310 appeared on The Leaf Label ten years ago, originally with an EP, NOD, quickly followed by an album, The Dirty Rope, yet, while they hadn’t benefited of a proper release network until then, this was actually the band’s third album, after the self-released Aug 56 (1997) and Snorkelhouse (1998), which were later collated on Downtown & Brooklyn Only. The project of Seattle-based Joseph Dierker and New Yorker Tim Donovan, 310 rapidly gained praises for their haunting blend of electronica, tainted with found sounds and occasional guitars and laid over hip-hop-infused beats, and continued to do so with their following releases, After All (2001) and Recessional (2003). After a four year gap, 310 returned with Sixes & Sevens, published on Conduit Records, in 2007. Split over two DVDs, Lifeline documents twelve years in the career of the band. The first disc collects a handful of live performances recorded in New York and London between 2000 and 2001, plus additional tour footage, while the second offers a retrospective mix of their work through twenty three tracks.
The first disc captures 310 in its live incarnation, with Andrew ‘Fire/Fly’ Sigler, then an almost full-time member, adding vocals, keyboards and other electronics. This DVD collates recordings made within a couple of weeks in October 2000, both in London, at Smallfish, the Arts Café and 333, and New York, at Brownies, plus an extra set recorded at the legendary Knitting Factory in June 2001. Each time, the music was recorded on DAT straight from the mixing desk and was later synchronised with the footage of the same performance. Most of the video filming is rudimentary to say the least, with often just one camera, placed on one corner of the venue, or, as it seems to be the case at the Arts Café, on top of an amplifier, filming the whole performance. Due to the concentrated time frame during which most of these recordings were made, there are many duplicate tracks here, but while the basis of the trio’s work is undoubtedly electronic, there are enough live input from each of them to make this a worthy document. The Knitting Factory and Brownies footage also benefit of a slightly more elaborated filming process, allowing, especially on the latter one, the viewer to feel much closer to the band and experience the performance in a more engaging way.
On the second disc, the pair present a retrospective mix of their career, with twenty three tracks culled from their first five albums plus a handful from the very limited and rare mini album Nothing To See Here, a short collection of atmospheric pieces the pair released in 2001, with archive black and white footage of New York in the early twentieth century, looped to work with the music. The use of old images is nothing new in the work of 310. Indeed, apart for Recessional and Sixes & Sevens, each one of their albums featured an old black and white photograph on its cover, and the pair pushed this further with Nothing To See Here, with each hand-made copy of the album featuring a unique picture. Here, while there is no specific narrative through this retrospective, these footages only accentuate the hypnotic character of the music and project the urban undertones of the tracks into a totally different time. This is perhaps best encapsulated in Urban Mantra. The track uses car horns as its basis, but on screen are looped sequences of traffic shot in the twenties first, then in the fifties.
This bumper audiovisual package is clearly targeted at fans of 310, bringing them two distinctive sides of the band, none of which have been particularly exposed before. Lifeline acts as a document of the band’s work over the years. While the live disc is just a snapshot of a particular time in the band’s life, the Retrospective Mix brings different periods together and demonstrate how, through their evolution, Joseph Dierker and Tim Donovan have created an extremely strong and consistent catalogue.