Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Sand and the Stars, the fourth full-length release by Bristol's Movietone, is literally a musical journey, taking the players from the beach to the city and finally ending up "on a coast path, illuminated by a lighthouse." Movietone continue with their intensely delicate music, but this time around the shimmering music seems to be more intimate, more organic, and closer to the listener in sonic space than the atmospherics of Day & Night and Blossom Filled Streets -- elements that may be due to the locations of recording. The production by Matt Jones is a bit more aggressive than Movietone's other works, but still captures that heart-wrenching quality of Movietone through the instrumentation and wonderful vocal work. Melancholy like all of their records, Kate Wright's wonderful vocals haunt against the acoustic instruments playing off one another. A communal, dark campfire vibe shines through on "Pale Tracks," where Sam Jones, Matt Jones, Kate Wright, and Rachel Coe all have vocal duties and sing with the swirling nature of the music. "We Rode On" and "Snow Is Falling" are Movietone at their best, using various instruments like clarinet, cello, banjo, bass saxophone, trumpet, double bass, drums, and guitar set against wave samples in the background, creating a chilling environment. "Near Marconi's Hut" rounds out the record, leaving the listener with a sadness that The Sand and the Stars is over and a longing for more from Movietone. The Sand and the Stars is another wonderful release from Movietone, keeping you in the imagery of a movie you saw a long time ago or a dream that you cannot shake from your memory.
Here are a couple of handy comparison points to make when trying to impress bohemian friends with your knowledge of Movietone: Robert Wyatt's gentle, English prog-folkiness; the free-jazz inflections of Movietone's fellow Bristol experimentalists Flying Saucer Attack, Crescent, and Third Eye Foundation; St Etienne, if they'd ever spent time on the windswept, static streets of Chicago; the seductive humor of Jacques Tati's films, all blurred and snapped again through an antique Brownie camera; and seagulls hovering over the broken pier on Brighton front. The Blossom Filled Streets is an apt description for this most bewitching of mood-creators: every last echoed guitar chord and faraway horn resonates with the sound of England's backwater towns. No track should be picked out--as soporific and surprising as "1930s Beach House" and "In a Marine Light" are--because the whole is a seamless soundscape, the soundtrack to a movie that just doesn't need to be made. --Everett True