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Category Archives: Soundtracks

The dull and the downright dazzling

In the past week, I have been on somewhat of an album splurge. Here is what I’ve accumulated.

Yes! What an opener to an equally exceptional album. Spanky Wilson & The Quantic Soul Orchestra really need no introduction, producing the bass heavy and brass looping ditty I’m Thankful (Part 1), with delicate guitar and THAT voice.

The subject of my first ever blog, Field Music released their latest offering, Music For Drifters, only yesterday. Having had the pleasure of witnessing the album in its entirety live at the Islington Town Hall back in 2013, the Brewis brothers have laid down on record their instrumental soundtrack to the seminal silent documentary Drifters. As ever, it serves to demonstrate the breadth and intelligence the duo possess when composing.

Also officially released yesterday, Creation (East L.A.) from Quantic presents The Western Transient is a world feast. I have been told by a chap who I hold in very high esteem that the track is a ‘bit dull’…………I would argue otherwise.

There seem to be a few versions kicking around of this fantastic tune (the Planet Records Archive, Vol 1 cut I cannot seem to find), but this slower version of Perpetual Langley’s Surrender packs just as much punch. The vocal is simply wonderful.

And finally, also the subject of one of my previous blogs, Quopern by Sax Ruins has undeniable and unbridled joy in its main motif. Typically of the duo, it veers off into mind melting territory, perhaps not one for the soothing of a headache. Still, it’s bloody good.

Enjoy!

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Thrillers as they should be

Wow, it’s been well over a month, how time has flown, yardy yardy yah, blah blah blaaaaaaaaaaah.

Anyhow, I watched a particularly brilliant and icily captivating thriller last weekend which has instantly propelled itself up my favourites chart – The Conversation.

Gene Hackman’s perpetually paranoid character, the sombre tone, the ponderous storyline……….topped off by one creepy mother of a soundtrack.

The_Conversation

Composed by David Shire, the main piano theme hits the spot for me, with its intensely sad feeling but a melody that trills wonderfully. It perfectly conveys the demeanour of the film’s protagonist, but in pure musical terms very much reminds me of Erik Satie. And that’s why I guess it hooked me.

The other main thematic piece, Whatever Was Arranged drives home the feeling of being on the edge, taking a more jazz influenced stance but sounding remarkably close to its above sister track.

So go forth! Watch the film if you have not done so already! But keep an ear out for that tasteful piano in the background.

Enjoy.

p.s. Check out the ensemble version of the main theme if you can get your hands on it.

 

Evaporate the remaining ethanol

I’m not a fan of being hungover. There is something horribly wasteful about starting your weekend feeling like you want to crawl into a hibernation nest of duvets and bottled water, keeping contact with the outside world to an absolute minimum.

Help me out here pal.

Help me out here pal.

So what can help to ease the self loathing and anxious liver?

A firm favourite of mine, Erik Satie’s Gnoissiennes – 1. Lent is perfect minimalist music, each note of the dark melody played with maximum effect. It never fails to relax me.

The last track on Mr. Scruff’s Big Chill Classics compilation album, Serene by Nobukazu Takemura features a soothing xylophone run at 1.48 and hypnotic vocal harmonies from 2.43. A real slow burner.

Is There Any Way Out Of This Dream? by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle is lifted from the soundtrack for One From The Heart. A moody jazz number, it is a clear case of the ability Waits possesses to write such music at will.

If See You Later by Dave Mackay and Vicky Hamilton does not make you melt into your seat like a character from Raiders of the Lost Ark, then you should probably get a check up. It does not get much smoother.

Finally, arguably the most placid and relaxing composition of all time, Second Movement (Adante) from Piano Concerto No 21 in C K467 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is simply beautiful. If you need pure serenity in music, then look no further.

Looney Tunes geeeeeeeetar…………………….groovy.

Louis Theroux has made a good documentary or two, it must be said. Apart from the game hunting one in South Africa, when he didn’t shoot an animal after the rather tepid build up. That was weak.

