Will Oldham/Don Lennon, Caveh Says/Song For Caveh, DVD Boxset & 7”, 2015

caveh frontThe A-side to this 7” is Oldham’s, a song which plays out at the end of the thirty minute film Tripping With Caveh in which Oldham and Caveh head out to a lodge in the country with a small film crew, take chocolate-coated magic mushrooms and trip out for a day or two on a lawn in the sun. They talk dully about love and neuroses. On the surface, the film looks about as interesting and uneventful as watching someone paint a board, but a second viewing confirms that there’s a clear tension between the two. Oldham is only present at Caveh’s bidding, but he’s also the more talented and confident of the two, and as such he has the upper hand. Caveh acts like a nervous fan. You can also see quite clearly in these scenes that Oldham has the girliest of mannerisms—a feminine smile, a feminine self-awareness and a feminine way of flirting. He’s also far more talented at not giving much of himself away on camera, whereas Caveh wears his neuroses on his sleeve. He’s also disappointed at Oldham’s unwillingness to get as royally wasted as Caveh IMG_4712would like him to. The only time we get a glimpse of an Oldham appearing to lose his composure is when he steps on a hornet’s nest, gets stung on his leg, then later gets stung on his hand while dressed only in his underwear. It’s truly a naked moment. He shoots a bewildered and pained look at the camera for a split second, before heading inside. Later, he exhibits a phobia about hornets hanging around when he’s in the pool, as indeed, anyone would after having just been stung several times. The film and song date back to 2002.

The B-side is by Don Lennon, possibly not his real name, a singer-songwriter from Massachusetts who once fronted a band called The Umpteens. I’d never heard of him, but he reminds me of a Smog-era Bill Callahan, with his baritone talk-sing style and experimental music.

The 7” is part of a DVD boxset of films by Caveh Zahedi, which I have yet to watch, plus a booklet of writings about Zahedi by various parties.

caveh labelCaveh Says is all of one minute long. It seems to be a brief record of Oldham’s decision to accept the invite just described in my preamble above. “Here we go / Here we go / To the other side of this smile / Come and quiver for awhile / Don’t say no / When Caveh says here we go.” It’s a pretty little ditty in which Oldham visits “the other side of” Caveh’s smile, where he’ll “quiver for awhile” and it seems to sum up exactly what happens in the film – Caveh’s intense awkwardness and Oldham’s awareness of Caveh’s insecurity, perhaps. Oldham’s singing is warm, he croons, and there’s another almost-falsetto voice singing barely in tune behind him, a slow beat, a simple sentimental tune, almost like a jingle at the end of a sitcom. It’s nice, but short, as in, too short.

caveh labelSong For Caveh… is musically more interesting and experimental than the A-side. It comprises ringing, echoing, jangly guitar notes, and ambient organ tones that drift and float and create a trancey kind of background for Lennon’s voice, which is up front and center, clear and mournful. The organ tones get sharper as they fade in and out, and then a section of voices and laughter provide ambient texture. I’m not sure whether this song appears in one of the Zahedi films, but it does seem that an excerpt of a Zahedi film appears in the middle of this song. Lennon seems to feel an affinity for Caveh, sympathising with Caveh’s lack of success and a one star review of a Caveh film that appeared in the Boston Globe. The trope of a ‘star’ does double work here – a one star review, and a star that never appears, Caveh’s star, to the wise men of the Sundance Film Festival. Ten years later and Caveh’s still not famous. He also tells us early in the song, that after seeing a Caveh film one day, and talking with friends and lying in the shade of a willow tree, “I felt a little less stiff on that day.” So Caveh’s film has relaxed him somewhat, made him feel less anxious about his own success perhaps, and hence, “that’s why I wrote this song / That’s why I wrote this song / For Caveh.” These words are the only part of the song that could be described as “singing.” In the middle of the song we hear Caveh in the middle of an argument with someone. Someone tells him to calm down and chill but he refuses to. Towards the end of the song, the organ tones flatten and spread into an unfocused echoing drone. It’s really nice, and of more interest to me than Oldham’s track on the A-side.

caveh backI guess one day I’ll get around to watching the 6 DVDs that comprise this boxset. They contain dozens of Caveh movies, which I gather are a series of post-modern meta-narratives or documentaries about the film-maker himself. To buy this boxset just for the Will Oldham track though–that’s kind of a waste of time. I did it so you don’t have to. You can thank me in the comments.



 

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2 Responses to Will Oldham/Don Lennon, Caveh Says/Song For Caveh, DVD Boxset & 7”, 2015

  1. Roddy Ruru says:

    Wow thank you. Nice work on you and Oldham on deconstructing Caveh. Caveh sounds like me and I couldn’t stand the tension of watching.

    • Alan Bumstead says:

      The tension is a particularly American kind, and as such, culturally different, so that the tension is palpable but bearable – like we wouldn’t act like these guys do were we them, their ages, same time, same country, based on the fact that our cultural make-up was so different as to be incomparable. This is the light in which you can stand the tension of watching Tripping With Caveh and probably many other films too.

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