Although Mick Harvey is best known as a long-standing and integral part of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, his solo work shows another, perhaps even more complex side of this master musician. The soundtrack compilation Alta Marea & Vaterland is stellar, gathering the myriad television and soundtrack work the guitarist has undertaken since the mid-'80s. Harvey's moody organ and guitar driven songs for Lucian Segura's 1991 Alta Marea is the perfect foil for the on-screen atmospherics in this brutal set piece. The film details the travails of a group of friends who try to dispose of the body of one of their group after he is killed by a nightclub bouncer. Creepy, heart-stopping and awash in dark adrenaline, who else but Harvey would have been up to the task? Vaterland, meanwhile, with its themes of racism, mental illness and search for home finds Harvey scoring the music in much the same vein, but adding a wash of Middle Eastern ethic to mirror the film's Algerian protagonist. The movie itself, incidentally, was directed by Uli Schuppel, who also filmed Cave's The Road to God Knows Where. The remainder of the album rounds itself out with three smaller projects Harvey undertook in the late '80s. Identity-Kid, a 1987 German documentary by Ed Cantu, featured three tracks -- "Waynesville" and the appropriately named "Guitar Theme" and "Vibes Theme." Harvey's contributions to Gustav Hamos' 1991 The Real Power of Television are driven primarily by simple acoustic guitar, always a pleasure to hear. The collection wraps up with three tracks from Gisa Shleelein's 1987 German short, Totes Geld. Because the music created for film is always geared to the action on the screen, the songs on soundtrack albums often lose their punch, and this one is no exception. There is no doubt that Harvey is a multi-talented musician, that he envisions with perfection what is needed to complement a variety of visuals, but for the layman, this collection probably won't mean much. For the aficionado, however, it's a superb chance to see this performer breaking out of his usual role.
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AllMusic Review by Amy Hanson