Coming just under a year after his solo debut, When, Warp's release of Vincent Gallo's Recordings of Music for Film feels less like an attempt to exploit that album's relative success than a way to explore the actor/director/musician's sound more thoroughly. Covering four films and nearly a decade's worth of recordings, the album's breadth and depth -- it spans 29 tracks in just under an hour -- not to mention its music, reflects Gallo's stance as an uncompromising artist in many different forms of media. Not surprisingly, the collection's earliest tracks, for the 1979 film If You Feel Froggy, Jump, are the most difficult; the lo-fi organ stabs of "Ass Fucker" and "Ass Fucker (Reprise)"'s noisy guitar slashings are clearly inspired by the no wave scene that dominated New York's underground at the time. Similarly, the snippets from Downtown '81's score are still fairly confrontational, though the intricate guitar work on "Me and Her" and the droning "Brown 69" find Gallo's unique style emerging from his influences. His work on 1983's The Way It Is makes up the heart of Recordings of Music for Film, and the score's minimalistic, hypnotic pieces still sound impressively fresh. Initially, misty, meandering interludes such as "Her Smell Theme," "Glad to Be Unhappy," and "Good Bye Sadness, Hello Death" sound like so much guitar and piano noodling, but as they unfold into each other they create a dreamlike effect. The atonal, vaguely disturbing "A Brown Lung Hollering" and rather sinister-sounding "No More Papa Mama" are somewhat difficult and certainly filmic in that they sound better as background music rather than the focus of attention. While the unfinished, unfocused quality of much of The Way It Is' score only heightens its hesitant beauty, the more polished tracks, such as "The Way It Is Waltz" and "Six Laughs Once Happy," showcase Gallo's gift for understated arrangements and melodies with a certain decaying elegance. In particular, "A Colored Sky Colored Grey," with its luminous, vaguely jazzy guitar, is a direct antecedent to When's more accessible version of Gallo's sound. Though there are allusions to various genres -- jazz, classical, even Asian influences abound -- the music doesn't directly acknowledge any connections or allegiances. The music for Buffalo '66, which was recorded in 1988 though the film was released a decade later, refines Gallo's approach even further; though it's less adventurous than The Way It Is' material, it's considerably more polished, especially on "Lonely Boy," where Gallo's delicate, almost androgynous croon marks another step toward When's dreamy, postmodern torch songs. Except for the tough, noisy "Drowning in Brown," this collection focuses on the quiet, reflective moments from Buffalo 66's score instead of the prog rock-inspired material; while some of these more aggressive pieces would have made an interesting contrast to the rest of the album's somewhat subdued mood, leaving them out does emphasize the themes that crop up throughout all of Gallo's film music: fleeting moments of happiness, not-so-fleeting moments of sadness, the colors brown and grey, and his impressionistic, evocative approach. Monochromatic but surprisingly expressive, Recordings of Music for Film reaffirms what a consistently interesting musician Gallo is, from his earliest work to his most recent.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares