So what do you do when you can’t sleep? Do you count sheep, toss and turn, stare at the ceiling, or crack open that bottle of pills? Or do you sing yourself through it? Do you dare to… samba? Weba Garretson of the fearless singing duo Garretson & Gorodetsky has always had trouble getting to sleep, and on “Insambia,” she’s tackling the problem head on with a scalding piece of avant-garde pop equally indebted to Latin music, jazz, and leftfield theater. Alex Italics’s beautifully-shot video for the song nods to vaudeville, noir, and vintage television commercials, and it’s energetic and curious enough to keep anybody awake.
The pair of Los Angeles artists have been following their dreams – and their nightmares – for decades, and entertaining audiences with their peculiar visions. They’ve done it in their solo projects: Garretson’s “Weba Show” was a landmark piece of Southern California theater in the 1980s, after which she participated in various other cabaret projects and worked with acclaimed video artist Bill Viola. Ralph Gorodetsky’s distinctive bass-playing and songwriting has been heard on such jazz-punk-funk projects as Universal Congress Of and The Mecolodiacs (both in collaboration with Joe Baiza). But while they’re both strong on their own, they do their best and most electrifying work when they’re together.
In The Year Of The Firemonkey, their new set, is the latest in a long line of thought-provoking collaborations, including What Must The Hummingbird See?, a witty and immersive multi-media piece in which the pair inhabit the perspectives of animals in an urban garden. My Skin Craves Soil, their 2015 release that contains many of the songs from the Hummingbird project, was acclaimed for its daring, its imagination, and its remarkable songcraft. For Firemonkey, Garretson and Gorodetsky have enlisted the help of some of the most audacious musicians in the Los Angeles underground, including horn player Vince Meghrouni, drummer Brian Christopherson, and bassist Michael Alvridez. “Insambia” is a pretty good example of the inspired madness they can conjure when they get cooking. It’s a pure, off-the-wall party number – but it also manages to nail the feeling of psychic destabilization that insomniacs know all too well.
The video does, too. Garretson addresses the camera while Gorodetsky tosses and turns in bed; they’re both a little too wired, a little too aware, a little too susceptible to the lure of the Insambia sleeping medication on the nightstand. The images come fast and hard – there’s a stabbed pillow and an eruption of feathers, a relentless ringing alarm clock, a snare-drum head jammed with pills. The grainy black and white footage makes it all seem like a scene from a lost ‘40s classic, or perhaps the most demented sleep-aid advertisement you’ve ever seen.