Arcade Fire – The Reflektor Tapes (EP + Movie Review)

Legendary Canadian collective Arcade Fire are currently busy promoting their latest documentary The Reflektor Tapes. The movie, which documents the recording and touring process behind 2013′s Reflektor, was screened worldwide for one day only last Thursday (24 September). To accompany the movie (reviewed below), Win Butler and co. have released a deluxe edition of Reflektor that features five brand new songs and one remix. Read on for more.

The brand new version of Reflektor features an additional third disc which features five songs that originally didn’t make the album – Apocrypha, Women of a Certain Age, Soft Power, Get Right and Crucified Again. Some people may recall that the latter two songs have been heavily speculated about in the past. Get Right originally featured in cable network adverts for Reflektor, whereas Crucified Again was played live at a benefit concert in Haiti, one which also featured during the movie. Get Right also featured during the movie, being played during live studio jams. It’s the best song of the five new ones, something in particular down to its long, drawn-out jams and hefty backing synths. Crucified Again is more subdued and subtle, making use of light acoustic guitars and Neon Bible-era lyrics. The remaining three songs are also similair to one another, with Women of a Certain Age standing out the most. Apocrypha and Soft Power are both predominantly gentle, which could suggest why they didn’t make it on to the album two years ago. Alongside these five new songs, a Dennis Bovell remix of album track Flashbulb Eyes also features. The remix includes vocals by Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose Caribbean tone gives the song an extremely Haitian feel. On the whole, the standalone EP doesn’t bring much to the table. In order to understand these six songs, you really should watch accompanying movie The Reflektor Tapes.

The accompanying movie is where all the action happens. Directed by Kahlil Joseph, who was a stranger to the band before they worked together, the film looks at the whole process and idea behind Reflektor and its world tour. During the post-film band interview, frontman Win Butler claims that Joseph didn’t want to shoot just an art film, making of or concert movie; rather, he wanted to combine all three. From each individual perspective, Joseph definitely does manage to achieve this. Various drawn out moments during the movie depict the band in states of trance and traipsing through the streets of Haiti, with altered versions of Reflektor songs soundtracking it. It’s not just during these intimate one-on-one moments that Reflektor songs are torn apart, though. Even during footage from shows in London and Hollywood the likes of Afterlife and Normal Person feature segments of isolated vocals and hypnotic synthesizers. The way that Joseph has constructed the movie is a testament to the hectic nature of being in Arcade Fire. Instead of trying to piece footage together with interviews, the whole movie becomes one massive Arcade Fire soundscape backed with the band talking viewers through the film’s various scenes. One particular highlight during the documentary features Butler and his multi-instrumentalist wife Regine Chassagne walking around Haiti to the sound of Porno. At one point, a drunk Butler is seen entering an ambulance and lying down on his side whilst singing. All of this takes place during the Haitian carnival, which is a mix of colourful vibrancy and human expression. This colourful vibrancy in particular is represented very well in combination with Arcade Fire’s music, something which culminates in a confetti-laden Here Comes the Night Time. There are also interjected clips from shows at Montreal’s Salsatheque, where the band first played secret shows under a different guise. The Reflektors, as they were then known, subsequently played shows like this around the world in small venues, requesting that people only enter in smart dress. It worked, and this pulling power which Arcade Fire have is something that the whole movie presents effortlessly. Although The Reflektor Tapes is not a conventional music film, it’s still an exciting insight into the chaotic life of Arcade Fire, and one which deserved far more attention than it initially got. If this movie doesn’t give you the urge to pick up an instrument and start a band, then you’re not doing it right.


Watch the trailer for The Reflektor Tapes below.