Sonic Youth | Simon Werner a Disparu Soundtrack (Sonic Youth)

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One thing I’ve realized is that it’s incredibly difficult to make music that is stimulating without it requiring complete attention at the same time. Sonic Youth has successfully achieved that here.

I’m ashamed to admit that even as a longtime Sonic Youth fan, I had no idea this album existed until about a week ago. Apparently, it’s the soundtrack to a French film, one that I certainly will have to wait a while to be able to see. As a result, I decided to review the soundtrack before reading about the film to see how it holds up on its own. Mostly, I was curious to see if it supported and told the story by itself. Despite the fact that it doesn’t quite do that, Simon Werner a Disparu is a really solid achievement, especially for fans of the band.
I generally expect that most scores will become background music, and that’s not a bad thing. As a cubicle dweller, I listen to a lot of what amounts to background music. One thing I’ve realized is that it’s incredibly difficult to make music that is stimulating without it requiring complete attention at the same time. Sonic Youth has successfully achieved that here. The score invokes a constant feeling of despair, which isn’t surprising considering the movie itself is a thriller. They chose to really tone down their rhythm section and it gives off a dark, tense feeling, like something bad is just around the corner. But given how good it sounds, you almost don’t care what’s coming.
Fans will appreciate that the band did not compromise their sound; it’s very present in every song. The score features many of the things we’ve come to expect, such as the offbeat and precise tunings, the driving and intricate guitar work and the general “noise” appreciation. In fact, most of the songs here would sound at home on any Sonic Youth album. I noticed specifically that the only real standout track, “Theme d’Alice,” would have been perfect on Bad Moon Rising with Kim on vocals. But with the subdued drumwork and excellent addition of piano, it sounds like a more focused version of their previous work.
The soundtrack loses the chance to be more than just perfect mood music by failing to hit many high notes. While I realize it’s a score, every movie has big moments that require a bit more epic sound, and there isn’t much of that nature here. As a result, the album blends together nicely. But while steady can be good, for it to be truly excellent, I would have enjoyed a few more standout moments or tracks. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have to imagine the film offers more than just a general feeling of dread.
The best compliment that can be given to Simon Werner a Disparu is that unlike a lot of recent Sonic Youth work, it is restrained and contains no missteps. While it feels a bit incomplete because of a lack of vocals, multiple listens reveal the depth of emotion contained within. It’s tough to look past the preconceived notions of their previous work and ignore some of the perfect cues for Thurston and Kim’s lyrics. But once you do, you are rewarded by a unique sound for a film score. It may not be something you can put on every time, but when you’re ready for it, it’s incredibly mesmerizing and haunting, and a remarkable effort. B+ | Brett Berliner
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