Vincent Gallo
Recordings of Music for Film
Warp
2002
C+

people seem to only love him or hate him. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about Vincent Gallo. But I’ve never seen Buffalo 66 and I’ve never seen any of his pictorial art (I’m sure he has some, right?). I’ve only heard When, his previous album released by Warp Records. And it was a pretty good record. Nothing that could be termed a low spot and nothing that could be termed extraordinary. It was an interesting left turn for the label, itself, but nothing that has been followed up on by anyone else on the roster (could you imagine Autechre doing acoustic guitar ditties about Mira Calix?). And it doesn’t seem like it’s been followed up by many other artists that I’ve ever heard before, either, in its exact form- which makes Gallo’s music so vibrant and original sounding. Sure, the motif is simple- acoustic guitar melody/forlorn singing- but the execution was something otherworldly.


On Recordings Of Music For Film it becomes clear that Gallo has been chasing this same aesthetic for some time now and that When is nothing, if not the culmination of his recorded output until that point.


Broken into sections for each different film that Gallo recorded music for, the album follows a linear chronological path making it easy to chart the progress of the musician. Taken as solely music and not soundtrack, the songs generally follow a very slow path to their final destinations. Each element is uncovered and explored to its repetitive breaking point. While the songs rarely clock in at over three minutes, each track feels as though it’s moving in another plane, irrespective of time.


The production value, as expected for many of his early works, is extremely lo-fi. It often sounds as if the tracks were recorded with an underwater sheen on top of them, lending a flickering candle quality to the melodies that otherwise might not be present. This lo-fi aesthetic, however, is embraced in the liner notes by Gallo as he talks very animatedly about his penchant for vintage gear. Gallo’s love of this style and a minimal amount of melodic development lend each track an eerie air to them- as though it is some sort of old time radio show that we are listening to.


Even though many of the tracks are instrumental, the same sort of mood is set by the instrumental backing as it occurred on When. Gallo often uses a simple guitar line to express his melodies, but on this release we find Gallo experimenting with other instruments and found sounds to create rich tapestries of sound. These rich tapestries, however, are not intricately detailed. They are left wide open for interpretation by Gallo and, presumably, left wide open for the film to not be overpowered by the musical accompaniment. Each song contains a large amount of space for thought, which is exactly what a film soundtrack should do. Taken as merely music, though, it sometimes does not hold interest all the way through. More than anything, Recordings Of Music For Film is an important historical document of Gallo’s film music, which might have been lost otherwise. It’s not essential listening by any means, but an interesting look into his working methods of previous years, nonetheless.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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