There doesn’t seem to be much that Tracey Thorn hasn’t turned her hand to – as well as being the iconic voice for so many Everything But The Girl songs, she’s also written a brilliant memoir called Bedsit Disco Queen and even recorded one of the few Christmas albums, Tinsel And Lights, that sounds just as good in the middle of the summer as it does in the festive season.
Songs From The Falling however, is Thorn’s first foray into the world of film soundtracks. While a few bands have turned their hand to this in recent times – Arcade Fire‘s soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s film Her and Summer Camp‘s work on the teen film documentary Beyond Clueless spring to mind – Thorn’s album is a slightly different beast.
For one thing, as the title suggests, these are simply songs from Carol Morley’s drama about a fainting spell at a girls’ school in the late ’60s. There are no instrumental passages or conventional ‘score’ (which, given Thorn’s wonderful voice, is a blessing), and at just eight tracks and under 20 minutes long it feels more like a series of sketches than a finished album. Yet, there’s something wonderfully hypnotic about the whole record which pays repeated dividends.
It’s also about as close to an Everything But The Girl reunion as we’re likely to get – although Thorn plays all the instruments on every track, her husband and erstwhile band member Ben Watt is on production duties – and there are moments that recall the duo’s early days. In particular, It Was Always Me, with its mournfully strummed guitar could have come straight from their 1985 album Love Not Money, and the devastatingly pretty little piano coda on All The Seasons sounds like an out-take from the beautiful Idlewild.
Thorn has spoken in interviews about the unconventional way that the soundtrack was put together – Thorn would complete the songs in one take, without ever seeing any scenes from the film and send them to Morley who would slot them into place as she saw fit. This means that it works just as well as a record in its own right as it does as a souvenir of the film, even if they aren’t the most conventional songs in Thorn’s back catalogue.
There’s an eerie, otherworldly character to much of the album, helped in no small part by the fact that Thorn played the actual instruments that are used in the film – so, there’s a slightly jarring xylophone line running through the opening Follow Me Down, while the percussion on All The Seasons sounds like it could have come straight from a school orchestra.
Yet it’s Thorn’s songwriting chops (and, of course, that beautiful voice – still as warm and rich now as it was over 30 years ago) that hold these songs together. Although some tracks are so spectral and fragile that they threaten to blow away, they still possess a rare emotional impact, as proven by the haunting Are You There.
In fact, the only complaint to be had of Songs From The Falling is that it’s almost over before it’s begun; at just 17 minutes long, it certainly can’t be accused of overstaying its welcome. Still, it certainly makes for a nice stop-gap before Thorn’s next studio album.