Music Reviews

Vril – “Fatal Duckpond, The” – [Rer Megacorp]

humana   10/4/2009   CD, Soundtrack

Soundtrack: Although this is a soundtrack to a film of a curious name (???The Fatal Duckpond???), what it really is is a truly awesome collection of surf instrumentals from a four-piece band called Vril, whose name refers to an energy-inducing fluid in a science fiction book called The Coming Race. Each and every one of these short tracks is indeed full of energy and a truly distinctive approach to surf. You gotta love the guitar, bass, and percussion skills demonstrated here. ???Drop the needle??? anywhere and you???ll be satisfied.

Frisell, Bill – “All Hat” [sdtk] – [Emarcy Records]

ArtCrimes   7/14/2009   CD, Soundtrack

Bill Frisell is no stranger to music scoring at this point, having created full-length scores for both period-piece silent films (Buster Keaton) and contemporary films. Having not seen “All Hat,” it would be inappropriate for me to consider whether this is in fact successful music in its original context, but as a collection of 31 (mostly short) instrumental tracks on an audio CD, I can report that the music doesn’t stray too far from the Americana-laced work Frisell has pursued at greater length on his own albums, especially those that feature him in the company of players that can actually play country convincingly. That’s the case here, with Viktor Krauss (bass) and Greg Leisz (steel, mandolin) playing it pretty straight while Frisell uses banjo and acoustics and electrics with varying degrees of signal processing (his use of looping is evident throughout and distortion is used for a change of moodat times). Jenny Scheinman (violin) and Scott Amendola (drums) add some non-traditional edges. He even does some fake “mainstream country” on #23, a resetting of the traditional “John Hardy” as might be heard on a bar jukebox (“John Hardy” gets a variety of treatments here: #1, #6, #17, #23, #31). Get yer music beds here… PGM: SOME TRACKS SEGUE! Preview as necessary. (((crimes)))

Zentner, Si – “Plays Music From “Warning Shot”” – [Liberty Records]

humana   6/23/2009   12-inch, Soundtrack

Soundtrack: Big band is the name of the game, and Si Zentner is the man and trombonist to lead the band executing Jerry Goldsmith???s compositions. Side 1 features music from ???Warning Shot,??? most of which is fast-paced and suspenseful, save for 4 and 5, which have a slower pace. It???s easy to get caught up in the big band exclamations. Side 2 is a sampling from Goldsmith???s other film/TV scores, with ???Von Ryan March??? and ???Mona Lisa??? standing out, and the ???Theme from ???The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?????? taking you down memory lane.

Sebastian – Original Soundtrack [coll] – [Harkit Records]

humana   6/19/2009   CD, Soundtrack

Soundtrack: This is a period piece for the sixties if there ever was one, full of suspense and intrigue appropriate to a movie about counter-espionage with a bevy of beauties in the wings. Be sure to read the liner notes. Tracks 12-23 are bonus tracks by father of electronic music Tristram Cary (and form component elements for Track 9). Enjoy.

2001: a Space Ody (soundtrack) – “2001: a Space Odyssey” – [Rhino Records]

Marlena Poliatevska   3/23/2009   CD, Soundtrack

2001: A space Odyssey, Directed by Stanley Kubrick

The soundtrack from a classic science fiction movie, released by MGM
in 1968, which is now part of the American psyche.
The story was originally written by Arthur C. Clarke.

The album consists of the music used in the movie, in scene-order on
tracks 1 through 9. “Thus Spake Zarathustra” has become the audio
symbol of “2001: A space Odyssey”, much as the sound of
helicopter blades, became the symbol of the Vietnam war in the movie
“Apocolypse Now”.

“Also Sprach Zarathustra” was composed by Richard Strauss in 1896, as a
musical representation of Nietzsche’s “Superman” who would transcend
human limitations. This musical piece includes in its composition a
‘World riddle Theme’ consisting of a particular sequence of
musical notes in the melody.

Most notable for play on KFJC is track #7, “Jupiter and Beyond” (15:13)
consisting of three parts:

a) “Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra”
b) “Atmospheres”
c) “Adventures”

The album also includes four supplemental tracks, the most notable being a
collage of dialog with, and about HAL, the 9000-series computer aboard
the Discovery 1 craft headed on a half-billion mile journey to the planet
Jupiter. “HAL9000” is an interview with HAL, interspersed with dialog
between the crew and its computer which occur in several memorable
scenes in the movie.

