Join 3,382 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Scala & Kolacny Brothers
April 13, 2007 9:33 PM   Subscribe

Scala & Kolacny Brothers is a Belgium girls choir ("2 brothers and 40 girls") that covers bands such as The Cure, Radiohead, and U2. Their songs range from hauntingly beautiful ("With or Without You" youtube/streaming/download (26.1MB)) to strange (42MB podcast mp3--"Teenage Dirtbag" cover starts at 17:00)to downright disturbing ("I Touch Myself"). Want more? Smells like Teen Spirit, Friday I'm in Love, Someone New, Dream On, Can't Get You Out of My Head. (See Wiki, myspace.)
posted by null terminated (72 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is great. Really love it. Smells Like Teen Spirit works very well in this context. Very haunting, very beautiful.

Ever hear of this school choir from the 70's, doing popular songs of the day?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:42 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd heard a recording of "I Touch Myself," and knew the choir was named something like Scala, but didn't recall all the details. Great links.

And the live video of the aforementioned song is amazing... the overenthusiastic conducting from the old bald guy was delightfully creepy, and took the performance to another level.
posted by the_bone at 9:43 PM on April 13, 2007


Love the Langley project flapjax.

Cool post.
posted by vronsky at 9:47 PM on April 13, 2007


I hate this. A lot. It's too self serious, too earnest, too slick, too cloying and it grosses me out.

The real shit is here.

Don't get me wrong, this is a great find and a good post, but I hate this when I put it next to something empassioned and raw and unpretentious like the Dondero stuff.
posted by psmealey at 9:50 PM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


I actually had my first encounter with Scala on a MefiSwap CD (thanks, Chococat!), and I found it hilarious. I'm surprised to see you describe it as 'disturbing,' but I've actually had some of my friends have the same reaction. Different strokes, I guess. sorry...
posted by AwkwardPause at 9:51 PM on April 13, 2007


Oh, and I'm referring to the version of 'I Touch Myself', should have made that clear.
posted by AwkwardPause at 9:52 PM on April 13, 2007


me: This is great. Really love it.

psmealy: I hate this. A lot.

Heh! Ain't MetaFilter great? Have to say, though, that after viewing more of the vids, I'm leaning toward your appraisal, psmealy. The Teen Spirit is still fucking great, though. They nailed that one.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:55 PM on April 13, 2007


Actually, I agree with psmealey. The Langley and Dondero stuff have it all over this choir. But the Langley project is the one that edges into true art.
posted by vronsky at 9:55 PM on April 13, 2007


Dondero makes truly bad rock 'n' roll almost listenable... almost. Dondero creates art out of nothing, whereas this aspires to something far greater than it can possibly be, and it diminishes itself and its source material in the process.

I still favorited the link, however. :-x
posted by psmealey at 10:04 PM on April 13, 2007


As an ex-choir nerd, I love this kind of thing. A lot. If only because choirs were the only place where my inner dweeb found any kind of acceptance at seventeen.

These girls are also wicked cute - why oh why weren't they around when I was in choirs? And why didn't choirs have locker rooms? I mean...

They're talented. And re-making pop songs in choir versions clearly targets my demographic.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:06 PM on April 13, 2007


Thanks for the Dondero link psmealey--I hadn't heard of them. I don't find scala's stuff pretentious, but I can see how you would. To each his own.
posted by null terminated at 10:06 PM on April 13, 2007


I don't mean that in a bad way, n_t. Yeah, I hate it, but it's still fucking great. A fantastic exchange all around.
posted by psmealey at 10:09 PM on April 13, 2007


Scala & Kolacny Brothers is a Belgium girls choir

That should be: Belgian girls choir.
posted by phrontist at 10:16 PM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm kinda with psmealey here; it's okay, but it is kind of robbed of the emotional impact of the originals. With or Without You was lovely, but not as good as a single voice, and only worked at all because the song has a church hymn feel to it already.

I generally adore a capella, but choirs like this are tough; you get a "washed out" sound, where all the voices blend together and there's no character left. I couldn't listen to the SLTS or ITM, because they sound from the first chord like something you'd hear in the opening sequence of NBC's coverage of the Nthey-Nth Olympiad.

The Langley stuff was kind of awful, though- really, guys? Enthusiasm is nice, but a little in-key training might help. The Dondero stuff was fun, though- more enthusiasm from the singers and the audience, which is fun- but still questionable because of the off-key singing.

