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October 22, 2002

Reflections on the Bayou

Profile: Infinite Reflections

Infinite Reflections, the University of Chicago's first definitive album about movies, is making its return. Devin Sandoz and Liam Singer, the songsters who brought us "It Could Happen to You," "Dennis the Menace," and, unforgettably, "Shine," are up to their old tricks in a new location. The U of C's half of the band, Sandoz, will be celebrating the release of Infinite Reflections 2: The Bayou with a performance this coming Friday at the Blue Gargoyle, before the Off-Off Campus show. It will be the third Infinite Reflections show since the first release, during the summer of last year.

Sandoz regrets that, without what he calls "my better half," he will be unable to perform some of the songs featured on The Bayou. However, he intends to supplement those songs with tracks from his solo project, Sandroz. "The new performance will be at least half new material," Sandoz promises, and he assures listeners that they will also get "Shine," as well as some of the other favorites from Infinite Reflections.

This is what the crowd will want; the first album made waves, among other reasons, for its inventive juxtapositions of seemingly disparate movies. "We went to a video store and just wandered around the aisles looking for funny movies," Sandoz says of the creative process. "We came up with "Hunt for Red October" [the first day], just walking down the street." Eventually, Sandoz and Singer allowed one another three songs apiece to record as a creative compromise that rounded out the 15-track album. Singer's choices were "Steel Magnolias," "Air Force One," and "Edward Scissorhands." Sandoz penned "Shine," "The General's Daughter," and "Free Willy," for his part. Of "The General's Daughter," Sandoz explains, "I liked the idea of a sad song that was really much too graphic."

But the album doesn't feel graphic. It's a soulful, multi-generic rumination on movies and life. The thesis of the album is that movies reflect life, and the album is life, in turn, holding a mirror to movies: Infinite Reflections results. Indeed, the variegated genres of the tracks seem to trace the movies that spawned them. "Free Willy" and "Shine" are inspirational if traditional guitar-strumming mixed with emotive vocals, whereas "War Games" and "Steel Magnolias" are watery, mysterious tunes with no classification except what Sandoz calls "space reggae." "The Hunt for Red October" carries on its movie's tradition with a pounding rap-rock aesthetic a la Limp Bizkit: "Hunt for Red October/ Hunt for Red October/ Hunt for Red October/ Girl, I got to know ya."

Needless to say, expectations were high for Infinite Reflections 2. Unafraid, Sandoz and Singer reunited, and recorded the bayou-themed album in just a week. To the surprise of some, they chose to avoid the cinematic theme on the second go.

"It was clear that we couldn't make another album about movies. Not because I was tired of writing songs; it was clear that one thing we needed to do to stay Infinite Reflections was to make a different concept album, and The Bayou seemed like a natural choice," Sandoz says.

"Take Infinite Reflections as a complete whole; as a movie, so to speak. Movies often change locales: Home Alone 2 goes to New York, Crocodile Dundee goes to L.A.," Sandoz continues. He explains that The Bayou is the new locale for Infinite Reflections, and that what looks like a move away from Hollywood is in some ways austerely cinematic.

The seven-song release embodies a complete vision of the bayou qua bayou; Sandoz and Singer let the bayou's cast of characters speak for themselves. This is perhaps never more apparent than in "Professor Cormorant," an upbeat, snare-filled biography of the bayou's whimsical know-it-all. "His practices are suspect/Any fool will tell you that/But word is he's untouchable/Of picture and of fact/For Dean Bullfrog offered tenure over 20 years ago/To old Professor Cormorant, that dirty so-and-so," croons Singer.

The songwriting team did considerable research before it could attempt to depict this musical tableau. Sandoz went to numerous bayou-related websites while he was at work, and inked lyrics to whole songs while Singer composed music at Sandoz' apartment. "If there is a president of the bayou," says Sandoz, "it has to be the alligator. He's the biggest, baddest motherfucker out there. If the bayou has a heart, it must be the possum. It's playful; it's kind of hard to pin down. It's really cute."

But the hearts of The Bayou are Singer and Sandoz, whose affinity for the bayou is at its most poignant in the album's final cut, "And I Love (The Bayou)." They sing it with verve: "Swamp below/Sky above/And I love/And I love/And I love/And I love/And I love/And I love."

And I love, indeed.

The full album is available for free download at http://home.uchicago.edu/~devin.