Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back

Original Soundtrack

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Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back Review

by Marc Gilman

The collection of musicians on this album is incredible: Jim O'Rourke, David Grubbs, Douglas McCombs, and many others. But, despite the caliber of the performers, something seems to be missing. This album was recorded as the soundtrack to the movie Dutch Harbor, and consists of improvised pieces recorded in one day. The film is a documentary about the fishermen of Alaska, and some of the scenes are rather bleak and depressing, but unfortunately most of the music is as well. This is not to slander gloomy music, but the compositions on this album are depressing from a thematic standpoint. There is no doubt that this is a collection of more than apt musicians, but the feeling perpetuated on this album is one of over-electronic and expansive monotony. This music might be ample accompaniment to the film itself, but lacks concrete direction and enthusiasm. The mere comparison of this effort to Last Place to Go, the improvised pieces taken from the movie's European tour, evidences the disappointing nature of the original soundtrack. Both O'Rourke and Grubbs experiment with ambient, synthesized guitar sounds on tracks like "Introduction" and "Ship Supply" to no avail. The highlights of the album come with the more organic sounding "At Sea," "In Closing" and the Will Oldham composition, "Ebbs Folly." Despite these high moments of more inspired playing the lack of continuity remains. Perhaps if more time had been allotted to record this album better results might have resulted. Although admirable for its completion in one day, the Dutch Harbor Original Soundtrack could still use some work.

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