The Valerie Project

By: Josh Potter

There are concept albums, and then there's The Valerie Project (Drag City) . The first installation of a dawning "Project Series," The Valerie Project strives to re-contextualize the filmic meaning of Jaromil Jires' 1970 classic Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, widely regarded as the final example of Czech New Wave film, by fully replacing the soundtrack. Much more than a Dark Side of the Moon-style synchronization, the new soundtrack corresponds directly to the dark, psychedelic fairytale and was meant to be performed in live accompaniment of the film, a goal that has manifested in several tours showcasing this concept.

While ambition and grandeur are routinely mistaken for flights of pretension in orchestral freak-folk (e.g. Joanna Newsom's spectacular Ys), Greg Weeks, Brooke Sietinsons (both from Espers), and Margie Wienk (Fern Knight) have repainted the film in a baroque, contemporary gloss, true to the terror and innocence of the plot. The movie follows Valerie through a pseudo-Freudian allegory for her first menstruation, a world populated by vampires and predatory clergymen. Pairing the pastoral whimsy of Heidi with the schizophrenic cuts and jarring violence of A Clockwork Orange, the film is a classic of post-modern fragmentation and caricature of classical emotions. Accordingly, the soundtrack can shift from harp-laced paeans and Mayday celebrations to dissonant fuzz-guitar hallucinations.

The album may suffer at times for the loss of visual narration but the themes consistently penetrate to the level of atmospheric evocation and remain captivating even in their disembodied form. Worthy of a listen or a synched-up screening, but live would, of course, be the best way to experience The Valerie Project.

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