Of the 3, Scala is the most in tune and thus more listenable, but it's not really working because I'd rather here a lone voice sing out than sixty sing in a bored fashion. This Lisa Bresnan cover of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" which was mentioned in the comments of the WoWY linked in the FPP I find vastly more impactful (regardless of the video content) than anything linked, because not every song works with a choir.
posted by hincandenza at 10:18 PM on April 13, 2007


don't want to jinx it, but this is the best thread I've seen here in weeks
posted by psmealey at 10:23 PM on April 13, 2007


all the voices blend together and there's no character left.

Well... that's sorta the point of a choir, isn't it? All the voices blend together. Of course a choir doesn't have the same "character" that a single voice has. But the aim of a choir is to achieve something else entirely. A blend!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:25 PM on April 13, 2007


I thought With or Without You was a beautiful rendition of the song, with a completely out of place video that sucked a lot of the beauty out of it.
posted by blacklite at 10:25 PM on April 13, 2007


Wait- I take back what I said about Dondero- I've listened to more tracks, and I guess I just heard a bad one to start. It's just plain fun- not perfect, but "with feeling", and I can think back to sitting in a crowded theater in high school and hearing people perform- there's a joy there that's so rare in any singing (including, I'm sad to say, all the links I've listened to of Scala so far).
posted by hincandenza at 10:27 PM on April 13, 2007


still questionable because of the off-key singing

True enough, but their appeal lies in their truly "outsider" status (the off key singing, the questionable instrumental accompaniment, etc.). At least to me, that's what it makes it superior: it's a somewhat competently managed riot.
posted by psmealey at 10:27 PM on April 13, 2007


If you don't want to download the whole podcast to listen to Teenage Dirtbag, here's a direct link.
posted by robcorr at 10:31 PM on April 13, 2007


flapjax: right, and sometimes that blend is totally fantastic. But I think for some songs, it comes across as "washed out". Like the Smells Like Teen Spirit- what the heck? It sounds like bored school kids singing their required song in music class. Yes, it's an interesting sound, and that lament feel in the chorus was kind of neat, but overall it totally didn't work for me.

I'm not opposed to the re-imagining of songs; like I said, I love a capella, I love when people take a well known song and strip it down to bare vocals and acoustic (i.e., Tori in her better covers, or that Lisa Bresnan I linked above). But some songs... I just don't think they work with the chorus style.
posted by hincandenza at 10:31 PM on April 13, 2007


I grew up in a very strict household--my dad is a fundamentalist pastor and we weren't allowed to listen to anything other than hymns or classical music. I wasn't exposed to any other type of music for the first 18 years of my life and when I finally was it was very hard to adjust. It was like I was seeing color for the first time. These type of renditions strike a wonderful balance for me--they combine the comfort and nostalgia of my childhood with the "danger" of popular music. Almost like training wheels for my ears.
posted by null terminated at 10:34 PM on April 13, 2007 [5 favorites]


I kinda like the Teenage Dirtbag- it's goofy, but I like the sparseness of the piano, and the vocorder or whatever in the end.

So yeah- not all of it is bad, but I just think you have to choose a song (like U2) where it can work natively, or you have to find some new way to sing the song where the strengths of the choir outweight the loss of the poignancy of a single voice.
posted by hincandenza at 10:36 PM on April 13, 2007


Hey, null, that's a really interesting comment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:36 PM on April 13, 2007


Null terminated, this FPP, in my esteem, is now five times greater than it was, just for knowing that.
posted by psmealey at 10:39 PM on April 13, 2007


These girls are also wicked cute - why oh why weren't they around when I was in choirs? And why didn't choirs have locker rooms? I mean...

Uh, do you think they let any of the non cute girls in? I have a feeling that a person's singing ability is not as important as her cute ability here.

When I was doing this stuff in high school, we sounded equally as beautiful, if not more, but we didn't look like a bunch of models. Too bad for us I guess. Oh and also, fuck all of the world for only paying attention to singers who are "pretty."
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 10:39 PM on April 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


I applaud these choir directors that actually choose timely pieces. I have heard each of these, Scala, Langley, and Dondero and each time, I wish I could express my appreciation to those in charge. See, you don't have to sing The Wind Beneath My Wings to wrench emotions from your audience.
posted by bobobox at 10:41 PM on April 13, 2007


See, you don't have to sing The Wind Beneath My Wings to wrench emotions from your audience.

Coming from an old punk rock guy who loved Hedwig but hates Andrew Lloyd Weber, I could not agree more.

Hmm... I wonder if there are any openings available for a subversive high school theater director?
posted by psmealey at 10:45 PM on April 13, 2007


you don't have to sing The Wind Beneath My Wings to wrench emotions from your audience.

