussion, shimmering dulcimer, sprightly acoustics and steam-powered sambas.

Blue Dahlia’s version of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabel Lee” is so pleasant and effortless it makes one wonder where Lou Reed went wrong making “The Raven,” while the funk of “Crash Electra” even brings to mind the “Superfly” cut “Freddie’s Dead.”

Blue Dahlia invokes a rich sound that is affectionate and nostalgic, but Keaton’s quicksilver comic antics don’t always lend themselves to nostalgia.
Nonetheless, part of what makes this audio-visual experiment worth testing is that it allows the music to bring to light new elements of the narrative that Keaton himself might not have intended. Both the music and the movie stand out quite nicely on their own.

The concept of scoring original music for an entire film seems a rather daunting task, but for Blue Dahlia it’s second nature. Guitarist Derek Menchinger and a rotating cast of musicians have scored a number of other silent films, including Clara Bow’s “It”, and Paul Leni’s Cat and the Canary. - Lansing City Pulse MUSIC - MARCH 17, 2004


By LAWRENCE COSENTINO

You can’t buy “it,” solicit “it,” steal “it” or even Google “it” (too common a word, says the nerdy, out-of-it search engine). But “It” was oozing all over the place Thursday night at the East Lansing Film Festival. Blue Dahlia’s confident, swaggering accompaniment to the 1926 silent film was loaded with that mysterious quality proclaimed in the title.

Ask the guy sitting next to me at the Hannah Center screening. He sat bolt forward the whole time, gaping at the long-shriveled wiles of silent screen bombshell Clara Bow, newly injected with the very-much-alive spunk of one of Michigan’s more intriguing musical troupes.

It’s a good thing Blue Dahlia was there to stir things up, because the appeal of Clara Bow needs a bit of translation for modern tastes. In her day, Bow was a devastating siren, as demonstrated by film titles like “Dangerous Curves,” “No Limit,” “Mantrap,” “My Lady’s Lips” and “Daughters of Pleasure.” Her star took flight a time when the baring of shoulders, batting of eyes and lateral lolling on the boss’s desk was tantamount to soft porn.

Her career reached its zenith back in 1926, when a trendy Vanity Fair article announced the existence of “it” — an ineffable, elusive quality that makes some people sex magnets while others clop like wooden shoes. The public was so fascinated with this concept (“Do I?” “Does she?”) that this lightweight romantic farce became one of silent cinema’s biggest sensations. (A boat crash at film’s end gave Bow’s stockings a chance to get nice and wet, and that probably didn’t hurt either.)

With its sitcom-type misunderstandings, stock humor (much of it at the expense of gays) and pasteboard characters, “It” doesn’t make it onto many critics’ lists of silent masterpieces. But Blue Dahlia picked right up on the pop-culture energy that made the film such a hit.

Sounding like 50 rather than five musicians, they raged through fast-paced sequences (such as a frantic amusement park romp) like a horde of army ants. But they wisely avoided Mickey-Mousing each incident with imitative accompaniment (the shake of the head, the knock at the door, etc.). Most of the time, they worked at building a sustained, increasingly intoxicating head buzz.

You’d think stoned-out garage-rock vamps and dreamy romantic flute reveries wouldn’t mesh with the slick, wise-cracking Art Deco sharks that populate the film, but they did. Ignoring the film’s dated elements (including the painfully stiff humor), the music took the characters’ love lives, and the devastating wham of Clara Bow, dead seriously.

All that post-ironic energy more than made up for the stunted receptors of modern filmgoers. Whether by pore-revealing close-ups, bruising slow motion or subliminal whooshing “tension” noises, movies now telegraph every piece of information to the viewer with a can’t-miss-it blast of trumpets. Blue Dahlia’s music helped audiences recalibrate to a more stylized cinema.

