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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Jonny Greenwood: Inherent Vice


1) Shasta; 2) [Can] Vitamin C; 3) Meeting Crocker Fenway; 4) [The Marketts] Here Comes The Ho-Dads; 5) Spooks; 6) Shasta Fay; 7) [Minnie Riperton] Les Fleur; 8) The Chryskylodon Institute; 9) [Kyu Sakamoto] Sukiyaki; 10) Adrian Prussia; 11) [Neil Young] Journey Through The Past; 12) [Les Baxter] Simba; 13) Under The Paving-Stones, The Beach!; 14) The Golden Fang; 15) Amethyst; 16) Shasta Fay Hepworth; 17) [Chuck Jackson] Any Day Now.

General verdict: Too much soundtrack, not enough Jonny - then again, maybe it's not a bad thing...

Since we are already neck-deep in Jonny Greenwood soundtracks to P. Th. Anderson's movies, I suppose there is no reason not to mention yet another one: this time, to 2014's Inherent Vice, another one I have not seen, nor have I read Thomas Pynchon's novel upon which the movie was based (sorry, too much culture in this world for poor little me!). However, «mention» is the key word here, because this time around, the whole thing does really look like a genuine soundtrack, rather than an instrumental thematic suite that may be enjoyed on its own, independently of the adjacent material — thus precluding the option of a serious review.

Approximately one-third of the album consists of non-Greenwood music used in the movie — a decent and expectedly diverse selection of tracks, for that matter, ranging from Can's ʽVitamin Cʼ to Minnie Riperton's ʽLes Fleurʼ to some long-forgotten (Tarantino-approved) pop nuggets from the early Sixties (I have never heard the Marketts' ʽHere Comes The Ho-Dadsʼ before, for in­stance — that's some nifty fine and inventive use of the sax out there!). These at least serve an educational purpose, though, clearly, the album cannot be rated based on them, and their effect can be fairly disruptive if you want to concentrate on Greenwood's compositional genius.

Worse, much of the rest is really and truly incidental music: small minimalistic pieces of am­bience that are not worth much outside of the movie. ʽSpooksʼ is just two and a half minutes of lazy mid-Sixties style psychedelic jamming, atmospherically close to the first minute of The Doors' ʽThe Endʼ or a fairly slack Velvet Underground improv on a mediocre evening — with Joanna Newsom, who has a part in the movie, putting a narrative on top (meaning that fans of her voice are obliged to add the album to their collection); ʽUnder The Paving-Stonesʼ later returns to the exact same atmosphere. And ʽAmethystʼ is a fairly typical acoustic folk instrumental with a very Dylanesque harmonica part — you don't really have to be Jonny Greenwood to be able to come up with something like that in 2014.

Basically, this leaves us with three instrumental pieces revolving around the movie's protagonist — ʽShastaʼ, ʽShasta Fayʼ, ʽShasta Fay Hepworthʼ, about 15 minutes worth of pleasant neo­classical chamber music in Jonny's usual neoclassical style; and exactly one track that perks up my interest — ʽAdrian Prussiaʼ, a very interesting mold of classical and electronic music of which I wish there'd be so much more in Jonny's solo catalog. Starting out as a suspenseful, bass-and-cello-based mid-tempo «classical rocker», the track soon gets a fairly harsh, half-psychedelic, half-industrial digital pattern sewn in, with the classical and electronic voices seamlessly merging as a single whole and building up to a small, but elegant crescendo. Hopelessly lost in the befuddling confines of the soundtrack, it's a really auspicious little piece of music that deserves to be extracted, dusted off, and extolled as a good example of genre synthesis.

Other than that, I do believe that this is one of the least essential of Jonny's soundtracks — but, ironically, perhaps one of the most easily accessible, what with all those extra good tracks, many of which many of us have never heard before, showcasing a good knowledge of and taste for old forgotten beauties. (The Minnie Riperton piece is ace, too, and Kyu Sakamoto's ʽSukiyakiʼ is supposed to be one of the most famous Japanese pop pieces of the Sixties, though my personal interest in suave Japanese tenor crooners is fairly small).

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the movie; I don't know how anyone is supposed follow what's going on without having read the book first. As a Pynchon fan I had read the book a number of times before I saw the film and even I thought it flew along way too fast to make any kind of sense. At the time of this film's release I read that Anderson also wanted to tackle Gravity's Rainbow. I haven't heard anything about this since so hopefully it's fallen by the wayside. Pynchon's work is pretty much unfilmable.