If you thought the world of noise art was deeply paradoxical, try kitsch for a minute. This gaudy beauty– which has alternately been declared the antithesis of the avant-garde, fuel for totalitarianism, and “the absolute denial of shit;” is undeniably popular.
Kitschy albums are like the bizarro-world version of noise– where noise remains relatively unavailable despite the numerous limited-edition recordings of a handful of well-known practicioners, the best kitsch is easily obtained anywhere from a gigantic group of interchangably faceless performers. In the end, both remain more or less obscure, with a large number of listeners who would be hard-pressed to discern one album from the next.
Of course, it is in this twilight area of paradox that the best art is created. The California-based Big City Orchestra seems happily at home here with their Roil Noise release of “Love Film Greats,” a cover disc of an entire album of covers by The Big City Orchestra, surely one of many little-known outfits to record the theme from “A Summer Place.”
The album itself is highly intriguing. BCO re-works well-known themes into jangly electro-folk, unsettling horror-movie re-imaginings (and I’m thinking of the “Love Story” theme here), and even something like electronic exotica. The best feature of this album is that the performers show quite a bit of respect for the original material– retaining the elements that got a song like “Friendly Persuasion” an Academy nomination, but dispensing with the syrupy pandering common to practically everyone covering the material since.
For those with the occasional taste for Les Baxter or Lenny Dee, but not uncomfortable with contemporary sound art, this is required listening. (Also includes volume 15 of the BCO Sound Effects Library!)