Review : Marc Ribot - Silent Movies
PopmattersIn a world positively overstuffed with guitarists, Marc Ribot stands out. It’s not necessarily because of his technical abilities, but because he can squeeze more feeling out of the three notes that make up “Hot Cross Buns” than most young hotshots can out of a complicated Bach fugue. It’s been a long career for Ribot—over 20 years as a solo artist at this point, and deriving longevity from simplicity is no game for weaklings. This is why a solo (re: no band) offering from Marc Ribot is such a welcome thing: it shows an already brilliant musician in an even more brilliant setting.
Silent Movies drops two years after Ribot one-two punched us all in 2008 with Exercises in Futility and Party Intellectuals. The former, released on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, took the idea of solo acoustic guitar to an abstract, atonal breaking point, while the latter was the debut album for his first “rock” band, Ceramic Dog. Silent Movies, meanwhile, is pure, melodic solo guitar with just a twist of weird, courtesy of Keefus Ciancia’s soundscapes. Heavy on atmospherics and light on histrionics, this has got to be one of Ribot’s best recordings.
In the liner notes, Marc writes “This is an album of film music: some were pieces originally composed for movie scores, others for films I turned down but found myself writing for anyway, still others for projects that never existed outside of my head”. By keeping the context nice and vague, we can only guess which of these numbers are from “real” scores, and which are set to imaginary films. The only specific indication that we get is Ribot explaining that he performed live music for a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid earlier in the year. The track “The Kid” is a wonder unto itself, overflowing with harmonic tricks and a safely syncopated vamp that keeps the piece from committing to neither jazz nor contemporary folk, yet casting reverent glances to both. And it’s something that can hummed....full text
LatimesblogsSolo guitar records can be an acquired taste. Frequently viewed like manna for players and obsessives, the sometimes spare, technical nature of the effort can separate the music listener from the musician-listener, and the casual fan from the fanatic.
With a tough-to-pin-down back catalog that includes detours through Cuban jazz, six-stringed Albert Ayler tributes and stints lending his stinging tone to atmospheric songwriters like Tom Waits and Joe Henry, Marc Ribot is the sort of guitarist who merits following wherever he turns. Often eager to explore the noisier side of things in prior outings, Ribot turns inward for “Silent Movies,” a collection of 13 instrumentals compiled from the guitarist’s library of never-used film scores or otherwise film-inspired pieces. At times the results are spare, even minimalist, and if not immediately redolent of a crowded movie house then still evocative as with the contemplative “Flicker,” where Ribot’s plucked guitar twinkles against a gentle overdub of what could be the hum of passing traffic.
At its best, the record deals in darker fare such as with the feedback-laden mini-epic “Natalia in E Flat Major,” which carries the same steely edge as Neil Young’s “Dead Man” soundtrack, or the ominous walking blues of “Requiem for a Revolution.” Ribot’s work here may not always cry for attention like some effects-laden summer blockbuster, but it can be a quietly immersive art house favorite in the right hands....full text
DustedmagazineMarc Ribot’s mind is always leaping forward to embrace the next idea. In conversation, his responses exude equal measures of reflection and spontaneity; he addresses each statement and answers each question thoughtfully, but it seems that he’s already considering subjects that haven’t yet been raised. His music is similarly diverse. Whatever ensemble he employs, and in whatever style he plays, unpredictability is a major component of his M.O. Silent Movies is no exception, and his formidable technique services music that continually thwarts expectation.
This is an album of music composed around the idea of cinema, as accompaniment for silent films, for various cinematographic projects and for films existing only in the composer’s imagination. There is a cinematic quality in the way the tracks are programmed, as when the wistfully modern “Variation 1” leads into the old-world charm of “Delancey Waltz.” The sustained and distorted tones of “Natalia” are suddenly replaced by subdued picking in triple time, and the effect is at first jarring, then idyllic. Ribot also demonstrates a penchant for return, as the music of “Empty” seems to be derived from “Variation 1”’s material.
Beyond the many transformations in playing style and the genres they evoke, the album is replete with what I assume to be field recordings. They are often languidly atmospheric, with the notable exception of the nightmarish opening moments of “Postcard from NY.” The fact that such slow and bittersweet music can emerge from the chaos of pounding feet, screams and alien plucking and scrapings seems incongruous at first, but its gradual increase in volume and the ghost tones pervading it link it back to the opening’s hellish soundscape. Usually though, we are given lush streetscenes in altered perspectives, like the one that concludes “Sous le Ceil de Paris” These recordings often bring a sense of detachment and gentle dislocation to the familiar, providing moments for meditation punctuated by an occasional reminder of environment — traffic, a disembodied voice, the comforting undulations of water. In this way, as with Annea Lockwood’s pioneering recordings of rivers, very specific environments are universalized....full text
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