Soundtrack Revolution

Innovative guitar bands rediscover riches of film music's past


UFO’s TOSHIO MATSUURA with PAUL E. LOPES, MIKE TULL and JASON PALMA, at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (November 10). 10 pm. $12/advance, $15/door. Rating: NNNNN


Before portishead had the idea to lift a dramatic phrase from Lalo Schifrin‘s Mission Impossible soundtrack, hiphop and club music producers who were tired of looping the same Funky Drummer lick were already looking to film and television for inspiration.Fatboy Slim famously nicked the Hawaii Five-O theme, and Dimitri from Paris reworked The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., while Fantastic Plastic Machine raced United Future Organization to uncover swingin’ Piero Piccioni cues.

Lately, guitar-oriented bands like Broadcast, Cinerama and Goldfrapp are taking the soundtrack inspiration beyond the basic sample swipe and experimenting with more sophisticated arrangements that employ a wider range of instrumentation.

The signature sweep of John Barry‘s brilliant James Bond film soundtracks is readily apparent in Cinerama’s delightfully dramatic new Disco Volante (Manifesto) disc. But, then, you should expect nothing less from a double-naught spy-spotter like David Gedge, who named the album in honour of Largo’s yacht from Thunderball.

“I’ve loved film music and television themes for as long as I can remember,” enthuses former Wedding Present mainman Gedge from a roadhouse in northern Oregon. “Everybody probably says the same thing, but John Barry’s work was particularly influential — not just the Bond films, but things like The Ipcress File and the theme from The Persuaders television series are just amazing.

“Just about everything he does is big, bold and exciting. Besides the brass stabs and the waves of strings, he had really interesting ways of incorporating unusual instruments like harpsichord and balalaika. Really, the whole reason I formed Cinerama was to explore this area of music.”

For Toshio Matsuura of Tokyo groove collective United Future Organization, the impact of 60s film music is much less quantifiable. While they, too, are hardcore Barry devotees, it’s not because of his innovative use of ethnic instrumental colouring or masterful way with a counter-melody, but, rather, his sense of cool.

“The James Bond films are a depiction of every man’s dream — the fashion, the drinks, games, fighting and love,” explains Matsuura, who’ll be spinning his favourite Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin joints at Roxy Blu Friday (November 10). “John Barry’s music is important in making the James Bond style, and that’s what influences my music.”

Like Gedge and Matsuura, Broadcast guitarist Tim Felton grew up watching Bond films, and Barry’s scores left a lasting impression. Yet for Broadcast, the inspiration of Barry and Ennio Morricone has more to do with the structure of their music and how recurring motifs and themes combine to create a larger musical statement.

“What’s so great about many of these soundtracks from the 60s is the way composers like Morricone and Piero Umiliani were able to use ideas from jazz, rock and various folk musics in an orchestral context.

“But it’s not like we’re trying to pinch things from soundtracks. If anything, the influence shows up in the way individual pieces of music flow together as a whole.”

What’s still unclear is why suddenly in different parts of the world there’s so much interest in film music from the 60s and 70s. It could simply be a generational anomaly, but Gedge has his own theories.

“It reminds me of my University mathematics studies, where through a series of random events you could have the flutter of a butterfly in Africa causing a tsunami in Japan.

“A couple of key musicians get involved and that creates a degree of fashionability. Next, the labels reissue some back-catalog recordings that influenced the artists, and then other people get inspired by those re-releases, and soon you’ve got a trend.

“Of course, a year from now, everyone will be bored with this soundtracky stuff and something else will come along.”BROADCAST with the SEA AND CAKE at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Saturday (November 11). $14. 870-8000, 532-1598.

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