Published May 08, 2009Those looking for a comprehensive overview of "freak folk" pioneer Vashti Bunyan's career may leave From Here to Before disappointed, but there is still a quiet joy in celebrating the singer's continual renaissance.
Director Kieran Evans structures the film as a road movie, chronicling the adventures leading to the recording of the seminal Just a Diamond Day. Evans takes the viewer on the same journey Bunyan followed with boyfriend Robert Lewis in the late '60s through the UK in search of a sort of creative commune. The sometimes-miserable journey was when Diamond Day was written and recorded, as Bunyan used her songs to escape to the musical utopia she dreamed of. But, when the album tanked, she slipped into obscurity.
However, with the veritable treasure trove that is the Internet began granting access to the obscure music scene in 2000, the album began to find an audience. This audience included Devendra Banhart and Adem Ilhan; the former leading the "freak folk" revival, the latter providing backup for Bunyan's first public performance in over 30 years — keep your eyes peeled for Illhan's Fridge-mate Kieran Hedben (aka Four Tet) in the practices as well. The hipsters contribute to the interview subjects, as well as John James, the friend who accompanied the couple on their journey, and Joe Boyd, who produced the sparse, delicate Diamond Day.
Evans juxtaposes the road movie backdrop against the group's rehearsals and it's inspiring to see the gentle force in her songs; her effortless radiance and timeless beauty are transfixing and charming. However, her wispy demeanour isn't quite enough to save the film from trailing off with her stories, which are much more suited to her gorgeously warm compositions.
The best thing to take from the film is to finagle a copy of Diamond Day somehow and get lost in Bunyan's truly gorgeous, and fragile, voice and melodies. (CC films)