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Klimek - Movies is Magic
Sebastien Meissner's last record
Dedications was a strikingly personal
artistic gesture from a composer who has
spent most of his career concealed behind
a multiplicity of pseudonyms, And, as its
literal, almost naive title suggests, Movies
is Magic is even more approachable, a lush,
dynamic paean to another source of artistic
inspiration - the soundtrack. The titles
are like the scene headings from imaginary
scripts ("True Enemies And False Friends",
"For Whom The Bells Toll"), and Meissner
uses these phrases as portals into a series
of distinctively elastic cinematic vignettes.
All the familiar techniques of the film score
are here - high, quivering strings, dramatic
splashes of percussion, swooning melodic
cadences, fraught silences - but these
conventions are constantly subverted by
unexpected juxtapositions. Tactically, it's
like listening to a cut-up, but the transitions
are so seamless it's the music's radiant
eloquence, rather than its surreal logic, that
makes the most lasting impression.
- The Wire
Lifting its title from a Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks song from their 1995 album, Orange Crate Art, this sublime new Klimek album engages with that age-old idea of creating soundtracks for films that don't exist. The actual track titles themselves reveal inspiration has been taken from famed film theorist and philosopher Slavoj Zizek, with feelgood names like 'Exposed to Life In Its Brutal Meaninglessness' littered ambiguously throughout the sequence. The musical content plays against the pre-conceptions of what we expect from film soundtracks - often by integrating sliced up field recordings and location sound with digitally dissected orchestral figures. The customary levels of depth and sonic richness you'd expect from a Sebastian Meissner production are abundant throughout Movies Is Magic, although there's a knowingly 'meta' approach to its cinematic soundscaping that makes you very aware of its processes; this isn't so much a suite of film music as it is an electroacoustic project about film music in general. Meissner strives to evoke images with acousmatic sound rather than accompany existing ones, and in this pursuit he proves highly successful, immersing the listener in a sound world that's populated by menacingly veiled environmental details and the dangerous faux-romanticism of orchestral syrup. Above all - it's just an incredibly beautiful album and another precious addition to the already formidable Klimek archive. Essential Purchase.
Over a handful of albums, German producer Sebastian Meissner has perfected his craft and honed a style that can best be described as truly his own. His last album, Dedications (also on the Anticipate label), was the pinnacle of his output, showing the emotional depth of his stuttering guitar-based ambience and garnering Meissner a well-deserved amount of attention. Since that record (which revealed a love of cinema in its 'dedications'), Meissner has clearly dived head-first into the silver screen, and this album (humorously named after a Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks collaboration) is no doubt a step forward in his style. The signature warble of time-stretched guitar is all but gone, and in its place are luxurious strings and orchestral flourishes taken from the golden age of cinema. While cinematic music, and especially music written for an as-yet-unwritten movie, is something of a cliché at the moment, Meissner avoids stepping into the usual tracks and arrives on a body of astoundingly affecting pieces. His music takes cues from Gas and Deaf Center, yet is neither as beat-laden nor as dark as either respectively -- rather, this is a contemporary view of movies past. There might not be the familiar crackle of the old movie soundtrack, but the nostalgia and warmth are present within each and every piece on the record. Meissner has managed to imbue his pieces with all this without losing the sense that Movies Is Magic is still most importantly a Klimek record, and it might just be his most developed album to date. There is certainly a depth and complexity to the production that I haven't heard before from his work, and I'm sure time will reveal just how gorgeous the pieces really are. - Other Music
The work of Sebastian Meissner has increasingly veered from the subtly ambient into the lushly cinematic, so this examination of sound and film is hardly a surprise. Aside from the Kompakt-friendly work produced as Klimek, he's also released processed field recordings of Jerusalem under the name Random Inc, glitchy machine rhythms as Bizz Circuits and abstract locked grooves with Ekkehard Ehlers as Autopoesies, and it's these latter guises that seem most relevant here. Movies is Magic is his most detailed and absorbing work to date, and one of the finest releases of the year.
Crucially, Meissner is not concerned here with merely re-contextualising film samples; rather, as the title implies, Movies is Magic explores the manipulative power of sound in film, Meissner performing similar feats on his listeners. Familiar sensations are evoked through the employment of sound/music vaguely associated with stock genres and settings, yet divorced from image or, more significantly, context, having your emotions callously shoved about like this is particularly unnerving. Referential samples show up - the rattly 'western' spurs of "Pathetic and Dangerous", for example, and the portentous clanging bell on "For Whom the Bells Toll" - but these are rare, Meissner preferring to focus on melody, built largely from strings, warped into murky, richly nuanced drones.
There's also an Eisensteinian knack for montage, with frequent shifts in tone that are dramatic but never abrupt. "Exploding Unbearable Desires" starts out in bucolic John Ford country, windswept harmonica drifting over a barren expanse, but imperceptibly we find ourselves in outer space, with the cold tones and cosmic pulses of science fiction. "Greed, Mutation, Betrayal" uses sparring trumpets similarly to his opener "True Enemies and False Friends" for Pop Ambient 2009, yet here they dissolve into a bizarre John Carpenter electro jam, with mumbled noir narration recalling "Lost Highway".Indeed, David Lynch is the most obvious referent throughout, arguably the director to most fully exploit the manipulative potential of sound in film, much of Movies is Magic thick with Lynchian sound-design menace. Meissner's music is richer, however, and the mood more ambivalent. "Sound of Confusion" mysteriously evokes the poignancy of parting in a Melville detective drama, muddy strings rolled into flickering waves of sadness, while opener "Abyss of Anxiety" seems to capture all the dreams and fears that the silver screen purports to offer: vast swathes of sound collapsing into a gorgeous sunburnt haze, atop of which Disney's Tinkerbell sprinkles trails of pixie-dust. For all of the convincing conceptual grit, Movies is Magic is ceaselessly beautiful, as intoxicating as the cinema itself, an incredible trip into dark and dizzying imagined worlds.
- Cyclic Defrost
Following the elaborate sonic tribute that was the Dedications album, Klimek's return to a full-length effort with Movies Is Magic found the Berlin-based Sebastian Meissner creating perhaps his more elaborate, entrancing release to that point in his career. Beginning with the appropriately titled "Abyss of Anxiety (Unfolding the Magic)," with a looped combination of distorted string samples that sound like they're unraveling over a bottomless pit, Klimek finds a key inspiration in not merely the combination of sonic sources but the way they seem to bleed into each other. The sense of crumbling edges persists throughout Movies Is Magic, a sense of a decaying tape soundtrack with calmer tones and rhythms as a subtle bed, where often the impact is of stark moods (the slow brass moans and squeals on "Greed, Mutation, Betrayal"). The variety of styles throughout prompts any number of fascinating comparisons without sounding like knockoffs -- if the military drums on "True Enemies and False Friends" suggests In the Nursery, for instance, it couldn't be confused with a track by that band in turn. Elsewhere, the cleaner stabs of synth on "Exploding Unbearable Desires," seemingly beamed in from a strange art rock record circa 1982, add a further shimmering unreality to the swell then fall of the whooshing tones and echoed melodica -- as if Vangelis had scored a version of Neuromancer instead of Blade Runner. The sense of classic dub echo and crawl -- but not necessarily threat -- crops up as well in songs like "Pathetic and Dangerous," while "For Whom the Bell Tolls" may not be a Metallica cover but is a striking penultimate song for a remarkable album, one of 2009's most unexpectedly adventurous releases.
- All Music Guide
Washed out, hazy, dreamy, shimmery, warm, droney, otherworldly, gauzy, ethereal, all perfectly describe a microgenre we've come to love, called simply Pop Ambient. A techno subgenre, that essentially removed the beats from electronic music, leaving just the shadows, the outlines, the colors, loosed from the stricture of rhythm (for the most part), those colors and moods and textures are free to seep and bleed and drift and vaporize, into whirring soft focus streaks of blurred, almost new age-y ambience. A sound that various other music makers have definitely referenced, Jeck, Tim Hecker, the Fun Years, anyone creating haunting drone music or textured minimalism, will no doubt find themselves drifting into a certain sort of pop ambience. But it seems, that pop ambience has a certain warmth, not quite sunshine-y, but definitely a glow, the imbues the majority of that music with a dreamlike luminescence. While the other folks traffic in something much darker, and while their sound may touch on pop ambience, it remains in the realm of the black, the grey, the sonic underworld.
Weirdly enough, we do find ourselves wondering about a pop ambience that was, well, less glowing, more ominous, something darker and more sinister, that could somehow remain ambient pop, without slipping into something else, into dronemusic, or some sort of minimal noisemusic. Strange that it would come from Klimek, who is responsible for some of the dreamiest prettiest pop ambient music we've heard, but Movies Is Magic, Klimek's 'film music' record, is in fact that rare beast, a gorgeous slab of pop ambience, that seethes with tension and emotion and drama, sure it shimmers and glistens, but it also creeps and hums ominously, drones are layered and pulled taut, melodies are minor key and are wrapped around looped cycling strings, field recordings, voices, organic instruments, all woven into Klimek's constantly mutating noir soundscape.
Gorgeous and haunting, these tracks evoke everyone from Bohren, to Autechre, Philip Jeck to Pole, Barry Adamson to Oval, this record would be a perfect fit for Kompakt if it weren't so dark, or Chain Reaction if there were some beats, instead, it exists in some strange rain soaked constant midnight nether region, the pop dialed way back, as is the ambience, this is anything but placid, or calm, this music is alive, crackling with dark energy, tense, and intense, very evocative and textural and moody. The songs are quite varied, but work perfectly together as a whole. Dark moaning horns surface here and there, Bernard Herrmann strings everywhere, the occasional skittery snare, rubbery bass, everything woven and smeared and layered, woozy and dreamlike, a few of the tracks sound all rural, a bit Morricone-ish and Western, subtly twangy with reverbed harmonica, others drift into flute flecked almost Kitaro sounding new age-y flutter, beneath a murmur of rainfall, disembodied reverbed voices, murky percussion, and hazy looped melodies.
Here and there, the record does get all dubby, with little synth stabs, and careening not-quite beats, all wrapped in whir, and exuding a serious sonic import, sometimes sounding almost sinister, but just as often pulling back into something much more melodic and mysterious, straddling the line between lush drift and blackened beauty. Movies Is Magic is our new late night chill out drift off soundtrack, and should certainly appeal to folks who like us maybe always fantasized about a little darkness in their ambient drift. And folks into dark drone music, black ambience, and soundtrack music, might find this the perfect gateway to the fuzzy dreamy drifty world of pop ambience.."
- Aquarius Records