Radiohead At The Cinema: A Moon Shaped Babylon

I PLAYTIME in Berlin.

ntroduction by Eva Kleer. Review by Franny Felsenkeller

PLAYTIME is a new concept – well, it’s new in Berlin. It has been up and running for quite a while already in Stuttgart, created by the two friends Marc Engenhart and Duc-Thi Bui. They both are rooted in the visual arts – Duc-Thi Bui is a filmmaker and Marc Engenhart a graphic designer. Yet their deep love for music led them to organize a rather unusual event that is both appealing to the cine- and the audiophile.

PLAYTIME takes place in a cinema, in the biggest screening room of the Babylon in Mitte, Berlin. But all the lights are turned off and we are requested to – as the two friends put it – leave the watching to the ears. Every PLAYTIME the audience is swathed with thick, almost tangible vinyl-sound, including the sound of lifting the needle and placing it down on the vinly with a few moments of static noise. In a dark cinema we listen to one album. The German phrase ‘Kopfkino’ comes to mind – mental cinema. This holds especially true with Radiohead’s almost cinematic, scope-like new album which was enjoyed by our contributor Franny Felsenkeller. Here is how he experienced this special night at the movies.


PLAYTIME celebrates Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, a double LP which proves that age did not defeat this dinosaur in that this latest addition to Radiohead’s oeuvre does not lack a fully developed vertebrae—their sound has moved into a new epoch. The album itself stands as a monolithic reframing of the ever evolving sonic vision that will forever be known as Radiohead. This description may sound lofted from a futurism-expressionistic manifesto, but with the screening of A Moon Shaped Pool, within Hans Poelzig’s Babylon, built in the style and spirit of the ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (new objectivity), the atmosphere seemed ironically appropriate.

For the standard audiophile and film cognoscenti, this was by all definition a listening experience to be relished. The sound was engineered quite professionally and at a standard room level with a balanced left-right stereo field. The trick was to reconstitute the Dolby surround system with proper left, right, and mono signals being sent out from a mixer that was fed by properly amped, German engineered components. Additionally, the reinforcement speakers were also given latent delay to prevent any phasing or sync issues with the mono and overheads.

For the film connoisseur, a 35mm limited edition film reel of the single video, A Moon Shaped Pool, directed by the Paul Thomas Anderson, was fired up on the projectors sustaining an aesthetic experience that honours the capacity for analogue film and its sacred visual language: Thirty-Five-Milimeter.

Radiohead has always been a band that rolls the stone. This Sisyphean quality has been seen in albums like OK Computer, Kid A, and the more recent In Rainbows, which was the first major commercial album released digitally for free, with a donation option for a humanitarian cause, to make a bold statement to the changing, nameless face of the record industry.

A Moon Shaped Pool is a collection of pastorally woven narratives that pertain more to the cinematic realm than any other album. It may perhaps be equivocated to Abbey Road. Each song seems to fuse and diffuse genre relations by introducing methods and effects with a well orchestrated British Orchestra. Jonny Greenwood never gets enough credit as the driving producer of most Radiohead masterpieces. We’ve seen this British trend of orchestration and cinematically classic sound, echoed by many British acts following the production path of the Beatles, the late demise of George Martin, who passed only this spring.

The most particularly striking song would be none other than the remix of ‘True Love Waits,’ the closing track to Side D, which was a ballad from 1995, originally composed with acoustic guitar, and seemingly mastered to perfection with a Steinway Sound that seems to be a signature in many later Radiohead productions. The band’s struggle with an appropriate arrangement is a testament to the patience of art and craft of Radiohead. Truly, truly exquisite!

For more information you can follow PLAYTIME here.

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Radiohead At The Cinema: A Moon Shaped Babylon

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