On his third recording for the indie Pi Recordings imprint -- home to some of the more exciting jazz recordings in the 21st century -- guitarist Marc Ribot takes yet another turn in his prolific career. Silent Movies is a collection of 13 solo guitar pieces, recorded in complete takes with minimal sonic atmospherics added in overdub. The album was partially inspired by his experience of playing live as accompanist to a screening of Charlie Chaplin's film The Kid. Some of these tunes were composed for Natalia Almada's documentary El General and others for Drunk Boat (unreleased). This is mostly the deeply melodic side of Ribot. These utterly lovely works (all written by the guitarist save for the album's final track) ask questions -- often delicately, always deliberately -- about the mysterious element that creates image from sound in the mind of a listener. While there isn't a dull moment here, there is a certain kind of reverie that is evoked in the hearing. Even at its most animated, such as on the flamenco-inspired "Flicker," the self-evidently titled "Fat Man Blues," or the two-minute feedback-laden introduction to "Postcard from N.Y." (which gives way to one of the most haunting melodic works here), there is a sense of space surrounding this music that is arresting in focus and even stillness. "Requiem for a Revolution" employs a gentle sense of dissonance that creates a mood juxtaposition, one that evokes idealism, pragmatism, and authoritarianism. "The Kid" touches on jazz, classical music, Chaplin's compositions, and even Nino Rota's more humorous moments. The set's final cut, "Sous le Ciel de Paris," is the title song to Julien Duvivier's film of the same name and was a hit for Edith Piaf. Ribot employs both elegance and a specific rawness (not in technique but in the physicality of the guitar's sound) to get at the emotion in the melody as sung by the great vocalist. He doesn't so much re-create it as expand its range of color and texture, even when it gives way to restrained sonic textures and white noise as the album whispers to a close. For those interested in one of the more compelling and quietly provocative and graceful guitar records of 2010, Silent Movies is well worth seeking out.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek