28 Apr 2015

The Brian Jonestown Massacre / Musique De Film Imaginé (album review)

The camera pans in on old, lonely man, hard at work in the rarest of professions. He's focused intently on his next cuckoo clock, a job he does in a small, picturesque wooden building with three or four noticably happier, younger clocksmiths. Oh wait, is that what really happens? My girlfriend pictured the humble cottage beginnings of what escalated to be a Florentine time-shifting film.

So wait, what is this film we're talking about? A film so blurry that you can't actually tell what's going on? A film that's so dark you can't tell what's going on? NO. As it happens, we ARE talking about a film, sort of, it's just also a film that doesn't exist. How can it be? Well, the mainly-mellotron based new album by culty San Fran psych legends The Brian Jonestown Massacre is the soundtrack, to a film, that's also a film that doesn't exist, and essentially, it's left for the listener to imagine the film. It's potentially a concept that can either go the way of being a beautiful, insular trip, or it could simply be OTT-tosh. It's safe to say however good this album is depends wholly on the execution of it, and as you can probably tell by the vividness of my intro, the Musique de film imaginé is the perfect imaginary film OST.

Through vivid mellotron-based mini-symphonies, it has a really great feel to it all the way through. A lot of influence comes from the soundtracks of early French cinema, and the film music influence is noticeable. However, bits and bobs do sound like a bits of pop music. Well, sort of. L'enfer ('The Inferno'), the track that drew me first to the album after hearing it on 6music, has that same forlorn swirl that Spanish Air by Slowdive has, but on a much grander scale even than Slowdive do.

It sounds big, and throughout the soft low mix vocals that crop up on a few songs are deep set in thick, dreamy music. It's on these songs, where it feels a tad more Twin Peaks than any pre-Lynch French films. This is far from a criticism of the music, in fact, it's here that the soundtrack is even more beautiful to listen to, and float off into a dream.

And another minor criticism, which I'm not sure is of myself, or the album's cred as imaginary film OST material. Sometimes the end of a song jumps to another piece of music really different, and I (as well as maybe some others) lose the picture of the film I have in my head, and picture an entirely different landscape with little or no relevance to my film about the misadventures of the Bavarian clockmaker.

But despite, musically it's such a powerful record. There are times, when listening to it, you will, as planned, be confronted by vivid, aesthetically pleasing imagery, and be thrust into the middle of a world that is entirely of your own imagining. And sure, sometimes you'll listen to it as the score to your mundane life and be too preoccupied in something else to let your imagination run wild, but ultimately, if you're prepared to lie down, and actively listen to 40 minutes of symphonic BJM brilliance, you'll certainly be rewarded.


Musique de film imaginé came out in the UK Monday, pick it up from here. Hear it below

(written by calum cashin)