Tindersticks, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Thursday 28 April 2011
An episode of cannibalistic sex is in one way tonight's gruesome climax – Béatrice Dalle chomping on an unfortunate lover – with Tindersticks carrying on in their usual hangdog manner. You realise then how intimate their relationship with the French film director Claire Denis is. They find the gore completely natural.
That scene comes from Denis's much ridiculed Trouble Every Day, one of six of her films that the Nottingham band or members thereof have scored. Tonight is a celebration of that productive partnership, with the band performing extracts from their soundtracks over scenes projected on a vast screen above them.
Nine musicians go about their business in near darkness, beginning with the loungey strains of their first collaboration, for 1996's Nénette Et Boni, all double bass and glockenspiel. None acknowledge the audience, allowing the visuals to take precedence, which presumably suits the band's diffident frontman Stuart A Staples, happy to lose himself in the music as he adds guitar or percussion.
Early on, louche arrangements allow us to watch with ironic detachment the vignettes of loners struggling to connect, snippets from the same film organised together. Matters take on a darker tone as we progress through Denis's oeuvre. The music spins off from Tindersticks' bleak orchestral pop into more esoteric shapes, notably on Staples's solo offerings for 2004's L'Intrus – but it's perhaps most fully realised on her most recent film, White Material.
Over long tracking shots, you luxuriate in the band's interactions, while in action sequences you forget they are there. Performing these works live, Tindersticks benefit from the hard work committed to meshing their compositions to what happens on screen; ambient noise – horses' hooves or the rhythm of trains – forms a vital part of the finished product.
Less so Staples's own lugubrious vocals, here limited to a handful of cameos, most successful the cathartic "Trouble Every Day" and the exuberantly doleful "Tiny Tears".
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