Shinjuku Thief

Scribbler

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In 1992, experimental music project Shinjuku Thief released The Scribbler, a piece commissioned for an Australian arts festival. The album was a "soundtrack" to Franz Kafka's book The Trial, and was performed with accompanying visuals. After a limited initial pressing, Cold Spring reissued and remastered the record in 2007. The reissue reworked/augmented some passages, and included a video of the original visuals. The new package is a revelation; that such mastery lay ignored for so long is criminal, so to speak. By and large, the ingredients are orchestral, though they could be electronically sourced. Industrial touches pepper the album and give it depth. At the outset, strings sketch out minor key themes that return throughout in various shapes; doomy church organ adds menace. Although this album is a soundtrack, it works marvelously by itself. Like the book, it grows progressively more labyrinthine. Textures vary from the barroom piano of "Lanz" to the symphonic density of "Advocate." "Titorelli" has unnervingly anxious, sawing strings. The material is tonal, geometric, and repetitive à la Steve Reich. Yet the soundscape continually shifts, perhaps echoing Josef K's search for a reason behind his tribulations and ultimately his existence. In fact, given the posthumous assembly of the book and its unfinished original state, this album is probably more coherent. It lets in more light than its inspiration, but that only makes its darkness darker.

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