Once again displaying an uncanny ability to mix pop culture with the avant-garde, Sonic Youth conjure their earliest no wave days and their later experimental works on the soundtrack to the French teen thriller Simon Werner a Disparu. The film, which traces the mysterious disappearance of teenagers in a Paris suburb, is set in 1992, so it’s fitting to have one of the premier acts of the alternative rock era provide the music. Yet the atmospheres the band crafts recall EVOL and Daydream Nation rather than Goo or Dirty, especially on “Chez Yves (Alice et Clara)”'s swirling unease or “La Cabane au Zodiac,” a delicate piece reminiscent of “Shadow of a Doubt.” Since this is a Sonic Youth release (and one on their own SYR imprint, no less), this isn’t a cut-and-dried soundtrack. The band layered, expanded, and otherwise took artistic liberties with the score’s cues to make Simon Werner a Disparu a more fully fledged work, and the 13-minute-long bonus track “Thème d’Alice” (available as a download with the vinyl version of the album) underscores just how unfettered their approach is; each track drifts like hazy recollections or teenagers ambling through a parking lot. The film’s vignette-like storytelling is reflected in the characters’ themes, which range from “Thème de Jérémie"'s almost-jazz to “Thème de Laetitia”'s ruminative noise to “Thème de Simon”'s sweet, simple melody. Of course, the band’s guitar playing is as intricate and hypnotic as ever, but the touches of piano on the reverie “Les Anges au Piano” and “Jean-Baptiste et Laetitia” take this music in a different direction than Sonic Youth’s typical work (if there is such a thing). Other standouts include “Dans le Bois/M. Rabier,” a serrated rock workout that chugs along on a motorik beat, and “Au Café,” an expansive, downright sunny jam. A great example of how compelling Sonic Youth's instrumental work is, even when it’s as subtle as it is here, Simon Werner a Disparu stands among the band’s best soundtrack work.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares