Saturday, November 7, 2015

Having an Awful Time, Wish You Were Here

Just when I think I’ve driven Mrs. Jaybee to distraction with all the weird sounds I drag in from outside, she goes and out-weirds me.

Shutter Island: Music from the Motion Picture

Turns out Shutter Island is one of her favorite movies (that’s an entire post by itself, but never mind) and she particularly loved the closing theme.

Almost a sister record to Ocean of Sound in its ability to unnerve with unexpected sounds, it’s ultimately sadder (what a surprise!) and prettier (ditto, but without the sarcasm).

It even shares a cut with that record, which I’ve now listened to at least 30 times and still don’t quite hear, but that’s Eno for you). But whereas that record left you feeling weirded out but vaguely thrilled about the sounds our world can create, here the general tone is of dread about the worst this world can do to you.

So this record is Not Fun. Not at all.

It’s a put-it-on-and-go-read-or-something record. Otherwise, don’t blame me that you end up digging out the razor blades.

It starts with an ten minute piece called “Fog Tropes”, which makes sense if you’ve seen the movie. It’s the sound of a ship entering a harbor through the fog, somehow created through the use of several wind and brass instruments playing at a very low register. It’s perfect for the film, providing the right amount of foreboding, and manages to be an interesting piece of music, too.

There are several other modern classical pieces whose selection for this soundtrack seems based on their ability to unnerve you and provoke anxiety. They subtly vary the overall mood from fearful, resigned, desolate, and occasionally sublime.

Also mixed in are period hits from Johnny Ray, Kay Starr and Lonnie Johnson that keeps things from getting too cerebral. But don’t be fooled. They only intensify the mood.

The peak may be the beautiful “On the Nature of Daylight”, which is sad enough by itself, but when, at the end, it's combined with Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth” with all the hope removed from it - the effect is devastating.

So if you’re the kind of person, like me, who is willing to dedicate a couple of precious hours on something that will ultimately make you feel awful (what? doesn’t everyone do that?), skip the TV for one night and listen up.

You’ll be sorry, but glad, you did.


“This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight”

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