The album also includes a 23-page booklet documenting the movie and
its production.

Two historical ICONS are presented in this movie, “The Bell System”
which was a national monopoly in the United States at that time, and also the international airline “Pan Am”

The shuttlecraft depicted in the movie is branded with the famous ‘Pan Am’
logo of Pan American Airways, which was founded in 1927 as the only
American airline company providing intercontinental air travel from the
United States to other countries.

Pan Am was barred from domestic flights within the Untied States, however
other airlines were permitted to compete with Pan Am internationally in 1978.
Pan Am declared bankruptcy in 1991, and its assets were purchased
by Delta Airlines.

Marlena Poliatevska

Topless Women Talk About Their Lives [coll] – [Flying Nun]

Max Level   2/2/2009   CD, Soundtrack

A solid collection of edgy New Zealand rock and pop songs. The tracks, all previously issued on various Flying Nun releases, were selected by the makers of the offbeat 1997 “Topless Women…” movie as their soundtrack. You know the bands: The Clean, The Bats, The Chills, Snapper, etc, giving us their variations on the rock dynamic, from straight ahead riff-rock to fuzzy shoegazing to peppy pop. We already have around 2/3 of these songs in the music library, but here they are knocking on your head and reminding you to play them again because it’s been a few years. And you should. Track 10 and 13 are on the quiet acoustic side and are awfully nice. Track 12 is a driving instrumental. This collection is fun and it rocks respectably. Guitars, guitars,and more guitars, NZ style!

Brothers (Soderqvist, Johan) – “Brothers ” – [Milan Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/19/2007   CD, Soundtrack

This CD version of the soundtrack prominently features the
so-so song “”When I’m Coming Home” which in fact just wraps
up the film. But the score itself is what I found compelling,
whereas a song tries to put too pat a package on complexity.
The film itself is a searing study of sibling love and
sibling distrust, involving heavy collateral damage coming
out of war. Thus the emotional tone of the film is often
raging and blaring, and this soundtrack composed by Johan
Soderqvist was needed to reign in, rather than heighten the
impact of some of those moments. It does so sublimely, where
the film battles, Soderqvist wages a sonic peace between icy
Danish resolve and wafting Afghani aromas. Check out the
theme used in “Brothers”, “Afghanistan” and “The Letter”, a
galloping melody that could be nyckleharp, but also takes a
turn on Ahmet Tekbilek’s oud. Many other moments feature
sweetly sulking, floating guitar not far from Loren Mazzacane
but blurred in blue hues. Check the “Sarah & Micheal” cuts.
Again, Sodervist provides a calming vibe to assuage the
agitation that rises in the film. The pizzicato plucking of
nylon guitar and/or harp throughout is another soft promise
of perhaps some hope, even when the film soldiers on past
points of no return. The film and the soundtrack are both
excellent, albeit quite different like the Brothers featured!
Outstanding on both accounts…

-Thurston Hunger

Zorn, John – “Filmworks XVII ” – [Tzadik]

jordan   3/13/2007   CD, Soundtrack

John Zorn “Film Works XVII” is a double dose of movie scores, the latest release of Zorn???s cinematic escapades. This time around, the scores for the flicks ???Notes on Marie Menken??? and ???Ray Bandar: A Life with Skulls??? are brought together: the first film, a documentary of an underground filmmaker, the second, the true story of a Bay Area skull collector.

The album interweaves the soundtracks, not in any particular predictable pattern, but rather in an ebb and flow that balances the African thumb piano of the bone collector and the jazz guitar of the revolutionary film maker. Tracks 7 and 8 are exceptional in a field of exceptional tunes.

