Wednesday, May 29, 2013

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Trevor Dunn is well known as a bassist par excellence who plays and performs with John Zorn's Electric Masada and Moonchild units, and also as Mike Patton's collaborator and fellow agent provocateur in Mr. Bungle and Fantômas. He also plays with numerous other ensembles and leads his own jazz and mutant rock Trio-Convulsant. Fewer, however, know him as a composer of film soundtracks. Four Films isDunn's volume in Tzadik's Film Music series, and showcases Dunn's scores for three different directors --Peter Bolte (V.O. and Dandelion Man); Cameron Vale (White Noise); and Holly Neuberg (Glendale Blvd.). Dunn sequenced this collection aesthetically rather than according to soundtrack, so cues from one score may be inserted directly into another. It's rather irritating on one level, but if listening to a score in its entirety is your bag, you can program the CD player to do just that -- though you won't necessarily know what order the cues are placed in. Perhaps he should have offered more clues. This caveat aside, the sheer range of music found on this set, some with collaborators, some performed completely solo on various instruments, is actually quite surprising. From sparse, suspenseful cues such as "Contemplator" (with Shelley Burgon on harp) that are reminiscent of early solo pre-cinema work byMark Mothersbaugh to the eerie Morricone-esque arid Western theme with drummer Kenny Wollesenthat serves as the end title theme of V.O., Dunn's range is wildly impressive. So often when modern musicians are asked to score films they throw in everything but the kitchen sink, but as these 26 cues prove, Dunn employs just enough and no more. His economy of scale is dictated by his aesthetic, not his ambition. This also goes for the more electronic and industrial free-form pieces like the brief "Second Nightmare" sculpted for White Noise, where feedback and sound effects are set according to taut phrases of ebb and flow (or wonk and wail, if you will) rather than cluttering the frame with dense sonics. They have character, nuance, taste. Near the end of the album are four cues all in sequence for White Noise that further illustrate this principle. "Fire Disco" (it sounds exactly like one) has a beautifully vulgar French narration by Olivier Conan to introduce the notion of atmospheric if not musical excess first employed by composers like Serge Gainsbourg. The Lynchian suburban-bliss-as-surf-music sounds of "This Boardwalk" offer a lovely evocation of exactly the sort of place Glendale Blvd. is. Four Films is an excellent addition to both Tzadik's film music catalog and Dunn's personal one.


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