Western Classics


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Western Classics Review

by François Couture

If you thought Lugubrious was taking quite a sidestep from MX-80's output, beware of Western Classics. The ambient feel of the previous album remains, but its electronica touches are downplayed in favor of an Ennio Morricone feel. Bruce Anderson and Jim Hrabetin's guitars and basses occupy center stage for this project. Twangy chords and smoky melodies and desert-flavored effects abound. The drums of Dave Mahoney and Marc Weinstein are often the only accompaniment. Arrangements are stark but efficient, creating wide-angle cinematics that may or may not relate to the movies from which they take their titles. But the mood is right: a postmodern West, where beatboxes have been left to decay in the sand and Western clichés have evolved into a new form of instrumental rock. "The Searchers" and "3 Faces of Eve" both contain memorable themes and creative guitar work. "The Manchurian Candidate" features quiet wordless vocals from Dale Sophiea (created for "narrative flow"). A Western-themed album would not be complete without a whistled tune, so "Point Blank" delivers it. The album consists of six pieces in the five- to seven-minute range, plus the half-hour-long "McCabe & Mrs. Miller (With Deleted Scenes)." A myth breaker of sorts, this movie called for a slightly different soundtrack. The piece heard here is actually a suite of seemingly unrelated sections moving from guitar strumming to drones and experimental improvisation. It sounds like a collage made from the strips of footage left on the floor after the director left the editing room. It is considerably less impressive than the other material on the album (it lacks focus and is too uneven), but it still has its moments. And it doesn't bring down tunes like "The Searchers."

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