That song is more likely to wrench half-digested food from my stomach and out my mouth. But that does remind me, I've been meaning to write a song called "Buffalo Wind Beneath My Buffalo Wings". If anyone has any lyrics suggestions...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:48 PM on April 13, 2007


"The Langley stuff was kind of awful, though- really, guys?"

yeah really. You hear space oddity or desperado and it is like you are hearing music for the first time in your life. Stops you in your tracks. The press quotes sum it up beautifully
posted by vronsky at 11:07 PM on April 13, 2007


They did seem to rather eviscerate most of the songs in their arrangements, but Dream On came out pretty fair dinkum, in my opinion.

And don't be hatin' on ELO. (Neat cover from Dondero, BTW. Thanks!)
posted by Samizdata at 11:12 PM on April 13, 2007


Oh and also, fuck all of the world for only paying attention to singers who are "pretty."

Yeah, that is the suck about the music scene. Sometimes it pays to be the pretty flower without a scent.

How about some music.metafilter.com from ya, Belle O'Cosity?

Some choral stuff would be a great addition!
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:22 PM on April 13, 2007


Was anybody else a tad scandalized by their Friday I'm in Love? I'm feeling really old right now. How old are these girls?
posted by tarheelcoxn at 12:11 AM on April 14, 2007


[this is strange, but excellent]

I hate this. A lot. It's too self serious, too earnest, too slick, too cloying and it grosses me out.

I like this. A lot. It's too self serious, too earnest, too slick, too cloying and it grosses me out.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 12:12 AM on April 14, 2007


Reminded me immediately of Tori Amos' cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit. The choir version was a bit cloying. Tori's version still moves me to tears...feels like mourning Kurt Cobain all over again.
posted by debris at 12:46 AM on April 14, 2007


@null-terminated:

UPC?
posted by lastobelus at 1:25 AM on April 14, 2007


"2 brothers and 40 girls"

I saw that film. I found it of questionable artistic merit, and the camera work was terrible.
posted by stenseng at 1:41 AM on April 14, 2007


Belle - I'm with you 100%.

I kinda liked the smells like teen spirit bit. Interesting arrangement.

But this is creeepy. CREEPY!

I started to watch the "touch myself" video and I had to stop.

A bunch of cute high school belgian girls singing about masturbation while a vain, middle aged goofball guy conducts them and they ride around Europe in a bus. I'm sorry but even if everything is on the up and up I've had it with men leading young girls in crap like this.

I'd be much more interested if it weren't one more example of men playing women as instruments. Fuck. FUCK!

As if Alanis and her male songwriter or Madonna and her male record label president or Mariah and Tommy Motttola or Britney or Christina or Spice Girls weren't enough.

Yeah some of the songs were nice, but I'm just fed up. Enough. I want to see women or girls writing and arranging the music and calling the shots and I don't want to see any fucking guys in charge. I don't think this is too much to ask.
posted by django_z at 4:10 AM on April 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Thanks, debris for that Tori video, I hadn't seen that before. The OP was great too, although I have to agree that the "slickness" of the videos and arrangements (and the creepy conductor/choir manager) kinda kills my enjoyment of the music. I rather prefer the unpolished-but-earnest feel of the Langley/Dondero stuff.
posted by gemmy at 4:39 AM on April 14, 2007


Thanks for the Dondero link. I'm rocking to Living Thing. Great.
posted by unSane at 5:34 AM on April 14, 2007


Thanks ever so much, robcorr.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:59 AM on April 14, 2007


My main complaint is with the arrangements themselves. Now, I don't listen to much choral music, but if you've got 40 voices at your disposal, shouldn't you throw in some harmonies or something? In the two tracks I listened to (With or Without You, Teen Spirit) they were just singing in unison 90% of the time.

Maybe I'm missing something.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:00 AM on April 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think django_z nailed it.

As did the comments that the music is interesting only in that the artists are odd given the content of the music.

And, if my daughter came home with the conductor and explained that he asked her to sing those songs, go on tour, and generally act like a slut in a video, I think I would probably throw him out on his ear and call the police.

Don't get me wrong, the fpp is interesting, thanks null....
posted by HuronBob at 6:06 AM on April 14, 2007


they did an absolutely beautiful cover of the knife's 'heartbeats'. lovely stuff.
posted by muthecow at 6:37 AM on April 14, 2007


I'm sorry, but count me among those who think if these same sounds were emanating from the mouths of the Morbidly Obese Middle-Aged Bearded Russian Lady Chorus reviews would be somewhat more mixed.

