♫♪  James Blackshaw - La Nuit de Fantômas 2013

I have no idea what happens in the fifth movie of the Fantômas series (the classic French mysteries, not the Mike Patton-fronted super-group), or any of them for that matter, but given its subtitle — Le Faux Magistrat — I imagine it has to be something like this: Fantômas, definitely the bad guy, is convicted on multiple accounts of serial bad-kind-stuff (horsenapping, touching all of the apples in the display, late alimony), and is sentenced to four beheadings in the Tower of France, but before the case can come to trial, a totally bad-kind False Magistrate guy in a powdered wig (let’s call him Villefort) appears on the scene with a pardon letter hand stamped by the Emperor of France, which liberates Fantômas despite all the good-kind guys’ resultant protests — long story short Villefort is actually Fantômas himself, sent back in time from the future to save himself, thereby splintering the France we know into an alternate world line that runs parallel to the world line in which Fantômas is imprisoned, resulting in a Schrödinger-core paradox wherein Fantômas exists as a dead/alive/headless/headsome sum entity in both worlds. As the good-kind guys throttle Fantômas back at the crime scene in the victorious world line, his body flickers like a hologram through their grasp, and he escapes down the alleyways of Underbelly France, never to be seen again, until the next installment.

Allow this very real and accurate synopsis to unfold in your mind as you click [Play] on that video down there to witness none other than James Blackshaw, England’s finest fingerstyle-shredder-slash-post-minimalist-composer, soundtrack Fantômas: Le Faux Magistrat in a live performance at the Théâtre de Châtelet in Paris in October, 2013, along with an ensemble of fellow Important Records drone maestro Duane Pitre, Simon Scott of Slowdive, and multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Glasson. The fourteen video-documented minutes flit across a diverse suite of shared cues, melodies, and grooves, as the quartet winds through passages of moody noir atmospherics, post-Morricone western lounge, throbbing low-end drone, and near-metallic riffery — all with Blackshaw’s busy fingers spearheading the action on grand piano and guitar. By virtue of the program’s breakneck variety and nebulous middle-ground between structured improvisation and deliberate arrangement, the group orbits the wide-reaching eclecticism of the extensive film score catalog of John Zorn (and the genre obliterations of Naked City) — tracing a common root to the body of modernist European film and visual arts, Fantômas included, that inform this style of manic jump-cut composition.

You can preorder the physical incarnation of this performance from Tompkins Square on CD, 2xLP, and digital files. It arrives July 8. You can stream the whole thing over at Stereogum now.

• James Blackshaw: http://www.jamesblackshaw.com
• Tompkins Square: http://www.tompkinssquare.com
• Fantômas (unofficial): http://www.fantomas-lives.com

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

Most Read