Sunday, July 09, 2006


DANIELSON: A FAMILY MOVIE or MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE HERE is a fantastic new documentary that is a must-see for all indie music fans and not a a bad watch for all us fans of more mainstream music. It is a two-hour doc. shot largely on digital video by J.L. Aronson. The movie is a linear re-telling of the story of an artist and musician called Daniel Smith. His parents were training to be a priest and a nun respectively when they realised that marriage was their vocation. They ended up having five kids who had what seems like a great childhood playing music. Daniel went to Rutgers and studied art, and part of his final year project was to express himself and find his identity as an artist. So, he went back to his childhood of playing music with his family and put on a concert for his finals. All his siblings were there including his 11 year old brother. They styled themselves the Danielson Famile (pronounced Family).

The style of music is sort of like the Brian Jonestown Massacre meets New Punk if that makes any sense. Really, you have to hear it, or best see it. Because the live act consists of all the brothers, sisters, and latterly, husbands, wives and old childhood friends, dressed in doctors and nurses outfits with big red hearts on their shoes. Oh yes! Check out Daniel's high-pitched shriek, the co-ordinated Supremes-on-speed hand gestures and the lyrics of Christian love. This is one unique act. I have to say that I'd never heard of the Danielson Famile before, but apparently they are quite well-known on the underground music scene. In the doc we see them play a festival in the UK and tour Europe, so they certainly have a following. And what can I say - I came home and bought the CD from iTunes!

The doc uses footage of the family just hanging out, live shows and some fantastic animation to describe how they ended up becoming a band. It also shows that they are that rare thing - a large family that really gets along and has a good time. No wonder so many "hangers-on" end up becoming part of the band, Eli-Cash style. With the pressures of day-jobs and family life kicking in, the Famile don't record or tour that much anymore, so Daniel records as a solo artist under the name Brother Danielson. Once again, his music has powerful lyrics about his relationship with God and his family - a profundity that stands at odds with the almost Sesame Street presentation. For a long while he dressed up as a gigantic ninee-fruit tree to represent the nine graces.

Overall, there were two running themes that I found fascinating. First, that my delivering their message in an almost cartoon-like way, the Danielson Famile had managed to gain acceptance among conventional Indie music fans. However, they have been ostracised by conventional Christian rock bands for being too out-of-leftfield. I think this says more a lot about conventional Christian rock. As Daniel says, the point is to play for everyone, not just Christians, and to take that message into the seedy bars of New York. Second, fans of Sufjan Stevens will dig the doc. because we see him well before he wrote one of the most acclaimed albums of 2005. What I find refreshing is that Daniel seems to genuinely not resent Sufjan's greater success as a musician. His view is that we all need to become the artist we were meant to be.

Anyways, like I said, this is a great doc about a fascinating bunch of people. Somewhat like their music, they come across as eccentric, warm, loving people and it's a pleasure to spend time in their company. Check it out!

DANIELSON: A FAMILY MOVIE is doing the festival circuit and was shown as part of the British Film Institute's Access All Areas season. No proper release dates yet but check out the
website for further info.

No comments:

Post a Comment