Release Date: Nov 30, 2010
Record label: Italians Do It Better
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
Music critics throw around "cinematic" with some frequency, but what are we actually talking about? A deep commitment to mood? A score-like quality in the music? A certain grandness of scope? Italians Do It Better, the Troubleman Unlimited offshoot that's keeping busier than its parent label these days, has long dealt in the cinematic, which is probably a large part of why their instantly recognizable take on Italo-disco has stuck around for as long as it has: faux-vintage as it may be, their sound has a texture and nuance that's all theirs—an old-schoolness more self-made than musically factual. Their sonic world—woozily theatrical and emotionally a little hard to read, as if a great sadness lurks just below its surface—is perhaps as close as you can get to living inside a David Lynch movie without losing your sanity. And with last year's Ryan Gosling-fronted neo-noir thriller Drive, it seemed that Hollywood finally took notice, presenting Italians-style arpeggiating synths and gauzy vocals as a kind of alternate-universe pop music for a world of unforgiving gangsters and gold-lamé track jackets.
SymmetryThemes For an Imaginary Film[Italians Do It Better; 2012]By Will Ryan; February 3, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetFilm soundtracks are a notoriously hard sell outside of their film context. 2011 saw a minor trend in affixing popular music artists to celluloid, resulting in the misplaced fervor and expectation that surrounded Daft Punk's score for Tron: Legacy as the French house duo's fourth official album. It wasn't, which shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone, but the soundtrack in question is a perfect portrait of where film scores and fully-formed records can often go their separate ways.
Themes for an Imaginary Film arrives following the release of Drive, the film which Italians Do It Better star and Italo-disco producer Johnny Jewel was originally tapped to soundtrack. But much of his work (created with assistance from longtime collaborator Nat Walker of Chromatics and Desire) went unused in lieu of Cliff Martinez's score. There's no point in pretending that the Imaginary Film of this collection's title isn't that movie.
Johnny Jewel, poster boy of synth label Italians Do It Better, is the go-to secret weapon in the fight to maintain the Eighties. Filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn is a fan, and hired Jewel to oversee the soundtrack to Drive: last year’s hammer-swinging, heart-tugging, zero-dialogue masterpiece. Both film and music went hand in hand, filled with pauses, prowling Trans Ams, neon ballads and ludicrous jackets.
The Hollywood film soundtrack has become an overwrought medium, with intrusive, heavy-handed orchestral cues leaving little room for the listener's imagination. Occasionally, one like Cliff Martinez's retro synth-pop score for Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive comes along and reminds us that movie music can be subtle, surprising and even stand on its own. Symmetry, a darkly ambient instrumental project by Glass Candy and Chromatics man Johnny Jewel (who contributed songs to Drive) and Nat Walker, falls into that category.