Reijseger, Ernst / Herzog, Werner – “Requiem For a Dying Planet ” – [Winter & Winter]

Thurston Hunger   2/1/2007   CD, Soundtrack

Renowned shoe-eater Werner Herzog has an eclectic ear to match his eye.
Ernst Reijseger hopefully is no stranger to KFJC faithful, he is an
utterly remarkable cellist, who has turned out to be a deeply moving
composer. His sympathetic strings here are not alone but paired with the
power drone of Sardinian shepherd notes floating. Tenores di Bitti were
a hit in days gone by, and the Voches de Sardinna here have that same
earth-vibrating barbershop buzz, and then Ernst adds a great connection
from cello to choir to striking Sengalese cry song. Clearly the world
is in pain, but then there are moments when the acid rain and consumptive
reign abate as on “Sanctus” and a clear sky of peace is filled with grace
by the mighty wind of Mola Sylla. Reijseger’s cello is in such human
harmony with the voices here it probes the depths of the soul. Add in
some earthy elements of hope: magic gourds and the pluck of the spirit
via m’bira, and this often feels more like redemption than a requiem.
Although “Bad News from Outer Space” has Ernst’s cello playing the alien
snake in the cricket-laden garden of Eden. “Mura/Ballu Turturinu” starts
off with strident cadence, Ernst pushes them up a hill towards a cliff,
precarious but when the Ballu part arrives, it’s hard not to feel a sort
primal joy. It’s almost like the music focuses on a fantastic spider web,
intricate, ordered and beautiful; while (I suspect) the film watches the
spider and its venom. I’ve not seen these Herzog films but many others…
these two, I would watch blind.

Yours for a better world (and music such as this makes it so)…
-Thurston Hunger

Desperate Man Blues [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

ArtCrimes   1/31/2007   CD, Soundtrack

???Desperate Man Blues??? [soundtrack]

Record collector Joe Bussard (rhymes w/ ???Buzzard???) is already represented at KFJC by his ???Down in the Basement??? collection and the Fonotone box set collecting his own 78 r.p.m. label releases. This new collection of tracks covering about a 30 year span accompanies a documentary detailing his exploits as the uber-collector of 78 r.p.m. discs in the United States, with Joe constantly referencing one great forgotten artist after another. There are a few overlaps with other collections via acknowledged classics such as ???Cross Road Blues??? and Blind Willie Johnson???s chilling ???Dark Was the Night???, but many tracks here will be new to the average listener. It???s a near-even split between country and blues artists, along with one jazz track. His tastes regarding this music are impeccable, so every track has its virtues, but you???ll no doubt have a favorite or two of your own. For immediate relief from contemporary doldrums, try #5, 9, 10, 15, 19. Tracks #1 and 3 kick off with little audio snippets of Joe from the film.

Black Orpheus – “Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) ” – [Verve/Polygram]

Thurston Hunger   1/25/2007   CD, Soundtrack

Such an amazing film! I recently saw this and loved it on so many levels
including as a KFJC source for soundtrack. The city and the people in it
seem to pulsate in expectation of the impending Carnaval. Percussion
drives much of the frenzy, shaking dancers and houjouns alike. Meanwhile
music, and melody in particular, has magic powers…it makes the sun
rise…and the beauty of “O Nosso Amor” whether sung by a jubilant
chorus (as it is introduced on here in #4) or pumped out by accordian or
gracefully plucked on guitar, that beauty shines transcendent. This is
back when the Bossa really was Nova, 1959!! The recording here is a
little roughshod in parts, some sections seem like they are pulled right
off the click track of the film, others appear to be more extended jams
of the songs from the film. And at the end there is a later stylized
performance of some of the pieces from the film, but I strongly prefer
the older/original pieces. Big Brazilian names were a part of this
amazing movie, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa and Joao Gilberto back
when they weren’t so big. But what I cannot figure out is why Lourdes
de Oliveira did not beome a huge star?!? She plays the character aptly
named Mira, for it is impossible not to gaze at her…but she, as if
a myth herself, seems to have vanished. Fortunately this soundtrack
has not! So much of this is so stellar, the soul-stirring yelping of
“Scenes de la Macumba” is memorable. The cuica on “Batterie de Cappela”
rules too as that mounts, holy batucada Batman! But the prolonged
“O Nosso Amor” from the night of the carnival (#10) is nearly as great
as the dance scene that features it in the film. Stirs the essence
of life…

-Thurston Hunger

Brick [coll] – [Lakeshore Records]

Thurston Hunger   9/7/2006   CD, Soundtrack

A recent favorite film melding Chinatown with the Breakfast
Club…not really, but better than calling it “bubblegumshoe.”
There’s ring-a-ding lingo in the film, but this regrettably
features no such spoken samples. It does feature an elongated
song/scene dangled by a bangled and baubled Natalie Wood-esque
(*high* praise) Nora Zehetner over a languid, cocktail
blues-jazz piano. Some other out-sourced sounds include a
rousing “Sister Ray” slice that is the knock-out punch from
the outgoing credits, a jumpy jivey Bunny Berigan piece and
also a mandolin-sweetened Riddle for the ritalin teens(?) from
Kay Armen, its simple lyrics recollect the more complicated
and clever nature of the dialogue in the film. The rest of the
CD features Nathan Johnson and the “Cinematic Underground.”
Johnson is the cousin of director Rian Johnson, and nepotism
worked well here. I was a little sucker-punched (not as badly
as the lead actor in the film though) as the lead-off version
of Emily’s Theme is fantastic and nothing quite matches that
acoustic guitar picked by a smoking cigarette over an alarm
clock rattling skeletal xylophone keys. Some of the other work
uses a little too much “Mike Hammer” rhodes piano for my taste,
but I suspect it’s meant as highest homage. Bowed glass is
nicely employed, and cluttery percussion helps keep the edge
up. Dry tapping/tumbling bass reminds me of Bradford Reed’s
amazing pencillina! Nice use of piano distance on many tracks.
Faves for me included “A Show of Hands”, “Knives in My Eyes”,
“The Brick of Brock”, “The Field”, “The Tunnel” and “Tug’s
Tale (Part 2)” with it’s slippery guitar. Recommended as is
the film itself. Who are you eating lunch with?

-Thurston Hunger

Machinist, The – “Machinist, The ” – [Mellowdrama Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/20/2006   CD, Soundtrack

So you know when you like something so much that you can’t
be trusted? That’s how I am about this film, and moreso about
the tremendous score by ROQUE BANOS. His music steals the show,
with theremin cobwebbing down beneath tiptoe harp steps…down
to the basement of your consciousness. Down there a trace of
BERNARD HERRMANN’s stem cells are growing on long violin bows.
Check out the stretching question marks of the main theme as
heard on “Nikkolash’s Game” amongst others, hair-raisingly
beautiful. The motif sort of ebbs and flows till it vanishes.
Little xylophone drops of color get dropped into some passages,
but overall the weather is bleak and grey. Again the theremin
is used to paranoid perfection, this soundtrack is smeared
with it. As stark as the results are, the soundtrack really
works a varied palette, the results are as thin and effective
as Christian Bale yet as gorgeous as Aitana Sanchez.
Don’t sleep on this one. Trust me?!?

-Thurston Hunger

Penderecki, Krzysztof – “Manuscript Found At Saragoss, The ” – [Obuh Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/2/2006   12-inch, Soundtrack

When I first listened to this, it struck me as disjointed and
odd, especially the passages of stately classical music,
invoking Mozart and Vivaldi amidst a spider-climbing acoustic
guitar, electroautomatic plunks and skitters, sinister female
laughter, high soaring organ, dirty broken piano. Then I
watched the film (which fwiw was alternatively named “The
Saragossa Mannuscript”). Stories within stories, stark black
and white images, as sheer and haunting as the numerous skulls
that show up and are drunk from. A madman “Pasheko” having his
bipolar switch thrown by his innkeeper/master, in order to
tell a story of forbidden love. Succubi sisters, dead gypsy
brothers and don’t forget the Spanish Inquisition. An amazing
film, these dreams of music upon replay ignite the cinememories.
The soundtrack is the sensible thread to keep your way through
the truly disjointed and odd and tremendous film. In a way this
reminds me of Teiji Ito’s score to “Meshes of the Afternoon”
in more avant films, the soundtrack is so crucial, and really
inseparable from the film…even without a screen! For me this
film surpasses Jodorwksy’s “Holy Mountain,” and Penderecki’s
enchanted and enigmatic score is the key to the cabbalah.
Stellar Polish composer, film and label! Quite a “polished”
recording/transfer, sounds remarkably clean.
-Thurston Hunger

Doob Doob O’ Rama [coll] – [Normal Records]

