New American Noise is a joint project between Nokia Music and the Sundance Channel -- it is not affiliated with the Sundance Film Festival. It was conceived to highlight regional music and new music discovery about subcultures that don't often get press. The series highlights six cities. There will be a encore screening tonight on Sundance Channel at 7 p.m.
"It's about cool music that doesn't get attention from most outlets. It's not music that's mainstream or popular," says producer Chris Black. "Behind the music, there is a story -- a struggle." And that human quality is what the various production teams tried to capture. Black, along with director Abteen Bagheri and cinematographer Isaac Bauman, went to New Orleans to capture the bounce music scene in "The B.E.A.T." It's the story of transvestite rappers cultivating a scene that started around one beat and has become a culture that has had ripple effects throughout the South. That team also went to Portland to capture the music of one shoe-gaze band, but found that some interview subjects aren't engaging, so they talked with different musicians in the scene. "In Portland, [we found] that these people aren't about seeking fame. It's just about music-making, and primarily that was for their friends," Black says.
The other scenes profiled are the house-music scene of Detriot, the electronic music of Los Angeles and the rap culture of New York City's underground scene. But the best mini-doc, because of its tight and informative angle, profiled the Atlanta strip-club scene (below). The strippers hold the power to make or break an artist, and it was detailed that often three months after a song gets into heavy rotation (it was not said how that happens), it will become a radio hit.
New American Noise wins with its curious approach to cinematic portraits of unheralded music.