Klimek: Movies Is Magic

The good news first: no shuddering guitars! The potential corner that Sebastian Meissner was threatening to paint himself into with the first two Klimek albums (Milk & Honey and Music to Fall Asleep, both on Kompakt) has all but been effaced by his two Anticipate releases, 2007's Dedications and now Movies is Magic (the grammatically-challenged title actually comes from a song title on Orange Crate Art, the 1995 album by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks). Long gone are the ambient meditations of those initial releases, and in their place are mini-soundtracks of immense instrumental scope.

Swathes of orchestral elements re-combine in the digital domain, the ghostly elements severed from their film-based origins and reconfigured in the service of new electroacoustic narratives. If there's a prevailing mood, it's one of oppressive despair and dread—no one will mistake these five-minute pieces for bucolic reveries; instead, many of them feel like sonic exercises in film noir distilled into five-minute form. A swelling orchestral mass of strings, horns, and percussion coaxes into being film noir melodrama in “Abyss of Anxiety (Unfolding the Magic),” and noir-like too is “Greed, Mutation, Betrayal,” whose combination of stalker voice-over (“put your knife in me” is one charming tidbit) and muted trumpets exudes a diseased bite reminiscent of Barry Adamson's own filmic constructions. At the beginning of “Exploding Unbearable Desires,” the clouds part on a tranquil morning, the mood so serene one imagines the music as an accompaniment to Murnau's Sunrise, before the skies darken and the storm advances. “A Lament” reads more like a cryptic tour through a newly uncovered torture chamber than a lament in any traditional sense of the word (the string-drenched “Sound of Confusion” comes closer to realizing that emotion in sound). Prodded into motion by tambourine rattles and martial drumming, “Pathetic and Dangerous” crawls like an army battalion of soldiers and tanks bracing themselves for the ambush that's sure to come, while “Exposed to Life in its Brutal” similarly trudges like some wounded monstrosity, its acoustic bass accents and gong strikes punctuated by triangle tinkles. “For Whom the Bells Toll” conveys some hint of the Spanish Civil War setting of Hemingway's novel (even if its title slightly differs from Klimek's), after which “Tears of Happiness (Dismissed into Mundanity)” lifts the black veil for five minutes of rain-soaked melancholy.

In hindsight, it appears that Dedications' final track, “For Steven Spielberg & Azza El-Hassan,” already was hinting at the direction its follow-up would take. And the bad news? Well, there really isn't any, unless one counts the general absence of uplift as a negative. Probably the best thing about the release is that, much like its predecessor, Movies is Magic opens up the future possibilities of Meissner's Klimek project rather than limits it.

November 2009