John McEntire

Reach the Rock: Music from the Motion Picture

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John McEntire was at the helm of many of the finest recordings in the 1990s, from Stereolab and Gastr Del Sol to his own bands Tortoise and the Sea and Cake, so it is no surprise that his work for the soundtrack to director Bill Ryan's dark psychological film, Reach the Rock, contains a wealth of intelligent, invigorating music that crosses genre boundaries and jumps between different bands and artists. McEntire actually acted as executor of the soundtrack, contributing seven of his own compositions and soliciting the rest of the material, and so it falls just short of an official solo album. As a soundtrack, the individual pieces serve very different expressive and sonic purposes than do songs on a proper album; nevertheless, McEntire has assembled quite a varied cast of friends and bandmates to create music that is alternately pensive, calm, and paranoid. Tortoise opens the album with the lovely, soothing "In a Thimble," which would have fit nicely on the band's previous album with its alternately frenetic and receding percussiveness and washes of guitar and keyboard, while Bundy K. Brown, too, goes the percussive route on "Drift," a lovely sort of drum 'n' jazz hybrid, and perhaps the finest solicited contribution to the album. The Sea and Cake (with a vocal turn) and Dianogah also furnish strong tracks, while Polvo's piano dirge is less successful as a song perhaps than as incidental music. McEntire's own work for the album is universally good: "Criminal Record" is both majestic and mysterious, with its electronic percussion and background chorale hums; "Overview" and "Stolen Car" are intriguing bits of ambience; "Lise Arrives" is a dubbed-out piece of electro; and "Quinn Goes to Town," the finest cut on the album, marries attention-deficit snare drum and hollow bass with vibes. Reach the Rock holds together well as an isolated listening experience as well, in contrast to many scores. And it makes a proper album from McEntire a stimulating notion.

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