British Sea Power at the Barbican: Music for Polish Animation Classics
Indie-rock sextet British Sea Power brought new life to 20th century Polish animations in this one-off show at the Barbican Centre, as part of the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. The band performed ten songs, including nine original compositions and one from their upcoming new LP, Let the Dancers Inherit the Party, to a backdrop of classic animations from renowned Polish filmmakers such as Ladislas Starevich and Zofia Oraczewska.
Most of the films selected by the rockers dated from the 1970s and 80s, a time of political turmoil for Poland under the communist regime. The Barbican warned audiences of violence, scenes of a sexual nature and references to the holocaust, and dark humour and political allegory were a running theme throughout the experimental films, with the musical accompaniment completing the sensory experience. Notably, one of the shorts, Tango by Zbigniew Rybczyński, showed a compelling eight-minute-long sequence of 20 figures circulating around a room in repetitive motion but never interacting, which was complemented by a rollicking soundtrack.
The compositions had a recognisable British Sea Power tone, with added dramatic dimensions. Throughout the animations there was a sense that their subjects were trapped in a groundhog day-style process of repetition, indicative of the political atmosphere of the times they were made. Accordingly, each soundtrack had no middle or end but simply boldly launched in with the action, creating a clockwork-like effect, though this perhaps lost the opportunity for suspense.
For audience members that may have been previously unfamiliar with Polish cinema the event would have acquainted them with the many creative responses that Poland’s filmmakers and artists had to a dark period of their country’s history. The show ended with the harrowing Roll Call by Ryszard Czekala, which resulted in a subdued applause considering the many whoops and cheers the band had received between tracks. Overall, the show was a creative and moving undertaking that demonstrated British Sea Power’s musical prowess in a performance that any fan would enjoy.
Tarn Rodgers Johns
Photos: Guifre de Peray
For further information about British Sea Power and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Bad Bohemian here: