Stretch Your Ears: Cinemix
Friday 29 August 2003
If the vogue for cinema soundtracks and French remixes already seems a little last-century, it's hardly the fault of Cinemix (EmArcy Records), a grand projet that has been in development for some time. The idea is a good one: original film themes by some of the best composers for French cinema from the 1960s to the 1980s (including several by Robbie Williams's fave, François de Roubaix), reworked by a cast of hip names from the avant-garde end of dance music, such as Howie B, Luke Vibert, Carl Craig and Zzouff.
It gets off to a great start with the opening track, "Ferdinand" by Sporto Kantes, which has one of the those nagging, insistent, hooks that can haunt you for weeks. Using a snippet of Antoine Duhamel's score for Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou (1965), and a sampled reggae vocal by Earl 16, the producers create a dreamy soundscape that is part-hommage, part-magical incantation. "It's the music, rebel music," goes the vocal, before the ominous strings enter and everything gets dark. "There's a kind of melancholy that comes off this tune, it's a window opened on to an imaginary past," Sporto Kantes says of Duhamel's original. It's trip-hop, basically.
Unfortunately, nothing else quite lives up to this opening statement. "Sans Mobile Apparent: Bright Star Remix", by Readymade FC, has a fair go, using Ennio Morricone's celeste-laden theme as the basis for a psychedelic period-piece, complete with Sandy Denny-like vocal by Sabisha. There is also another, rather less successful, attempt at the theme later on.
More fun is "The Cercle Rouge Remix" by Christian Morgenstern; but here, as with the Sofa Surfers and Howie B remixes of Serge Gainsbourg's theme for "La Horse", what we're given is little more than a sketch. Remixers, eh? They've taken the money and run, yet again.
Another EmArcy release, by the Norwegian composer and pianist Ketil Bjornstad, is equally cinematic, although it has nothing to do with film at all. Recorded at Rainbow Studio, Oslo, The Nest consists of 17 original pieces, some written for a play about the Nobel prize-winning author Sigrid Undset (1882-1949), and others suggested by the poetry of Hart Crane, whom Bjornstad was reading at the time.
As if any more subtext were required, the album takes its title from a photograph by Eva-Maria Riegler, reproduced on the sleeve. The music, for a quartet plus occasional vocals by Anneli Drecker, is spare and beautiful, if perilously close to cloying.
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