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Tuxedomoon, "Bardo Hotel Soundtrack"

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While back in San Francisco after a lengthy self-imposed European exile, Tuxedomoon recorded these spontaneous compositions for a film loosely based on Brion Gysin’s novel The Last Museum. The result is an inspired and tantalizing album that thrives independently of its designation as a soundtrack.

 

Crammed/Made to Measure

That Tuxedomoon tackles such a subject during their return home is particularly appropriate given the nature of Gysin’s book, which itself is a fictionalized recollection of his days at the infamous Beat Hotel as it is being relocated from Paris to Malibu to be installed in the Museum of Museums. The music is a mix of jazz-inflected instrumentals and field recordings of conversations and announcements. Many of the songs are anchored by guitar or bass while strings bring an uneasy atmosphere and horns carve subtle melodies from the air. Although they’re frequently relaxed, the songs never fully soothe and a sense of mystery is always close at hand. The field recordings range from things like a sojourn in Mexico to public transit announcements for Embarcadero Street without any sort of narrative transition to bridge the geographical displacement, giving a sense of both familiarity and dislocation that feels much like the style of Gysin’s book. Similarly, perhaps as a nod to the way Gysin’s novel flits between Europe and America and juxtaposes the present and the past, the group also includes a triptych of songs subtitled “The Show Goes On” that were recorded in Europe. Contrasted with the San Francisco material, these are much more brash and buoyant and even include some vocals, most prominently in “Loneliness.”

Bardo Hotel features its own Madame Rachou in the guise of “Mr. Comfort,” a hotelkeeper with a hilarious list of requirements for his guests, including the requisite no smoking, no drinking, and no drugs, but also forbidding bicycles in the room and insisting that guests are very quiet, smell nice, and smile when they see him. Although it’s hard for me to imagine a film related to Gysin without an appearance by the Master Musicians of Jajouka, the form of this recording mirrors his novel with such dedication that it’s easy to wave any misgivings aside. Regardless of how the film turns out, the album is a splendid journey in itself, a soundtrack for a state of mind.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 September 2006 15:50  


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