Video Savant: Soundtrack to 'Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors'

One of the fringe benefits of spending an afternoon at Mike McHugh's Distillery Studios recently to watch LA cult-pop figure Ariel Pink and band work on their next album was discovering the existence of a 1964 Russian film titled Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, directed by Sergei Parajanov (sometimes rendered Paradjanov). The group's drummer had the DVD in the studio and Matt Castille, who's producing Ariel Pink's forthcoming full-length, compared Shadows to Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain. Praise doesn't come any higher in my world, so I made a note to research Shadows.

I punched the title into YouTube's search engine and was duly rewarded with several intriguing clips. What stood out besides the striking, baffling imagery was the soundtrack, a devastatingly haunting and beautiful tapestry of what I assume to be Russian folk songs and also some sublime drones that one could imagine coming out on La Monte Young's Just Dreams label or VHF Records, a font of avant-garde drone production based in Virginia. Frustratingly, efforts to find out who's responsible for this unspeakably gorgeous and moving music have proved fruitless.

Essentially, Shadows is described as a “Carpathian Romeo and Juliet tale,” which, from what I've read and viewed on YouTube, is like saying Ulysses is a story about a Dubliner. New York Times' Dave Kehr observed: “With its vision of nature in Dionysian riot, its chorus line of extravagantly costumed peasants and its shifting point of view, it is hard to tell where ethnography ends in this extraordinary film, and where fantasy begins.”

Sounds like a must-see—and must-hear—film.

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