double negative

There is nothing surprising about the continual amount of enthusiasm for wanting to take advantage of the way film and music emulate each other, but the method in creating a production that engages the listener’s imagination is more sophisticated than it’s given credit for. (Ironically most contemporary soundtrack LPs do not even attempt this — they’re essentially unmarked Now That’s What I Call Music volumes with a convenient movie promotion.) The satisfying listening experiences can only be created when the subconscious is directing — otherwise the result is too easily overblown and pretentious. This is a danger not entirely skirted by Emiliana Torrini on her debut, Love in the Time of Science.

Torrini’s synthesis of Jane Birkin and Natalie Imbruglia in “To Be Free” is an impressive introduction (“If it's so good being free/Would you mind telling me/Why I don't know what to do with myself?"), and the same mixture is made even more volatile in the LP’s best moment, a dark, syncopated trance, “Telepathy.” Her chilled and ironic perspective is gratifying while it lasts but with too many cooks in the kitchen, Love in the Time of Science loses the cinematic pacing it might have had.

Although Torrini is too willing to be self-consciously strange (though not to the cartoonish extremes of Björk), Love in the Time of Science isn’t experimental enough, the sound remaining almost continuously overexposed and grainy, a gimmick that quickly becomes tiresome. Emiliana’s doe-eyed vocals sometimes overcome the distracting background (“Unemployed in Summertime” is a good example). A stripped-down “Summerbreeze” is almost an exact duplicate of the style of Emma Townshend’s 1998 debut LP Winterland, and a few other too-close similarities spoil what remains from a promising beginning.

Titan use a parallel approach on their first full release, Elevator, calling the shots with a (mostly) functional sense of irony, drawing not only on film influences but on Ween (“King Kong,” “P.E.C.”), The Art of Noise (“La Frecuencia del Amor”) and Prince circa Madhouse (“1000 Ninjas”). The mostly instrumental LP indulges in a silly spy sequence (“1, 2, 3, 4”), the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video blown widescreen (“Vaquero”) and a retrofitting of the Starsky and Hutch TV theme into “C’Mon Feel The Noise.” As gonzo electronica it’s amusing to have on, particularly when catching Elevator’s non sequitur “lyrics” (for which Titan’s website proves indispensable in translating). The downside is that tracks like “Corazón” and “The Future” go on too long. There is no continuity, which might have made Elevator more memorable: as a long player it is too disjointed for repeated listening.

Unlike the lounge revival there’s little enduring appeal for mid-1970s B films, but then, most so-called alternative music from America has always been the direct equivalent of B-movies. Each genre depends on a tacit aversion to inspiration. Classics can be made on a low budget, but aiming low is always wasted opportunity. Why pretend to be titillated by wannabes camouflaging a lack of ability when you can have the dreams of masters?

©2001 Rodney E Griffith. All rights reserved.