However, upon watching the ‘Gangsta Rap’ episode again the other night, I could not help but Shazam some of the fine tunes used to accentuate the narrative interludes. I’m glad I did, otherwise I might never have chanced upon Esquivel.

Aside from the above track, Mini Skirt, which is used as the theme tune for Weird Weekends, Esquivel has a whole host of other quirky Latin aribas. Below is one such example, El Cable, which is directly lifted from the ‘Gangsta Rap’ episode.

Finally, also from the same episode, this catchy little number by Brooklyn’s Cocktail Angst. Feisty.

And with that exceptional vocal performance, I bid you adieu!

Vocal bliss

Dirty Projectors

Vocal harmonies are something which I just can’t quite grasp in my mind, in how to put them into practice myself. Much like how a good drummer manages to make all their limbs flail in a random motion and produce a coherent beat.

When done well, vocal harmonies and melodies can transform a song which revolves around one or two notes into a thing of memorable beauty.

Quite probably the best ever three-part harmony pop group, The Beatles are an obvious choice. There is far too much to choose from, Nowhere Man and Here, There And Everywhere are two that instantly spring to mind, but I have a particular love for Yes It Is. Cast aside as too similar a song to This Boy and thus used as the B-side for the Ticket To Ride single, Yes It Is utilises complex harmonies and is a Lennon composition that showcases his ability to reel off beautifully melodic songs at will. McCartney and Harrison coming back in at 1.12 after the double tracked Lennon vocal is particularly nice.

Upon hearing this piece for the first time on the Moonrise Kingdom soundtrack, I was hooked and listened to it over and over again for a long while. As creepy as it is hypnotic, On The Ground, Sleep Sound is taken from Benjamin Britten’s opera of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It would be rude not to mention The Mamas and the Papas on such a blog, with their track I Saw Her Again Last Night.

And finally, one of the best vocal groups I have ever witnessed live, Dirty Projectors take the biscuit when it comes to ridiculously tight and incredible sounding harmonies. Bitte Orca and Swing Lo Magellan are two brilliant albums full to the brim with singing prowess, with the below acoustic version of No Intentions taken from the former. After David Longstreth’s initial lone intro, the perfect pitch harmonies start from 0.22 and are at their best during the choruses, the first one kicking in at 1.12.

p.s. If you can find a decent live version of Beautiful Mother by the Dirty Projectors from the Mount Wittenberg Orca EP, with Bjork, then that is well worth viewing too.

Bacharach, Joplin and Hamlisch – the sounds of Redford and Newman

Pre-SSHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIITT!

Pre-SSHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIITT!

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a superb film, my favourite in fact. Aside from the hilariously funny interplay between Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and the manner in which the film’s story unfolds in beautiful parts of the Americas, the film has a fantastic soundtrack. Written by Burt Bacharach, it most notably contains the classic Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head. However, it is the piece The Old Fun City that really stands out for me – a rip-roaring, ragtime period jazz piece that has a hugely catchy melody and textured instrumentation. Starting off at a relaxed pace with boppy piano, the tune quickly picks up and invites you to start dancing instantly. If you are in need of a pick me up, then look no further than this.

Another highlight is South American Getaway, set to the point in the film where robbing Bolivian banks has become second nature. With beautifully layered vocal harmonies and seamless changes in tempo, this track is equally uplifting as it is heavyhearted.

While not quite on the same level as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting is nevertheless a great film and has a soundtrack arranged and composed by Marvin Hamlisch, featuring pieces written by the master of ragtime piano Scott Joplin.

sting

I will sign off with Easy Winners, a breezy and typically Joplinesque number, and The Glove, a short piece composed by Hamlisch himself, which are both taken from the film’s soundtrack. I do hope you enjoy, and also feel the urge to don a pin striped suit and gamble the night away with a fat cigar hanging from the corner of your sneering mouth.