Naim Amor


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It is no error that Naïm Amor -- one half of the French avant pop duo the Amor Belhom Duo, his surname a letter-perfect evocation of the loveliness of his music -- titled his first solo album Soundtracks. It possesses the textures and the tone that characterize the finest film scores, but with a scope considerably beyond the soundtrack's traditionally utilitarian function. Indeed, the album hearkens back to the golden days of cinematic scoring rather than the bloated, Hollywood-blockbuster compilations that hijacked the industry in the latter quarter of the 20th century. In other words, it is considerably more European in orientation, and all the better for it. Amor is far more concerned with conception and subtle coloring than with composing emotionally potent cues laden with manufactured meaning. The songs tell a musical story all their own without the need for synthetic (and thus, condescending) emphasis. The music alternately conjures up images of provincial Parisian café pop and windswept, late-evening expanses. The former is easily comprehensible considering the heritage of the album's author, but the latter is equally representative of Amor's experience, namely the stick-dry vistas and brilliant dusks of his adopted Tucson, AZ, home, also the headquarters of colleagues Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico. The former, in fact, drops by to add cello and loops to "Galaxie," a song of patient beauty, unfolding like a sky full of sorrowful stars, part Close Encounters and part humble electronica. All of the songs are equally atmospheric and sparsely seeded, hazy landscapes that breathe and throb, although each in highly individual ways. "Frame Up," for instance, skips like a jazz LP warped into playing the same soundbite, which then serves as the nucleus for loosely beaded psychedelia, while "Valse Sentinelle" and "L'Amie Partie" are Gallic in the extreme, and "Iris" the ideal intimation of breathless summer romance. The stylistic shifts play perfectly off one another until listeners are left drifting off into the story of the music, viewing the movie that they have formed inside themselves out of it.

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