Music Reviews

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.

Next Stop Wonderland [coll] – [Verve/Polygram]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Soundtrack

The soundtrack to director Brad Anderson’s debut film about looking for love in modern-day Boston is 100% bossa nova. Evenly weighted between classic tracks and specially-recorded cover versions and incidental music, this is perfect music for a hot summer day: easy on the ears but harmonically and rhythmically sophisticated. 1998 marks the 40th anniversary of the bossa nova; what better time to acquaint or re-acquaint yourself with its many charms?

Easy Tempo Vol. 4 [coll] – [Easy Tempo]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soundtrack

As the subtitle confirms, Volume 4 in the Easy Tempo series presents “a kaleidoscopic collection of exciting and diverse cinematic themes.” From bossa nova to blaxploitation, that’s no lie! Highlights of this volume include a super-funky version of Desmond Dekker’s classic “Israelites”, plus those waka-waka guitars and wordless vocals we love so well. Keep ’em coming!

Lurie, John (soundtrack) – “African Swim/Manny & Lo ” – [Strange & Beautiful]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Soundtrack

This latest release from the great John Lurie combines two original film scores. Twenty-five tracks total, most of them short, featuring many of the usual downtown suspects: Marc Ribot, Calvin Weston, Doug Wieselman, Bill Ware, and even Medeski, Martin and Wood. The more atypical highlights have Lurie: plucking a banjo on track 1, recounting a humorous hard-luck tale in his best Barry White voice on track 3, and punking out on the all-too-brief track 17. Beyond that, the African-influenced title theme for “Manny & Lo” (tracks 13 & 25) ranks right up there with the very BEST Lurie compositions. Another wonderful release from John Lurie.

Italian Job, the (soundtrack) – “Italian Job, the ” – [None]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soundtrack

“The Italian Job” is an obscure British caper comedy from the late 60’s about a gang of cockney criminals who attempt to rob a shipment of gold bullion in Turin, Italy. Until now, the Quincy Jones soundtrack has been EXTREMELY collectible due to the film’s poor box office performance in America. Fortunately, this French reissue sets things right. The soundtrack album contains three vocal tracks, notated as such in the liner notes, and a variety of instrumentals, of which the highlight for me was the jazz arrangement of “Greensleeves.” The music is light, airy, and generally in character for a British comedy.

Brown, James (Sou (soundtrack) – “Black Caesar ” – [Polydor]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soundtrack

James Brown and Fred Wesley scored this blaxploitation gangster flick from 1973 that was written, produced, and directed by Larry “It’s Alive” Cohen. The album is fairly evenly balanced between instrumentals featuring the J.B.’s and vocal numbers from the Godfather of Soul. Singer Lyn Collins also features on one track, “Mama Feelgood.” The tracks that will make you feel REAL good are the openers and closers on each side. The rest is mostly filler.

Slowblow “Noi Albinoi” [Kitchen Motors]

Thurston Hunger   2/13/2005   CD, Format, Soundtrack

Dagur Kari wrote/directed the film from whence this music
floes. Even by Icelandic standards, this music is chilly.
The pump organ seems to have an arctic wind blowing through
it at times (especially on “Another Hole”). Hmmm, somehow
in writing a track title with caps, I feel I have betrayed
this release. This wants to be lower than lower case, well
with the exception of the faux muzak on “Morgun” which was
written/performed by Sigridur Nielsdottir, a 73-year old
outsider musician who has allegedly issued near 30 albums
of her casiotone-for-the-plainfully-happy. Check out her
work on “Komdu Litla Barnid” that is a sweet lullabye that
just suspends time. “Groove” thaws out the drum kit, and
drags some nice neanderthal knuckles along a rock riff.
Weird and welcome to hear that dirtbag rock amidst all
the pristine iciness. Less out of its element, though
different is the licensed Shostakovich “Elegy” as done
by the Rubio Quartet. Aside from the Nielsdottir, the
only other vox are at the end, with the other Slowblower
Orri Jonsson. Iced-aged.

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