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A Rich Cacophony For The Undead ..........
on 5 March 2014
This a strange and seductive collection from Jozef van Wissem & SQÜRL (the band of Jim Jarmusch) which floods your ears with a delightful mix of uneasy but embracing music. It does help immensely if you have seen the movie, but if not it will still leave its emotional thumbprint, just without the haunting images it conjures up.
The music is a mix of lightly blended guitars, some exotic instrument I don't know, drums and more heavy electric guitars. It is both heady and enticing but with a harsh metallic undertow. In a way it evokes the two distinct continents that the movie is set in. The rock sounds of Detroit and the more earthy and rhythmic music of North Africa.
The pace is slow and heavy and can make you feel somewhat drugged by it, almost like being a bit hungover but in a good way.
The album is split into halves, the first being the music from the portion of the film set in Detroit and the second part when they move to Tangier.
I won't go into a track by track review but I will comment on a few of the highlights. The second track is a remix of 'Funnel of Love', it is slowed down to almost be hypnotic and given a grungy flavour. Feeling almost as if it is an old LP set to play on a clapped out and slow turntable with something altogether different playing in the next room. It works well though and as the opening track of the movie it sets the tone of the album perfectly.
As the tracks progress they start to drift from the Motown/Detroit/Rock infused offerings and begin to morph towards the easier listening latter tracks, The pivotal track is 'Spooky Action at a Distance' which you could happily slow dance to in a smoke filled dive, feeling very 'cool' whilst doing it. The tracks after this are all more earthy and warm and are impressionistic of North Africa. The harsh guitar backing is tempered by a more majestic and timeless beat and percussion. 'Sola Gratia Pt 2' is almost processional in feeling and begins to really make the listener appreciate the slow passing of time, a main theme in the movie. 'Hal' sung by Yasmine Hamden is a delightful high point, her voice is beautiful and is a well deserved break in what can be a quite brilliant but oppressive album. By the end of the disc the music slips into a more gothic feel befitting the subject matter it is drawn from.
Although I was greatly impressed with the music on this disc I did miss not having the other tracks that appear in the movie, a second disc of those would have made the album a complete experience. 'Trapped By a Thing Called Love' by Denise LaSalle amongst others are missing. Their inclusion would have added a lighter tone which would have benefited this quite heavy ensemble as they comprise of Motown, Disco and Rock. It would have been given a more rounded feel. Then again it may have broken up the continuity which is achieved by the CD as it is.
About the packaging. The CD is black and comes presented in a digipak with a small photo booklet which shows the film sets. Tilda Swinton as Eve adorns the front, and Tom Hiddleston as Adam is pictured on the back. I was as hoping the CD would be red (as the vinyl release is pressed in red) but alas this may have been expecting too much.
All in all the CD requires a few listens to really appreciate it, at first it does come across as a bit of a strain on the ears and emotions. After a few times though it becomes a work in it's own right and not just a backing sound track for a vampire movie, something which it excelled at.
If you are a fan of the movie then this really is a must for you as it evokes the images that the movie imbeds in your mind. If you are a fan of SQÜRL then the same applies, it's a must. If you are unsure though then maybe listen to a few tracks online and get a feel for this remarkable and unsettling soundtrack. Even better would be to see the film and the music in context. My advice, put in on late a night and swan around your house fancying yourself 'Bohemian'. preferably with a glass of something in your hand and swaying gently to the music as if you are Adam or Eve. It transforms the 'listening' into an 'experience', It's what I do.
Many thanks for reading!