Bringing Nufonia Must Fall to Life
July 31, 2017 | by Rusty Aceves
Scene from Nufonia Must Fall
For four nights next week, 8/10-13, Montreal based DJ and producer Kid Koala will present his multi-disciplinary, multimedia project Nufonia Must Fall. In advance of the shows, we take a closer look at this groundbreaking production.
Given the moniker “scratchmaster general” by Spin, Kid Koala (born Eric San) built his career in the early 2000s with a procession of innovative albums that blend pop-culture ephemera, unusual and humorous samples, cinematic layering, and deeply grooving beats. Tours with Radiohead and Björk and collaborations with artists ranging from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to influential Brazilian electronic composer Amon Tobin made Koala one of the most versatile and visible DJs on the global scene, with visual elements always playing a vital role in his creativity. From the release of his 2000 debut LP Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Koala’s work has been steeped in comic book culture, and in 2003 he published a 300-page graphic novel (and accompanying CD) entitled Nufonia Must Fall about a lonely robot on the verge of obsolescence and looking for love.
Directed by Oscar-nominee K.K. Barrett, this live staging of the book is built around a cast of 10-inch puppets manipulated by a team of puppeteers that interact in real time on over a dozen miniature sets, filmed with a network of cameras, edited live, and simultaneously projected onto the video screen above the action. No stranger to immersive cinematic worlds, Barrett has been the longtime Production Designer for director Spike Jonze, conceiving the visual feel for Jonze's films Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are, and Her. Barrett has also used his singular cinematic style on Sofia Coppola’s biopic Marie Antoinette and blockbuster Lost In Translation, as well as music videos for the Chemical Brothers, Smashing Pumpkins, and Mick Jagger. For Nufonia, Barrett brings the monochromatic world of Kid Koala’s vision of to vibrant life, instilling it with humor and heart, with the composer’s music as its lifeblood. In his review of the Nufonia performances at Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2015 for The New York Times, critic Jon Pareles described the work as “modern primitive multimedia” – aptly describing the piece’s mix of cutting-edge digital video with the ancient art of puppeteering, as well as Kid Koala's singular blend of turntables and electronics with a live string quartet. This combination of the ancient and the modern, the analog and digital, the acoustic and "synthetic," mirrors the journey of the character at the center of the story – a machine whose love for a human transcends circuits and silicon, becoming as real as flesh and bone.