As part of the Graphic Festival 2016, George Lucas’s 1970s seminal cult classic film THX 1138 was rescored live by Asian Dub Foundation. The audience witnessed something completely fresh and different – this version of the score had never before been performed live.
THX 1138 is set in a vast underground dystopian wasteland in which everybody is forced to take drugs in order to control emotions and sexual desire. It is the directorial debut of George Lucas and was produced by Francis Ford Coppola.
Performing as the film was screened, the band Asian Dub Foundation is a U.K.-based group that has a very unique sound influenced by a mix of dub, reggae, electronica, dancehall, and punk. The four-piece band normally performs as a large ensemble with additional vocalists. Although for this show, they eschewed singers in favour of featuring guitar, additional electronics, flute, bass, and drums. Despite the band being small-sized, they achieved a mammoth sound.
The film THX 1138 was originally scored by a young Lalo Schifrin, perfectly capturing the ‘otherworldly’ feel of the film. With Schifrin’s blessing, the band used many excerpts from the original score and sourced sounds from the film combined with their own original parts. This created a hugely powerful and evocative ‘new’ musical accompaniment to the film.
Asian Dub Foundation perfectly captured the bleak dystopian ‘world on the edge of collapse’, just as Lucas intended. The band was incredibly adept at creating harsh, alien, noisy, and unearthly sounds. They used a mix of guitars, drones, effects, subsonic bass frequencies, heavy reggae/punky drum patterns and funky beatbox flute.
Some of the strongest musical moments from the band were the small interjections of underlying beauty, exposed briefly when the ‘chaos’ was lifted. One such memorable moment was when the flute was featured as a major voice; its crystal clear sound floating above the harsh, noisy, drone-like soundscape. This showcased the band’s incredible technique across different styles and sides of playing.
The only negative of the night was the often over-saturated and unmastered diogetic sound from the original ‘70s audio. However, this was insignificant comparative to the overall performance, which was an incredible sonic journey – a brilliant accompaniment to Lucas’s film.
Benjamin Leonard Samuels is a Sydney based Musician and Writer that has a passion for ‘weird’ contemporary music and events.
The Graphic Festival of visual storytelling, animation, and music ran 4-5 November 2016 at the Sydney Opera House.