Anti-art. Unorthodox. Avant-garde. These words apply to not one but two parties in today’s headline: Dada films and Marijuana Deathsquads, the Twin Cities noise supergroup helmed by Isaac Gale and Ryan Olson. Given their commonalities, Dada and Deathsquads make perfect bedfellows in tonight’s Walker Art Center event, “Sound for Silents: Film & Music on the Walker Hillside,” set to debut at dusk on the museum’s Wurtele Upper Garden.
Marijuana Deathsquads have always been a catch live, whether they’ve performed at P.O.S’s TFBSE, at Red Bull Sound Select, or with Andrew Broder as Broderjuana Deathsquads. The aggression of albums like Oh My Sexy Lord (2013), plus the sheer decibels of a live show, feel more chaotic for being in concert: “controlled improv,” as Olson has put it. Precise arrangements inside fluid composition.
Deathsquads will play alongside several short films by Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling and Entr’act (1924) by René Clair, matching the Dadaists’ non-narrative, nihilist pictures with entrancing, extreme anti-art of their own. Created almost 100 years ago, the movies were born out of disgust for World War I. Film was a new medium; talking with Ruth Hodgins at the Walker, Olson said he hopes this project will “jar people the same way the films did a long time ago.”
You may know Olson as Poliça’s producer; you may know him as co-founder of Gayngs, which has shared a cadre of members with Marijuana Deathsquads. For this project, Olson’s cast includes Justin Vernon (whose Bon Iver just played Rock the Garden at the Walker), Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus, and Benson Ramsey of the Pines, plus Poliça’s Drew Christopherson, Ben Ivascu, and Channy Leaneagh. Core members Gale, Mark McGee, Mark Jorgensen, and Trever Hagen round out the line-up.
Another usual suspect here: Berlin, the German capital city that became a nexus for Dadaism as the movement spread from Zurich. It should come as no surprise to see Olson and crew sinking their teeth into art with ties to Germany; several of the artists named above met up in Berlin for an unnamed music festival in Oct. 2016, and Poliça have grown roots in Germany through friendships and tours. “Before Poliça was even a band,” drummer Drew Christopherson told me, “many of us were drawn to the idea of working in Berlin, because there’re so many pioneers of electronic music from there.”
A few snippets of the project have made their way onto the internet: Isaac Gale’s trailer (above) and several Justin Vernon Instagrams. Tonight, DJ Sean McPherson begins his set at 7 p.m., and the films start at dusk (around 8:30 p.m.). Admission is free.