Thurston Hunger   5/29/2006   CD, Soundtrack

I can’t explain it, and I ain’t apologizing, but
this stuff makes me giddy as a four-year old
eating his weight in chocoloate. Is it the
complete-frills approach, hyperactive charts,
Betty Boop vocals, slap-happy tabla. Male
and female wailing, man we *know* the story,
it’s the sway of love/sex. He wants, so does
she, but she’s going to make him work for it.
The breathy shrill vocals of the women here
drive me *insane* (um that’s the good insane,
I know not everyone’s into this). And the guys
are smooth, they get away with leering, the
way a handsome charmed prince does. A good
social critic would deplore the over-the-top
candy served up to India’s impoverished masses,
but that critic would miss a lotta fun. Sends
Shiva up and down my spine. -Thurston Hunger

Simovic & Drajec (soundtrack) – “Sexworld ” – [Stomach Ache]

Max Level   2/1/2006   7-inch, Soundtrack

Experimental archival material seems to be the stock in trade for the Dolor Del Estomago (Stomach Ache) label, who very likely doesn’t even have permission to be putting it out. Not surprisingly, I was unable to find ANY information on this particular 7″ online. Side A is a six-minute abstract cut-up thing with flutes, percussion, buzzing, and samples. Side B, at four and a half minutes, sounds like cheesy porn-movie background music, recorded off what might have been somebody’s TV speaker. Fake funky, with wah-wah guitar, etc.

East-West (soundtrack) – “East-West ” – [Sony Music Distribution]

Thurston Hunger   10/1/2005   CD, Soundtrack

“Indie films” — the IPO of the art world. This
film is not quite out yet, but looks like a
one woman – two men – two superpowers film.
Doyle is from Kenneth Branagh’s Theatre Company
where he acted as well as scored, er…make that
composed. This sdtk alternates portentious
string tingling arrangements and a few Men’s
Choir vocal bomber squads(2,7,19,25)…moving
strong, in mass, right on target…track 19
makes me wonder how the US won the cold war.
Or did we? -Tovareezsh Hunger

Angela’s Ashes (soundtrack) – “Angela’s Ashes ” – [Sony Classical]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Soundtrack

I can’t imagine the orig Star Wars w/o Williams’
score. Powerful, unapologetically melodramatic,
instantly familiar. Williams cranks out the
equivalent of killer metal riffs for movies. Some
sort of limbic bypass. For Angela’s Ashes, he works
a couple of main themes…an interlacing wistful
sands of time motif, and a skittish stacatto and
pizzicato march. While capturing anguish and ache,
the elegant dignity of this music will likely
contrast strongly with the grimy on-screen squalor
of famine Ireland, and soak many a handkerchief.
Toss in two time-stamp musical mementos(one Billie
Holiday!!), plenty of stark monologue and a little
Gaelic Harp. Masterful.

Messenger, the (soundtrack) – “Messenger, the ” – [Sony Classical]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   CD, Soundtrack

olid, spare-no-expense big budget film music
w/ twin horns of great melodramatic sound…
1) a lonely outcast battling against the odds
via a single instrument(guitar/violin)
set against a restrained symphony
2) the world in cataclysmic upheaval
via vertiginous stacking of instruments
upon instruments – huge ominous timpani,
swelling ranks of violins, harps tiptoe
tension, some great power Gregorian vox
The drums really forge the sound, lumbering
kettle drums, and buttresses of gongs and
splash cymbals. Some electronics on tracks
2,11,19,(at the end!!),20,22,25…suggest Coil
or Cold Meat and could easily be segued with
same. Last track is Titanically hideous, and
should have been burned at the stake.

Stroboscopica Vol. 2 [coll] – [Plastic Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soundtrack

Plastic Records continues to document the 70’s output of the Italian Cometa production music library with this second volume in the STROBOSCOPICA series. Like most production music, the tracks herein are short, simple, and indexed by instrumentation, tempo, and style. While certainly not in the same league as the full-length film scores of Morricone, Allesandroni, et. al., the music here is functional and fun. More reminiscent of 70’s television than anything else, the somewhat cliched compositions evoke suspense, anxiety, mystery, action, romance, and the hustle and bustle of daily life.

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