Sometimes they did this by rolling in the prevailing mood like happy dogs. The scene where Bow primps up for a big date in a haze of powder and lingerie became a polyrhythmic orgy in the hands of amazing percussionist Carolyn Koebel, who can do more with a silver pot and two thumbs than state law should allow. At other times, they underplayed the pathos, as when bassist Levi Strickland played alone, conveying the kitchen sink monotony of a poor single mother’s life. - web exclusive :: APRIL 06, 2005 Lansing City Pulse


Discography

This Floating World 2006
Released on November 4th, this is Blue Dahlia's latest masterpiece. After four years in production it is an aural feast. Dreamy soundscapes and arresting world fusion epics reminiscent of Pink Floyd, Dead Can Dance, and the Church.

The General 2004
Selections from our original soundtrack for Buster Keaton's film of the same name. This is our most comprehensive recording to date. The General features diverse musical styles-- world, tango, bluegrass, traditional Irish with a twist-- and more!

Seven Chances 2003
Our original soundtrack for Buster Keaton's
film is recorded exactly as the band performs it live : 54 seamless minutes of jazzy, upbeat music with special surprises!

Live at Vickers' Theatre 2001
This recording offers a glimpse at the many
faces of Blue Dahlia, with material as diverse
as the Spanish flavored Della Sophia, hard
driving Little Monster, and the spoken word infused Smokin' Joe!

Estival 2000
This four-song EP reaches back into Blue
Dahlia's formative years, and out toward the
group's future at the same time with Estival,
I Knew Stars, Crossed the Line, and See an
Enemy.

Blue Dahlia St. Thomas Records, 1997
Blue Dahlia's debut recording has a haunting,
ethereal quality. Distribution: Dutch East India - New York Rotz Records - Chicago, Semaphore- Europe.

Brave Souls 2000
Michigan Women's compilation features
I Knew Stars. Proceeds Breast Cancer
research. Available at MP3.com.

Cicatrix DivaNation 1998
A compilation of bands from Kalamazoo,
Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee featuring Blue Dahlia's Bridge the River Seoul.

See www.bluedahlia.com for links to
side projects and information about
Blue Dahlia's forthcoming releases
including the new release"This Floating World"

Photos

Bio

bLuE daHLia is described by the Detroit Free Press as "more adventurous than anyone else dares to be." the exotic ripples through each composition, blending textural guitars, melodic bass, soaring multi-lingual vocals with ethnic, orchestral percussion.

An independent alternative band formed in 1995 by former members of the underground band, The New York Room, bLuE daHLia has completed five arresting studio releases and continues to create a hybrid mix of world fusion and adult alternative. Recent comparisons include David Byrne, The Decemberists, The Talking Heads, The Cocteau Twins, and Dead Can Dance.

In 1997, bLuE daHLia began a decade of visual arts collaboration when they received their first commission from the Sound of Silents Film Festival. Not unlike the Alloy Orchestra and Devil Music Ensemble, bLuE daHLia's work with vintage film eschews the traditional and melodramatic for a modern approach to film scoring, as found in today's independent and major film releases.

Using a broad range of instrumentation and style, bLuE daHLia has developed a repertoire of over 11 modern silent film scores for live performance. Varying in emotional tenor from slapstick romantic comedies to drama and horror, these intricately orchestrated works are forging connections with great films, music, and generations of audiences everywhere.

Blue Dahlia has also provided or contributed to composed music and scores for independent films including An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge --which won a CINE Golden Eagle award and was an official selection at The Palm Beach International film Festival. Further music tracks were provided for Londinium Productions film-- Kalamazoo? and the indie short, Abductees, among others. Royal Caribbean, Cunard Cruise Lines, and The Lincoln Center's Education for the Arts program are among many who have commissioned Blue Dahlia's works for commercial and artistic licensing. bLuE daHLia offers a diverse catalog of finished music which can be licensed through Jerusalem Cherry Publishing and BMI, New York. bLuE daHLia is currently being promoted to broadcast and satellite media by Peter Hay of Twin Vision, New York.

Blue Dahlia remains busy with appearances, recording, and continual creation. Visit www.myspace.com/bluedahliamusic for information regarding current news,events, and contacts.