Mark D.- Music For Movies (Album Review)

 

Music for Movies

Music for Movies is as the title suggests a soundtrack for movies which was released on 24th May 2014. This is yet another creative output from Mark D who also happens to be the founding member of an alternative trio group called Higher Love.

In terms of the sequence of the album, it starts with ‘Searching for Your Love’. I will comment on this at the very end for a particular reason. According to me, the album logically starts with ‘Hitchcock’. This is an extremely interesting piece of work but unfortunately because I had the good fortune to see the actual movie for which the soundtrack was made; it doesn’t leave anything to my imagination other than those scenes that I saw. I would say because of that reason, the movie needs to be seen. This score will be appreciated more because of the way it is constructed and the way it moves from scene to scene. It is quite fast paced showing the day to day lives in a block of flats or housing area in 1950s era somewhere in Italy or a Mediterranean country. The sounds in itself are constructed from the barking of a dog- and what a brilliant way of making it sound so musical (I doubt whether I would have guessed it was a dog barking had I not been informed beforehand)… and there are sounds coming in and out, piano tinkling, someone using a washbasin (to my ears it sounds like that anyway). This is obviously very Hitchcockian and I am sure if Alfred Hitchcock were to actually hear this, he would probably offer Mark a role as a sound designer for his upcoming movie.

The next track is ‘Chase’ and once again lives up to its title’s expectations. An innovative rhythm section mixed with other thumping rhythmic sections make this a very exciting track to listen to.

‘Relaxation’ is less of a relaxation and more of a precursor to the hinting danger that is the sonic assault of ‘Narcotic Trip’. It is a noisy and disturbing psychedelia that would find a place in early Hawkwind’s albums. It is very unsettling but completely envelops the listener with its uncompromising sounds. All I can say is turn down the volume a little bit if you are feeling uncomfortable.

‘Greed’ is probably Mark’s sonic interpretation of how disgusting greed should sound with sounds of someone vomiting and sounds coming out of money box after being rattled. Just when you think it is over, there is that final screeching sound that has a kind of similar effect to the end of ‘Subway Song’ by The Cure.

For the next track if you are aware of the Biblical History of Nod, you’ll be able to properly appreciate its sonic landscape. ‘Land of Nod’ is mysterious, dark and a disturbing place with sounds of pigs squealing and snorting and the cries of scavenger birds. Maybe this could be seen as depicting the journey of a wanderer seeing all these images around him and listening to the sounds as she or he passes from place to place.

‘Rising Soon’ is almost like music that is composed while someone is doing yoga… with the deep breathing in and breathing out sounds. The vocals seems like they come out of a holy place or a shrine somewhere in the Middle East. It wails and wanders and then pitches very high as a climax. Very good composition.

‘Dried Out’ has very innovative rhythms, especially those typewriter sounds! Then there are bouncy and scratching sounds. It almost sounds like someone is on a journey.

We now reach the penultimate track (from my point of view) called ‘Safe Inside’ which is about feeling safe within your parameters, within yourself, etc… the snoring sounds are very much indicative of that and is a very clever usage that is so symbolic of that state. The piano and other sounds suggest a certain calmness that is found for the first time on this album. At last! Even when the danger is still lurking in the background, we can be assured of hope- finally in this (sonic) world!

… And this is where, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I should talk about what is supposedly the album’s first track- ‘Searching for Your Love’. This should have been the last song on the album purely because of the flow of the whole body of this work. It flows from the darkness and finally into the light. This is also a song on the album. Yes, there is actual singing from Mark. Sound-wise, it is a blend of Indian instrumentation and slight Ultra-era Depeche Mode feel to it. The Eastern mysticism and spiritual philosophies are evident in both the lyrics and the sounds. As an Indian, I can appreciate its sounds and the way it is used (and used well because  there is a lot of atmosphere in Indian music and it is more based on a feel or colour of the notes rather than technicalities). The artist says he wants to surrender to that ultimate power in every sense and he wants to reach the top.  This track could have easily been a Higher Love track and if it were one, it would be an anthem in some ways (just like how ‘Higher Love’ the song from ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ album was seen as an anthem for hardcore Depeche Mode fans like Mark D himself!)

For me, this whole collection of soundtracks sounds like one main soundtrack for one and the same movie. Although, I am not too sure how Mark might have thought about it as opposed to different soundtracks for different movies.  That is also the reason I was saying that the album logically starts with ‘Hitchcock’ (an introduction in many ways) and it journeys through greed, strange trips, hellish places and finally finds ‘Searching for Your Love’.

Sonically this is a remarkable achievement because these are not exactly obtained using keyboard to create “electronic” sounds. Rather it is imaginatively using everyday sounds and how they can be used to colour the effect for songs. It is Music Concrète in many ways. There are a couple of tracks that seemed to have embraced electronic effects from keyboard but they are so subtle that they will not overshadow the core of the creative work that Mark has carried out.  Think about a subject that affects you; now imagine a sound and how you would use that to paint your picture. Taking the track ‘Chase’ as an example- all you hear are the sparse rhythms but the way it’s arranged in that setting, you get the whole idea of the arrangement. This is what I always find more interesting in music. It is not about following a structure, it is not about the “beats”, and it is not necessarily about electronic music or even using the latest electronic gadgetry but stretching your imagination to bring out what is in your head. It is about a concept or an idea. Sometimes, a parrot in your neighbour’s house can bring in more interesting elements you want in your sonic landscape than using a Moog synthesiser to get a flute sound or a bird sound.

Stockhausen, the great German composer once said that the very limitations and specific nature of these “crystallised objects” of sound in some ways are superior to the unlimited nature of purely electronic sound. This album definitely has those qualities and uses it in a very aesthetic sense.

This is an album for those who love to hear soundtracks; especially those interested in experimental, Avant-garde, Krautrock music would love it. True movie lovers would enjoy it. However, this album would not appeal to those who are only interested in hitting the dance floor and who are under the delusion that all electronic music is dance music. Also, those listening to only one kind of music would not bother with this effort either. Pure music lovers should find this interesting and engaging. You do not have to be a classically trained musician or a Prog-rocker to enjoy this. Anyone who is open minded about listening to different sounds and music should be able to appreciate this album.

This is a highly recommended album. 5 out of 5 stars for sure.

The full album can be listened to here:

http://higherlove.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-movies

 

 

 

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