Composer: Anton Newcombe.
Recording information: Berlin (2014).
The Brian Jonestown Massacre always took a rather arty approach to their garage-spiked psychedelia, so it stands to reason that as the rock side of their personality begins to fade, the art side comes in to help fill out the spaces. That certainly seems to be the case with 2015's Musique de Film Imaginé, which practically abandons rock & roll altogether in favor of a suite of languid mood pieces inspired by Anton Newcombe's love of French film scores. While Newcombe has name-checked Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut as inspirations for this album, Musique de Film Imaginé sounds more like it would suit some Gallic thriller from the '60s about lovers caught up in a nefarious blackmail scheme, or maybe an early Jean Rollin picture about elegant vampires in the City of Lights. The melodies are elemental but powerfully evocative, while the arrangements (scored for a small ensemble with brass, woodwinds, and strings) and production mimic the tone of European pop and film music. While there's a faint hint of kitsch here and there, most of the time this is a sincere and honestly effective journey into a world where sounds merge with images, or at the very least, help the pictures do some of the emotional heavy lifting. Musique de Film Imaginé certainly isn't the work of a dilettante; Newcombe has clearly done his homework, and understands the nuts and bolts of film scoring and the dynamics of a proper arrangement, enough so that he'd probably be a fine choice to write the music for some retro-style art film. Perhaps Musique de Film Imaginé is intended as a résumé item for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, but if it is, it's a fine sample of Anton Newcombe's work, and anyone who thinks Take It from the Man! or Strung Out in Heaven represented the limits of his abilities will encounter a pleasant surprise with this album. ~ Mark Deming