Jazz CD Reviews
Marc Ribot, solo guitar – Silent Movies – Pi
Published on September 20, 2010
Marc Ribot, solo guitar – Silent Movies – Pi PI34, 61:29 ****:
(Marc Ribot – guitar, vibraphone (track 12); Keefus Ciancia – soundscapes (tracks 1, 3, 7, 11 & 13))
There is one thing listeners can assume with any Marc Ribot undertaking: throw out expectations. The eclectic guitarist, performer, composer, hired gun (his studio and stage credits are phenomenal) and long-time denizen of New York’s downtown music scene never creates music that follows a previous blueprint.
Ribot’s latest, Silent Movies, is a one-man presentation of acoustic and electric guitar conceptions inspired by the silver screen. During the hour-long, 13-track outing Ribot responds to cinema’s past, present and possible future. Ribot has lent his talents to so many movies even he has lost count – recent credits involve The Kids Are Alright, The Departed and Where the Wild Things Are – but Silent Movies is not a collection of soundtrack contributions: it was motivated in part by Ribot’s experiences as he prepared for a live accompaniment to Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, The Kid.
Ribot’s atmospheric creations share a minimalist expression. Two were penned for the documentary El General and three for the unreleased drama Drunkboat. A few were written for or based on film ventures Ribot declined, that he later turned to for his own use. Others represent imaginary filmic features that reside in Ribot’s mind. For the album’s context, Ribot re-thought several existing themes or transcribed them for solo guitar, so older compositions convey Ribot’s vision for Silent Movies.
Ribot remarks in the liner notes his pieces “retain a particular relation to film and the strange area between language and spatiality that exists partly in between music and visual image, and partly as a common property of both.” In other words, there is more going on beneath the surface than the quiet beauty that permeates Ribot’s cinematically-inclined material.
Ribot fans may recognize “Bateau,” originally done by jazz-rock power trio Ceramic Dog. Here, Ribot re-fashions it into a classically-tinged dirge highlighted by closely-recorded finger-picking. “Bateau” reflects the nautical imagery of the title and subplot of Drunkboat. Ribot shapes his motif in a minor key and uses an irregular rhythm to evoke the sense of a broken sea shanty. There is a feeling of bereavement and hopelessness as well as confusion: the latter amplified by a section where Ribot flies across the frets and rolls out a series of bent and rapacious notes. “Bateau” is a component from a suite that includes gloomy, acoustic guitar offering “Delancey Waltz” and cool, earthy electric guitar character sketch, “Fat Man Blues.” The pieces don’t appear in order but if sequenced together the connections can be noticed.
Keefus Ciancia supplies electronic soundscapes to five tracks, including a subtle complement that ends Ribot’s pensive version of “Sous le Ciel de Paris,” made famous by Edith Piaf, which is the title theme from Julien Duvivier’s 1950 French dramatic film. Ciancia’s assistance is more pronounced on the lengthy “Postcard from N.Y.,” which opens with abrasive found sounds before Ribot’s folk-like acoustic guitar takes over.
Silent Movies resounds with fidelity best experienced on a high-quality stereo setup and listened to with close concentration: the old compressors and analog-sounding mixing board provide a deeply resonant tonal distinction. On J.D. Foster’s perceptively recorded production listeners can hear Ribot’s strings reverberate against the fretboard and even the hum of Ribot’s amps furnishes a faint ambiance.
1. Variation 1
2. Delancey Waltz
5. Natalia in E-flat Major
7. Requiem for a Revolution
8. Fat Man Blues
11. Postcard from N.Y.
12. The Kid
13. Sous le Ciel de Paris
— Doug Simpson