As is often the case with his musical creations, it’s rather difficult for Ryan Olson to explain exactly what’s going to happen for Walker Art Center’s annual Movies + Music event Thursday night.
“Everybody will kind of be riffing in their own world, and I’ll assemble it all together and smear it together so it becomes a thing,” said the ubiquitous yet shadowy Minneapolis music producer.
In other words: “It’ll be pretty different.”
Known for his work with Poliça and the all-star ensembles Gayngs and Marijuana Deathsquads, Olson is heading up a different kind of smeared-together music crew for Thursday’s event on the hillside next to the Walker — providing a live, semi-improvised score to a collection of silent 1920s-era experimental short films.
His team for the specially commissioned performance will include: Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame, who previously performed with Olson in Gayngs (and headlined Rock the Garden in the same location last month); Poliça singer Channy Leaneagh, another Gayngs member who is now married to Olson; Benson Ramsey of the Pines, and Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus.
Also look for several of the many contributors to the amorphous Deathsquads crew, including Isaac Gale, Mark McGee, Trever Hagen, Mark Jorgensen and Poliça drummers Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson.
The music in this case will hew closest to the Deathsquads’ improvised sets of manic electronic bombast, Olson said, but with an added layer of guitar work by Ramsey, Vernon and Luppen. He singled out Ramsey’s contributions in particular: “Benson’s able to bring in these straight-up Ken Burns-ian movie-music vibes that we can all of a sudden abuse.”
Having the movies for musical cues is the other key difference from a Deathsquads show, Olson added.
“[Deathsquads] sets have become a little more techno-y and more a stoner kind of thing,” he explained. “Those sets are seamless, like one continuous song. This is like more full of short blasts, so the music becomes more impactful with the visuals. It’s a lot more ‘Naked City’-esque and has more right turns and weird stops.”
That’s apparently suitable for the films in question — a collection of avant-garde pieces by Dada-era European artists Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling and René Clair, drawn from the Walker’s archives.
Recruited by Walker associate curator Doug Benidt for the project, Olson said he liked the idea of performing along to these shorter and wilder visual art pieces as opposed to the full-length movies selected for the series in the past.
“These are all like 3 to 5 minutes long. They come from that time when film was a new medium, and these particular artists didn’t want to just re-create live theater. They saw movies as more of an abstract version of painting, without linear storytelling.”
Of course, “nonlinear” is a great way to describe the Deathsquads, which has been the Eau Claire, Wis.-raised Olson’s most continuous project since he first hit the Twin Cities music scene in the mid-2000s with the groups Digitata and Mel Gibson & the Pants.
Olson said, “We have a handful of Deathsquads albums that are about 99 percent done. But first things first.”
Sound for Silents
When: 8:30 p.m. Thu.
Where: Walker Art Center hillside, 725 Vineland Place, Mpls.
Info: Free, all ages, walkerart.org/calendar.