I again apologize, but regarding allusions to the Langley School Project: I've listened to Hans Fenger, I've corresponded with Hans Fenger, and I only wish that Hans Fenger were a close personal friend of mine. Creepy bald middle-aged conductor is no Hans Fenger. I'm getting more of a Hands Finger feel from that guy.

In conclusion, there are some damn good choral music recommendations in this AskMe thread, if you are interested in such. For more hot teen girl softcore with vague lesbianic overtones, see just about everywhere else.
posted by melissa may at 6:49 AM on April 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'll have to quote YouTube user Imgoingnowhere: "The only good in this video are the women!"

Pretty much says it all, don't you think?
posted by psmealey at 6:54 AM on April 14, 2007


(in a classical Hollywood narrator voice:)

"Belgium, lovely land of chocolate truffles and hot teen girl softcore choir acts... And here we see famed conductor Hands Finger busy at work."

(camera is smashed)

(assorted insults in Flemish receding in the soundtrack)
posted by Iosephus at 7:03 AM on April 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


two brothers and 40 girls is about halfway to the muslim paradise.
posted by bruce at 7:34 AM on April 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


HuronBob says: "...and generally act like a slut in a video..."

What?. My two year old and I just sat through that video (I Touch Myself) 7 times in a row (he likes pretty sounding music, wouldn't let me get through the With or Without You track because its not "happy" sounding), so I think I'm familiar with the content by now.
Not sure how swaying in time to the music and clapping your hands counts as "slutty."

I agree with the comments above, in that I'd like to see more women really in control of their careers and music.
BUT since it was two guys who came up with the concept, made it happen, and got the choir into a large and clearly costly production (set designs & giant-screen projections like that don't come cheap), should begrudge THEM their success?

Also, as regards any hanky-panky on the tour bus, you'll pardon me for guessing, but I think the bald conductor fellow prefers the company of men...
posted by I, Credulous at 7:41 AM on April 14, 2007


I, Credulous.. I was speaking about the "Friday I'm in Love" video... I should have been more specific.
posted by HuronBob at 8:45 AM on April 14, 2007


I'm sorry, but count me among those who think if these same sounds were emanating from the mouths of the Morbidly Obese Middle-Aged Bearded Russian Lady Chorus reviews would be somewhat more mixed.

I've been fond of Scala for some time now, and it wasn't until today that I ever saw what they looked like.

Not that I doubt better singers exist who are not as conventionally pretty.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2007


U2 doing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" live with the New Voices of Freedom gospel choir.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:51 AM on April 14, 2007


This is fascinating, thank you for posting. The standard rock and roll sexuality of the songs is de- and then re-contextualized -- I'm not sure it's not by design, by the way -- so that it's hard to escape feeling like these girls are rapturous about Jesus, so much so that they just gotta touch themselves. Their outfits are costumes -- juxtaposing the covered up almost Amish thing (except they've got piercings and big earrings etc) to maximize the impact of the song lyrics. There's that funny delay when listening where I catch up to my own memory of exactly what that lyric is, and how these voices are delivering it. Provocative ... I just can't decide how calculated it is.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:03 AM on April 14, 2007


See, now I'm of the opinion that Metafilter needs MORE hot teen girl softcore with vague lesbianic overtones.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:05 AM on April 14, 2007


These girls look to me to be about 17. I don't know about you kids, but when I was 17, the girls I knew did more than just dress up in bikinis, mkay? It's not like a girl who is well past puberty should be asexualized until some magical age at which the prudes can predend that they still don't have sex, but at least if they did, it's okay if they're married. Gah! Spare me.

And so what if they're all pretty? It's called marketing. There's absolutely no indication that they're being exploited, and I'd be willing to bet that they're more than happy to get to travel around and get paid to expose themselves to future musical opportunity. A well-known act like that is money on your resumé

With all that said, it's devoid of passion, and frankly kind of bland-sounding. That, and I prefer mens' choirs.

NOT SEXIST
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2007


I generally adore a capella, but choirs like this are tough; you get a "washed out" sound, where all the voices blend together and there's no character left.

