Writing a score for an imaginary film was quite a common practice not so long ago. Brian Eno had a go at it, obviously. Post-rock bands in particular absolutely loved this kind of caper too, although the kinds of music they were writing would have been more at home on a black and white European movie about duck migration than gracing a back-slapping cop-caper buddy flick.
Whether anyone has ever made a film to accompany any of these soundtracks in search of a home is hard to ascertain, but it’s only a matter of time before an appeal is set up to make sure these compositions serve the purpose for which they were written. A couple of the tracks from Filmmusik have been homed in the film Suit Of Lights, but for now, the rest exist only to underpin and highlight the images that exist in Amos’ and his audience’s imaginations.
Amos’ expansive and varied career is impressive; he has been a member of OM, Grails, Holy Sons and Lilacs & Champagne, and he is a multi-instrumentalist to boot. Even more impressive is the fact that his sonic scope is considerable. A number of these songs were written whilst concentrating on his other bands. Midnight Feature and Know Yr Arrested were penned as Lilacs & Champagne’s first songs, whilst Morbid Funeral and Chase Scene were written and recorded during the sessions for Grails’ Chalice Hymnal album. Unsurprisingly, much of what is on Filmmusik tallies with Amos’ work with Lilacs & Champagne in that it is laid back for much of the time. Midnight Feature for example sounds like a hip 1970s cop show, and channels the dark undercurrents and endless cool found in Lalo Schifrin’s Dirty Harry and Bullit soundtracks. Morbid Funeral is a much smoother affair with its soft-focus washes and sax solos. Funeral wise it’s hardly a New Orleans send off, but something far more introspective.
Smooth is very much the watchword for many of these compositions, and whilst Amos does mix it up a fair bit to keep things interesting, the pace is set at saunter throughout. Take Chase Scene for example; in a normal film, a chase would involve high octane excitement, fast cutting, and almost certainly some form of speed. Quite how Amos pictures a chase is anyone’s guess, but on this evidence, an increase in tempo is definitely not on the cards. Instead, what this track brings to mind is a cautious pursuit, possibly involving ducking down alleyways to avoid rousing suspicion, perhaps peering over the top of a newspaper occasionally, and there are most definitely a pair of dark glasses involved and probably an awesome looking leather jacket. As with elsewhere on the album, there’s a real expansive quality to the track, which suggests breathtaking cityscapes and plenty of wide shots.
Whatever the songs on Filmmusik are soundtracking, rest assured, it looks amazing. If there’s a problem with this work, it certainly isn’t in the songwriting, but the titles are a little misleading. With a chase scene that’s more of an amble, it’s perhaps no surprise to find that Dead Cop Drama is similarly laid back. This is not a composition that screams drama, but rather a sort of elegantly stoned acceptance of a dead cop; which admittedly would make for a far more clunky and odd title. Maybe he’s not dead, just really, really high.
There are numerous influences apparently at work across the album. Lonesome Traveller taps into the blues spiritual, whilst the vocals of Elements Cycling feel almost druidic, and its use of finger clicks to keep time can’t help but call to mind the effortless cool of Angelo Badalamenti’s work on Audrey’s Dance from the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Know Yr Arrested is a rather abstract piece, but rather than washes of sound, this is a more fragmented and cut up affair that pulls on hip hop and Warp for its inspiration. Scenic Colors continues to embrace programmed beats and synths, falling somewhere somewhere between John Carpenter, Romero, and DJ Shadow which is not a bad place to be.
Closing the whole affair is Another Day, it’s a brief tune but one that through its use of mixing clever cutting and a smooth demeanour calls to mind Nathaniel Merriweather’s Lovage: Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By (Lovage being something of a supergroup featuring Mike Patton, Kid Koala and Dan The Automator). It’s a fine close to a truly interesting album. Someone should really make a movie to go with it.