My review in Friday’s Chronicle:
“To the public, Blixa Bargeld might most easily be identified as the former guitarist for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. But to serious fans of experimental music, Bargeld is a cult hero: founder of the group Einst?rzende Neubauten, power-tool-wielding savant of industrial music and major influence on everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Depeche Mode. So local music collective Nanos Operetta and dance company Kunst-Stoff must have counted it a coup when Bargeld chose to work with them on a San Francisco edition of his “Execution of Precious Memories,” continuing through Sunday at Project Artaud Theater.
The “Execution of Precious Memories” project – with its morbid Bargeldian double entendre – began in Bargeld’s hometown, Berlin, in 1994 and has been executed, so to speak, in six more cities since. Calls for memories are put out to residents of the particular city; a 50-item questionnaire is distributed by e-mail and flyers. The collaborators then gather the anonymous answers and work under Bargeld’s direction to shape them into an original piece.
For this run, Bargeld also presides over the recollecting, reading many of the memories in his deep, crisp, horror-movie-worthy voice, tall frame cloaked in a black three-piece suit. He sings, and for the final climax he lets out a piercing, clear animal scream that is one of the most astonishing things I have ever heard a human voice produce. But the real star here is Nanos Operetta’s music.
With Bargeld at the mike, Nanos leader and vocalist Ali Tabatabai has stepped aside, but the lush music stands strong without his charismatic presence. To Nanos fans, it will sound like much of what the collective has produced over its busy seven years: a Jacques Brel-meets-Persia fever dream of accordion, strings and relentless vibraphone; wild percussion and an eerie singing saw whining above it all. “Execution of Precious Memories” sounds less dark and twisted to me than much of Nanos, though, and more softly swooning. It’s sweeping and absorbing.
I wish I could say the same for the project’s other elements.”
Click here for the rest of the review.