I imagine using a choir of teenage girls in near 100% unison would be a great way to do the dialogue for some evil inhuman character in a movie. Think the security system in Resident Evil, only instead of one creepy tiny girl speaking in monotone, you have 50 almost identical voices. Every so often where a normal voice would have emotion, you could have one of the 50 voices break a little from the pack.
posted by odinsdream at 9:14 AM on April 14, 2007


lastobelus: no...It was an "independent bible believing church" in Connecticut of all places.
posted by null terminated at 9:16 AM on April 14, 2007


How about some senior citizens covering Sonic Youth?
posted by davebush at 9:24 AM on April 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


kirkaracha: U2 doing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" live with the New Voices of Freedom gospel choir.
See that, fucking ruled. But again, the choir was a few notches better in singing ability, the song- like most U2- is derived in part from church/gospel singing anyway so the use of choir seems more natural, and the juxtaposition of the absolutely joyful full choir with the solo voices of Bono as well as the soloists in the choir made it totally work- there was all the good things you'd want, including great singing, real joyous enthusiasm, interplay between the singers, and just... wow, that must have been some performance to see live.
posted by hincandenza at 9:27 AM on April 14, 2007


You can't go wrong with a good children's choir (accompanied, in this case, by a few dozen ukuleles).
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:36 AM on April 14, 2007


You know, I'm real glad someone did this post -- I've been listening to Scala for a couple of years now and the thing that always strikes me is how consistently good the piano arrangements are. They're spartan, but always interesting and seem to ping pong between haunting and playful in a really captivating way.
posted by Heminator at 9:37 AM on April 14, 2007


You think 17 year-old girls singing "I Touch Myself" is wrong? Just look at what the 9-year-old Scala boys' choir have to sing!
posted by basicchannel at 10:05 AM on April 14, 2007


you don't have to sing The Wind Beneath My Wings to wrench emotions from your audience.

Yeah, see... whenever I think of that song I relive my sister oversinging it at my 88 year old grandfather's open casket funeral. He wasn't my hero in the slightest, but what got me was staring at him & thinkin': "Yeah, y'know? He's not really the wind beneath anything right about now..."

I actually agree with the people who said that Scala is singing the songs too straight. With 40 voices, they could've done some AMAZING harmonies and intricate rhythmic changes. Could've played a lot with it. Instead they're mostly in unison with occasional harmonies. It just seems like a gigantic wasted opportunity to me. And a bit lazy perhaps.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:35 PM on April 14, 2007


I've had the Scala Kolacny version of Les Innocents "Un Monde Parfait" on my iPod for about a year and a half now, and I had no idea what they looked like.

Langley Schools' Desperado gives me chills.

I also heard some men's glee club singing Tom Petty's Free Fall and it was absolutely unbelievable. One voice singing the lyrics while the rest do various background vocals. That's the way to do it.
posted by maggiemaggie at 2:44 PM on April 14, 2007


A cappella + cover + good singing = The Housemartins' "Caravan of Love" (silly video). They also did a great a cappella cover of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother."
posted by kirkaracha at 4:51 PM on April 14, 2007


Have to admit, I found a lot of their stuff kinda boring, though I DO really like this remix of "Friday I'm In Love". (Same video, new audio.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 7:04 PM on April 14, 2007


And, if my daughter came home with the conductor and explained that he asked her to sing those songs, go on tour, and generally act like a slut in a video, I think I would probably throw him out on his ear and call the police.

God, this and all the other crap about "softcore lesbianism" in this thread confirms every prudish and sexually-repressed american stereotype I've ever heard.

How about those hawt little beans on that plate, eh?
posted by phrontist at 9:41 PM on April 14, 2007


I have to agree that "with or without you" with the whining excised and replaced by matter-of-fact teenage sincerity (with belgian accents) is indeed hauntingly beautifull.
posted by lastobelus at 9:44 PM on April 14, 2007


I was actually going to make this post, but I figured MeFi would hate it. I really suck at judging what you guys will enjoy. Anyway, it looks like all the bases were covered except Clandestino.
posted by phrontist at 9:45 PM on April 14, 2007


When I played the With or Without You cover a few months ago on my radio show, the switchboard lit up.
posted by phrontist at 9:46 PM on April 14, 2007


@null terminated:

I grew up in UPC. 1 Grandfather, 4 uncles, my brother, & my brother-in-law were/are preachers. Queen, Jethro Tull, Talking Heads and Beethoven must all share some responsibility in my apostasy.
posted by lastobelus at 10:01 PM on April 14, 2007


I bought the Langley version of "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" since it's the only version of that song I can find anywhere. Too bad Klaatu isn't in iTunes Store. I was one of those people who actually bought their album because I believed the rumors that they were really the Beatles.
posted by mike3k at 5:15 PM on April 15, 2007


« Older Animated Pixelated Cities: Gaze at the extreme pi...  |  Oskar, Ernest and Anatole... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments