Anton Newcombe founder and leader of the legendary Brian Jonestown Massacre has released their 15th album Musique De Film Imagine. The predominantly instrumental record was generating and originated by Newcombe on “the band’s behalf” and is a departure from the Neo Psychedelic genre that is Brian Jonestown Massacre’s stock and trade. The album is best described as a soundtrack to an imaginary French film. It pays homage to the late 50’s and 60’s Parisian Rive Gauche Film culture. Best personified by directors Francois Truffant and Jean-Luc Godard.
Newcombe recorded and produced the album in his Berlin home studio in August 2014. Anton composed all the music for the release. There are two vocal tracks on the album provided by guest performers; French multi-instrumentalist Soko and Italian actress and singer Asia Argento other than their contributions it is completely Newcombe’s handiwork.
Brian Jonestown Massacre has morphed and shape-shifted through numerous genres in their storied history; from neo-psychedelic, thru altie folk to shoegaze, and many in between, combining and mixing an eclectic brew with each release. In this incarnation Newcombe alone takes on the ambient and soundtrack categories. The prolific mastermind delivers an intellectual mind expanding listen. Newcombe is as always marching to the tune of his own drummer as he goes in a completely different direction from anything that would remind you of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s prior efforts. Musique De Film Imagine is engaging and beautiful, it is in turns esoteric and sparse. Listeners approaching the collection with an open mind will be swept up into the sonic canvas Newcombe has created.
There is a certain novelty in an album made by an American in Berlin creating music for an imaginary French film. There are few besides Newcombe who would have the courage to attempt it, or the skills to actually pull off the feat. The music moves through shadowy palettes of emotion never defining what the listener should envision from each track, instead as Newcombe suggests “Now it’s it your turn, you are the listener, to imagine the film.” Newcombe has always challenged his admirers to engage their minds and stretch the boundaries and no more so then in this recording. A track like Apre Le Vin ,(Goodness from the Grape) is a beautiful reverb filled track and acts as the intro to the film. It is wavering and shimmering, with a beautiful ambient moody melancholy sound.
The first track released from the album Philadelphie Story is a hat tip to the French directors of New Cinema and their adoration of the American director George Cukor’s 1940 romantic comedies. French New Wave directors would re-imagine his works in their films. On this track there is swirling instrumentation fused to vocalist Soko’s dramatic vocals. A feature of the song is the beautiful chorus translated from French,”Hallelujah, let’s sing my resurrection.” The vocals sung in French also give the track a nuance of sensuousness. The track calls to mind and would not be out of place on the Wim Wenders film “Wings of Desire”.
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La Dispute” (the quarrel) has a primitive feel with a gothic harpsichord making for a surreal feeling. The Flute expresses the emotion of the piece. When I saw the title of the song L Enfer (Hell), I expected something completely different from the actual song. Expecting something very dark and angry instead the song is very vibrant and alive in feeling. It is dramatic and almost anathematic, beautifully textured and enthralling. Elle S Echappe (She Escapes) has a more traditional rock sound and the most like the recent work of Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Le Cadeau (the gift), Les Trois Cloches (The three bells), L Ennui” (boredom), and La Question” (the issue) are all relatively short interludes. Les Trois Cloches is just three bells ringing and possibly a bow to the renowned song, “The Three Bells”. Each of these selections works as a segue way to longer compositions.
Newcombe is a wunderkind on Le Sacre du Printemps (The rite of Spring) conveying the mood through the instrumentation as Asia Argento’s vocals deliver a sensual song over a slowly drifting sound celebrating love and it’s possibilities. Le Souvenir (the memory) is another surreal track with a dark avant guarde twist. Bonbon” (Candy) and Bonbon Deux are harmonic in nature and sounds to me like an Ondes Martenot at work. The music seems to set about describing a scene of a grey steel ocean on a foggy day. BonBon is melancholy, where Bonbon Deux shares the same musical motif as Bonbon but is much more triumphant in sound. The final track Au Sommet (the summit) has an atmospheric sound that is both mournful and eternal in its aura, a coda that could accompany the end credits of an imaginary French film.
This collection of music is far from a mainstream album. For those who appreciate a challenge or enjoy ambient music this is an engaging listen. If you suspend your preconceptions you can envision the film that would correspond with the music. It is enjoyable to imagine the movie that would work with the music or if you are familiar with Truffant and Godard’s work trying to select which track would work for which director’s films. Musique de Film Imagine is a thought provoking exercise in using your imagination. Newcombe get’s high marks for pushing the envelope with this innovative and intriguing release.