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REVIEW: The Chemical Brothers’ “Don’t Think”

The Chemical Brothers‘ movie “Don’t Think” was shown for one night only in movie theaters across the country yesterday. The Duo from Manchester have been credited as “being one of the few truly arena-sized electronic acts,” and we can testify that their presence at a festival is nothing short of breathtaking. The movie is essentially the experience of seeing one of these 90 minute Chemical Brothers sets if the artist had as much control over what you see as over what you hear. It doesn’t hurt that seeing the film in a theater meant getting to hear it all on a giant surround sound system. Check out our review after the jump!

The visual aspect of the movie was a mix between footage from their performance at a massive festival in Japan and the type of visuals they have projected behind them during their sets. It would be almost impossible to describe The Chemical Brother’s style of visuals to someone who has never seen them perform- their seven thousand word Wikipedia page offers little more than “Their live acts comprise large screens displaying psychedelic images, strobe lights, and lasers that project over the crowd.” The movie was actually directed by the man who has been managing the Chemical Brothers lights and visuals since their very first show: Adam Smith. He started by facing old projectors at the stage almost twenty years ago and was in charge of all the video visuals we saw at their Coachella set in 2009. Smith does an amazing job capturing the energy and experience involved with attending a festival. He also captures what it is like to see his video art from the crowd’s perspective, while at the same time allowing it to evolve beyond the boundaries of the stage’s video boards.

Here is an excerpt from the movie’s website that explains what we cannot:

“You blink awake and find yourself halfway up the side of a Japanese mountain. It’s night time, right at the sticky middle point of summer. You’re in an opening in a darkened wood surrounded by – say – 50,000 other revelers, each of them frenzied; delirious from an all-encompassing psychedelia that seems to be emanating from a stage somewhere in the near distance. Above you, lights swoop and strafe across armies of marching toy robots and galloping deconstructed horses; paint balls explode in front of borderline psychotic clowns. You’re in the thick of it, consumed by the spectacle, absorbed into the crowd, surrendering to the noise and the visuals. Stunned by the jaw-dropping intensity of what you’re witnessing, just one thought flashes through your febrile mind.”

The theater was full of music fans who were clearly enjoying the set. During the intro some kids behind us yelled, “why is it so quit in here? This is the Chemical Brothers!” The movie didn’t have another moment of silence until after the credits. Most of the theater clapped along with the crowd in the video every time there was a pause in the music. Several groups of people got up from the back of the theater to go sit in the front row. Towards the end of the film, Tim Burgess held out his arm straight out over his tables and the kid behind us screamed, “DO IT!! PUSH THAT BUTTON!”

Seeing a festival set in a movie theater is something that we didn’t know we had been missing. Movie theaters offer the opportunity for music fans to see and hear a performance that they otherwise would not have been able to see – with a surround sound system only trumped by seeing the music live. We can only hope that “Don’t Think” is enough of a success to encourage other artists to pursue this medium. No word yet on the plans to release this movie in other formats.

Andrew February 2, 2012 Music

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Festival enthusiast. Costume elitest.

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