Friday, June 15, 2007

I wanna be Mark Mothersbaugh

I’ll try not to make this another love letter to Wes Anderson. Lord knows there’s scads of those already and it’s kind of yesterday's news. Plus, I know there a plenty of people who’d rather write Wes a pert post-it note telling him they’ve had it up to pussy-bow with his charming neurosis and obtuse character relations (hint: I’m not one of those people). One thing that most will give kudos for is the pretty impeccable soundtracks of all the Anderson oeuvre, care of Mark Mothersbaugh. A few posts ago Max and Rich were talking about music and aesthetics, and if there’s anywhere the two come together in a very literal way it’s films/TV. The thing I always admired about the soundtracks Mothersbaugh creates is their seamless blend into the whole aesthetic of the film, they help make Wes Anderson films their own little idiosyncratic genre – unexpected, poignant at bizarre moments and a little bit retro-kitsch. They’re more than just mood-setters or devices used to fiddle with the viewers emotions, they’re another layer, just as intrinsic and artistic as the cinematography. (As an aside the other opus that always springs immediately to mind when I think of killer soundtracks so submerged in the thing they’re soundtracking you can hardly mention one without the other is Twin Peaks…but that’s another post)

Anyway as things inevitably go when you take a walk with a music box and ear-speakers (OK, an iPod, but it doesn’t matter what you’re packing) things start to soundtrack themselves. That extra bit of sparkling clarity, that enhanced intensity you craft for yourself with the right click on the play button, it’s an addictive feeling, one I like more than I care to mention. I spent a few months without anything portable and did get back into eavesdropping and listening to my foot steps (particularly good in second-hand shoes with ticky-tacky heels on an early morning stumble home), but last birthday brought me my sleek little black companion and now I feel positively cross without it. I’m not completely happy with this pocket parasite relationship…

Nonetheless, let’s concentrate on the good, no? The impetus for the post. I had chosen to accompany the tail end of my afternoon walk with the sounds of Greg Davis, an album from 2003 which only came into my world last year; Curling Pond Woods which is out on Carpark. Curling Pond Woods is a pop record from a classically and jazz trained musician with a fondness for delicate field recordings and lap-top composition. You can practically hear the prisms of light bouncing and shimmering between birdcalls and warm clusters of guitar and organ can’t you? There’s a Beach Boys cover in the middle, but my soundtrack moment hit whilst listening to the title track. It begins subdued, melancholic and bare, our hero is consumed by self-doubt. I’m walking up through the park, past an ugly fountain with carefully planted flower beds on either side.

The music starts to tremble, the guitar line halts, then builds up on itself through layers of processing and the melody is lost. At this point there’d be a close up of our protagonist, a barely suppressed tear on face. I look up, he’s there, the hero, walking despondently past me in full tennis regalia, down to sweat band and racquet (I imagine the Wes Anderson riff came up largely because of the tennis gear). His racquet dangles by his knees. He lifts his hand lazily and makes a messy practice shot, not aware he’s being watched. It’s an ungainly exertion between the branches. The song halting, on the verge of imploding in on itself. It’s waiting for the epiphany (is any song with a dramatic change in mood/sound/tempo automatically an epiphany song? How disparate can they be before two songs, or movements should be specified?) Our tennis pro tries again, this time with a bit more verve, a more pronounced flick of the wrist. The shaker starts, leading in a new guitar line. The song breathes again. More practice hits and comforting slide guitar, followed by handclaps, woozy brass and a thudding heart-beat. He’s still waving his hands, but by now there’s a commentators voice in his head and he’s mugging for the crowd after each successful backhand and pumping his fist in victory. He disappears down the hill, arms circling like a mad-man. He pauses to pass his hand through the water mist of the fountain. His palm cuts a brilliant path through the colours of the afternoon.

Curling Pond Woods - Greg Davis

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