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Sonic Youth - Simon Werner A Disparu

  by Jon Rogers

published: 2 / 3 / 2011

Sonic Youth - Simon Werner A Disparu
Label: Sonic Youth Records
Format: CD


Superb latest album from Sonic Youth composed for a French thriller, which maintains an excellent balance between both the New York-based band's traditional rock and more esoteric halves

For some time now there has been a rather schizophrenic aspect to New York’s Sonic Youth. Despite their early influences more recent high profile releases have seen the band focus on their more listener-friendly aspects, more conservative output while the band’s own SYR imprint has been used for the group’s more esoteric and wayward interests. Anyone who had only heard their recent mainstream releases could easily be justified in thinking that they were just a pretty solid rock band. But releases on their SYR label – which have included performances of John Cage’s music – and individual releases of performances with more free form, improvisational artists like Nels Cline or William Hooker. In short, for this reviewer the band have always been much more interesting when they stretched themselves and became more experimental than when they just stuck to a pretty tired bog-standard rock format. Certainly they can always be relied upon to do something interesting, but with recent releases the amount that actually was interesting gradually declined. It was left to the SYR releases for the band to stretch themselves and do something of interest. Oddly though the band’s music for French director Fabrice Gobert’s film ‘Simon Werner a Disparu’ rather sits in the middle of those two camps. ‘Au Café’ is pretty much meat-and-potato Sonic Youth while ‘Thême de Laetitia’ is more in the vein of the band’s free-form workouts and ‘Jean-Baptiste à la fenêtre’ and ‘Les Anges au piano’ are full of restrained and simmering tension. And there’s a hint of Germanic ‘motorik’ too on ‘Chez Yves (Alice et Clara)’. It might not be quite so avant-garde as their earlier SYR releases but still reasonably left-field for any of the band’s major label releases like ‘The Eternal’ or ‘Rather Ripped’. It’s not the first time the band have been involved with a film project, that association stretches back to just over 20 years ago and the very low-key and low-budget ‘Made in the USA’. Listening to that soundtrack nowadays in isolation, without the film is a pretty frustrating experience and largely nowadays left gathering dust on the shelf. It seems the band have learnt from that experience. The album, ninth in the SYR series, isn’t simply a film soundtrack, and is better because of it. Initially the band made some preliminary records for the film in their Echo Canyon West studio in spring 2010 by watching the initial rushes and playing along and then those pieces of music were then moulded and edited to fit the scenes of the film. For this actual release though the band went back into the studio in the autumn to build upon those original recordings. As such it doesn’t suffer from the invariable problems of listening to a straightforward soundtrack. All too often listening to just a soundtrack can be problematic, the music lacks that visual dimension, but with the musical additions ‘Simon Werner a Disparu’ avoids that trap. The listener doesn’t have to have seen the high school thriller to appreciate it. Admittedly ‘Simon Werner’ does lose its place every so often and doesn’t quite hang together. Some of the shorter tracks, like ‘La Cabane au Zodiac’, never really quite get going. Still, there’s a lot here for the followers of the band who want to see them doing something more than just going through the motions.

Track Listing:-
1 Thème De Jérémie
2 Alice Et Simon
3 Les Anges Au Piano
4 Chez Yves (Alice Et Clara)
5 Jean-Baptiste À La Fenêtre
6 Thème De Laetitia
7 Escapades
8 La Cabane Au Zodiac
9 Dans Les Bois / M. Rabier
10 Jean-Baptiste Et Laetitia
11 Thème De Simon
12 Au Café

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