Sunday, July 12, 2015

Brian Jonestown Massacre's "Musique de la film imaginé": Music Review

As the membership of this band dwindles to frontman and founder Anton Newcombe and whomever he hires, the music lowers its volume. No trace of the raucous neo-psychedelia of the many line-ups of The Brian Jonestown Massacre remains on Musique de la film imaginé. Instead, as the title promises, this soundtrack for an imagined French film provides subdued moods for reverie.  

Starting off the tracks quietly, “Après Le Vin” and “La Dispute” conjure up ambling melodies on Brian Eno’s late-1970s albums. “Philadelphie Story” adds the voice of chanteuse SoKo to dramatize the emotional surge of this ballad. It sounds as if from a French New Wave movie over half a century ago.

“L'Enfer” adds a mid-tempo set of drums, bass and keyboards. Yet it is no longer rock. Over six minutes, it descends by simple progressions into its titular subterranean atmosphere, gloom and not fire. Many songs repeat motifs. The listener can create his or her own mental visions of what these songs suggest.

No credits have been provided in this review disc. It appears as have recent BJM recordings on Newcombe’s own A Records label. The publicity material mentions Newcombe “on behalf of” his band. Recorded at his studio in his adapted home of Berlin, the understated quality of many tracks persists. Newcombe has departed so completely from his previous style that issuing this largely solo recording under the BJM moniker may confuse loyal fans. However, the albums he has issued under the band’s name since his relocation have anticipated the introspection and mature shifts of this latest release.

Asia Argento is best known as an actress in her father Dario’s provocative Italian films. She sings on “Le Sacre du Printemps” but her voice is mixed down. She suggests more than shouts her lyrics in French. At six minutes, this is over double the average length of nearly all the other tracks, many of which pass by rapidly. Like much of this brief album, it is a respectable tune, but no song here can be called a standout.

Later tracks help recover the emotion. Returning to the Eno feel, “Le Souvenir” employs simple keyboards to create a brooding sensation. “Les Trois Cloches” totals a few chimes over twenty seconds. The best song comes late on. Lonely percussion over strings and electronics evoke well “L'Ennui.”

“Au Sommet” closes Musique de la film imaginé smoothly with yet another self-effacing Eno-esque arrangement. The attention Newcombe devotes to his craft, and his predecessors, merits respect. His band may dwindle to him alone, but he may, as this album attests, find a future career in film-scoring. (Spectrum Culture, edited in a different form. 6/25/15. As above on Amazon US 6-28-15.)

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