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No Age's improv jam to 'The Bear' at NYC's New Museum

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Last Friday night, as part of a four-date show run in New York City, L.A. noise rockers No Age provided live musical accompaniment to a screening of the Jean-Jacques Annaud film The Bear at Manhattan’s New Museum. Experimental music, French cinema, an avant-garde museum… could an evening possibly get any artier?

No Age’s live performance to the mostly dialogue-free film didn’t feel self-conscious in any way, though—the two-man band’s guitar/drum/synthesizer additions jams worked with the mood of the film, heightening audience emotions instead of showing off musicianship and distracting from The Bear’s plot.

The title, by the way, isn’t meant metaphorically. This 1988 movie is about an orphaned cub—played with stunning realism by an actual bear—who starts following around an older grizzly to learn what life is all about. This isn’t Disney territory though: it’s a live-action flick without any cheeky celebrities voicing the animals’ sarcastic thoughts. It’s simply through skilled editing that footage of these two animals creates a storyline.

No Age toned down their speedy noise-pop to match the minimalistic tone of the film, lolly-gagging around in ambient Eno territory during the more lighthearted scenes—at one point the cub licks a psychotropic mushroom and has a stop-motion acid trip—and delving into uneasy, propulsive jams during the film’s climax when the bears face off against vengeful hunters.

So self-effacing was the noise outfit’s performance that about twenty minutes into the movie, one stopped processing the live band and the projected images separately: their experimental music simply voiced the terror and relief of a good animal-survival story. No Age proved to be just as effective at subtly manipulating an audience’s emotional state as they are at inciting throngs of teens into a sweaty, slightly bloodied mosh-mess (which they did with comparable expertise a few days earlier in NYC at (le) poisson rouge).

As the credits rolled, the band said how happy they were to play to a film with such a good message—the need for animal sanctuaries—and how much they enjoyed stretching out musically. Here’s hoping they don’t make these forays into atmospheric, ambient territory so seldom.

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