Holy Ghost! is a band from New York, signed on James Murphy’s DFA records. They have been releasing music for the past ten years or so, including a couple of albums: their first self titled album in 2011 and the great ‘Dynamics’ two years later. Their latest output is a four-track killer EP called ‘Crime Cutz’ and this is the one that interests us here.
In 2017, Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser set to adapt it on the screen with ‘Crime Cutz: a four-part documentary’, under the direction of Ben Fries (their long-time collaborator) and Alden Nusser. The movie finally premiered in April 2018 at the New York TriBeCa Festival and it is an absolute delight. The 16-minute film follows 4 different characters, all inhabited with the same energy, soundtracked by the 4 tracks of the Crime Cutz EP.
Through the various fates of these four characters, the movie encompasses their will to live their life to the fullest. From Stuart, a 90-year old former dancer who follows new trends on the internet (“[I found] some marvelous looking stuff called roboting“) to Lori, organiser of Hustle dance parties in New York, firstly as a kind of personal spiritual cure that then turned out to be a need for many people; to “Super Bad” Brad Prowly, a street singer who just loves singing, to finally Caramia, a 12-year old girl who is busy setting up her birthday party, having to deal with both the RSVP guest-list, her dress and a unicorn.
“Every time I jump, a little sprinkle of happiness lands on one of us. That’s my theory. That’s my hypothesis.”
Caramia, 12 years old.
A total ode to liberty and joy, the film feels like a super good let loose moment, that perfectly matches with Holy Ghost! music and lyrics, like when Frankel yells “You lift me up and up, up and off the floor” during Crime Cutz, the fabulous soundtrack to ‘the Hustler’ part. Or when Stuart casually removes a wood stool from the middle of his room and starts dancing like a, what, a 20-year old boy ! The irony gets even higher when the same Stuart appears on a rooftop, leading a choreography of multiple dancers, a devastating smile on his face, wearing a savings company cap: a definite thumbing of the nose to his age. Maybe my favourite moment of the movie.
I’ve read a few reviews about Holy Ghost!’s music and productions, many defining the duo sound as being “retro”, [making the band] “pillars of the mid-00’s disco-resurgence”. In particular, Consequence of Sound, a US-heavyweight music website, says about tthe EP: “it’s filled with clumsy lyrics and meandering tracks that never really go anywhere“.
Well, maybe this is true, actually maybe this was even intended. However, to me, with the release of this superb film, it all makes sense. For sure Holy Ghost! are into disco and italo and all kinds of 80’s synthpop retro sounds (and I love it), but as this documentary litterally demonstrates, their music is never so true and relevant as now. Reason being: for no reason at all. For people being who they naturally are. “Super Bad” Brad Prowly, the street singer, says at some point: “I wanted to be a singer so I just started singing”. Simple.
Forming a whole with the ‘Crime Cutz’ EP, this half music video, half documentary, 100% happiness moment is a very well received and indeed necessary invigorating breath of fresh air that will lighten up your day. Watch it now, and watch it everyday this week. Either way, that’s my own self prescription.