A slight indisposition, a dizzy spell

(Photo by amiko)
Unless you really know what you're talking about, it's kind of tricky to name a great many soundtrackers of distinction. You really have to be well-versed in the art to think of looking them up, or else the production has to have startlingly good music, for it to stand out. Sometimes, it's even easier to remember good sound design over good music: The Godfather, for instance, or maybe Apocalypse Now are good examples of this.

Of course, there's an indefinable knack to making good accompanying music. It has to fit in with the film/play/whatever, in terms of timing and appropriate dramatic tension, not just to fit the mood. It's not enough to simply pick a pop song here and there to play over a montage, that's a pretty lame cop-out.

Jumping aside for a while, I haven't posted Nick Cave in a while. The man is maybe Australia's most talented son, and has written a canon of music so diverse and extraordinary that he'll surely go down as one of the greats.

So where do the two collide? Enter collaborator Warren Ellis, he of Dirty Three and Bad Seeds fame. I've mentioned him before, pretty exclusively with all out praise. For between these two you have an artistic vision extending far beyond the scope of Hollywood's three-minute-pop mentality, one that has created some excellent soundtrack work. And why do I post this? Well, I experienced more of this over the weekend.

Hammersmith's Lyric Theatre is hosting Vesturport Theatre's adaptation of Kafka's Metamorphosis, which I saw on Saturday - it's a really energetic, if occasionally fairly traumatic show and features soundtrack work from Nick Cave, and Warren Ellis. And what do you know? It was fantastic. The opening scene-setter was beautiful and calm yet with a dark, portentous edge, and the music was very well-suited right to the end - even though the final scene took the adaptation slightly away from where I believe Kafka's intended lasting impression was to be, the slow, melancholic-but-uplifting, slightly disconcerting edge that Cave explored on his last album shone through and brought the tone of the piece back from the brink of an entirely happy ending.

If you know the story, then happy ending both is, and isn't, Kafka's intended effect: what is expected to be a sad, depressing thing turns out to be the best that can happen, and what should be dark and bleak for the protagonists, is actually revealed to be a new dawn. In so many ways Cave and Ellis were a great choice for this play, and the music was superb. I'm now really kicking myself for missing the company's rendition of Buchner's Woyzeck, also scored by Cave/Ellis, a role I can imagine the pair were born to fulfil. If you're familiar with Werner Herzog's screen adaptation, and the grating, slightly frightening, but immensely suitable music for that, then you can see how the Aussies would be perfect for this demanding expressionist nightmare. I'm gutted I missed it.

I can't give you any music for either of the plays, sadly. I can, however, post a couple of tracks from the Cave/Ellis project The Proposition, Cave's screenwriting debut and one of the most intense films you'll see this year. The Rider #2 captures Nick Cave's creepy, whispery soundscapes before tumbling into a whirling, electric passage. Clean Hands, Dirty Hands was originally on my first podcast (third coming soon!), and is an old children's hymn, made pretty devastating by Mr Cave's creepy performance.

The Music
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Rider #2
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - Clean Hands, Dirty Hands

The 'fo
Artist: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
nickcaveandthebadseeds.com, anchorandhope.com
The Proposition OST, The Proposition
Buy: Amazon
More: Hype Machine
NC/D3; elbo.ws NC; Richard Herring doesn't like the play; Film
If you like this you might like:
Ocean Songs; Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus
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