Tarwater: Donne-Moi La Main

Given the strongly atmospheric character of its music, the Berlin electro-pop outfit Tarwater would seem to be an ideal choice for soundtrack composition. In fact, when French filmmaker Pascal-Alex Vincent shot footage on location in France and Spain for Donne-Moi La Main (Give Me Your Hand), the film's actors, twins Victor and Alexandre Carril (who play brothers traveling from one country to another to attend the funeral of the mother they never knew), would in the evenings use a portable sound system to serenade the crew with music by Tarwater, one of their favourite bands. When Vincent realized that the group's music was become symbiotically tied to the project, he figured the natural thing to do would be to contact the German group about composing a soundtrack for the film, the director's sole stipulation being that “rural” instruments would have to be incorporated into their original compositions. The result? Tarwater's first film score, a forty-minute soundtrack featuring fourteen tracks the group (augmented by Stefan Schneider on bass and banjo and To Rococo Rot's Robert Lippok in a production capacity) composed in conjunction with the final editing of the film.

Though the album's overall sound is prototypical Tarwater, it's also more instrumental than the Tarwater norm, and consequently the group's individuating element—Ronald Lippok's sardonic vocal delivery—is only heard on a couple of tracks (“Time Slipped By,” where his distinctive voice drawls over an unsettling stream of noises and percussive rattling, and “Chairs,” the closing piece and most Tarwater-like of the album's tracks, with Lippok singing about brothers and a visit to Mars). A wistful, open-air feel pervades the material, as if it were tracking a train's movement through the countryside from one town to another, and a mix of electronic and country sounds (banjo, junkyard percussion, harmonica, Jew's harp, bluesy guitar shadings) with an occasional field recording (train sounds, waves crashing, rain, feet tramping through the bushes) and (French) voiceover expanding upon the sonic palette. If some tracks are jaunty (“The Blacktop”), others are gloomier (“Time Slipped By,” the funereal “N'existe pas”). While the nightmarish collage “Waterfight” exudes a haunted and claustrophobic feel, “Le Chemin traversait la foret” deploys bass clarinet, glockenspiel, and guitars to create a seeming evocation of wonder.

The group clearly approached the project in dedicated manner, as the material's anything but slapdash or throwaway, and evident care and time was invested in composing and arranging the songs. One can attempt to track the music's trajectory in tandem with the film's narrative or simply listen to Donne-Moi La Main as a stand-alone collection, as it certainly holds up well enough as the latter. Regardless, the soundtrack adheres to classic narrative development, with it moving from a relatively peaceful beginning before episodes of conflict and eventual resolution set in.

July 2009