Long Walk Home: Music from the Rabbit-Proof Fence

Peter Gabriel

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Long Walk Home: Music from the Rabbit-Proof Fence Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Nearly a full decade after the release of Us, Peter Gabriel finally returned with new music in the summer of 2002 -- but it wasn't a new studio album, it was the soundtrack to Phillip Noyce's return to independent Australian cinema, Rabbit-Proof Fence. The film tells the true story of three Aboriginal girls who make a return to their home after being abducted by the government to serve as domestic help to a white family in 1931; as they make their journey through the Outback to their home, they follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, which had been constructed to prevent animals deemed agricultural pests -- including rabbits, dingoes, and foxes -- from crossing into Western Australia agricultural lands. This, understandably, is a moody, emotional piece, and Gabriel was an ideal choice for the soundtrack, since he proved with his score for Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ that he could stay faithful to the indigenous music of the region while synthesizing it with his own synth-based art rock, providing a haunting, emotionally resonant soundtrack to the film. He does a similar thing here, using Aboriginal music as a foundation for much of his music, yet winding up with a score that's ultimately closer to Birdy than Passion. That's largely due to its long stretches of moody, spare keyboards, which dominate much of the album. The keyboards are the dominant sound here, not the rhythms, but it all blends together for a very evocative, dark yet hopeful set of music. It's not a splashy comeback, then, but a quiet return to something Gabriel does best -- creating soundscapes that are at once alien and familiar, eerie yet comforting. That he hasn't done this in a while does not diminish the fact that he's created a strong instrumental piece that stands on its own, outside of the film, holding its own with Birdy and Passion. And it only whets the appetite for a full-scale comeback.

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