While much of the world knows Irmin Schmidt best for the years he spent as the keyboard player in Can, providing exotic tone colors for their groove-heavy but adventurous Krautrock expeditions, that's really just one small part of the German musician's long career. The classically trained Schmidt started out as a composer and conductor, working in that capacity long before his Can days, and he's been creating soundtrack music for a dizzying variety of projects for more than four decades now. His first collection of soundtrack themes was released back in 1980, and Filmmusik Anthology Vols. 4 & 5 arrives as the follow-up to Soundtracks 1978-1993. It covers the work Schmidt has done for film and television over the last ten years, including the movie Schneeland, the TV series Bloch and Tatort, and the most recent Wim Wenders film, Palermo Shooting. Over the course of its two discs, the collection represents the music for 20 films in all. Right off the bat, listeners should know that if they're expecting anything even remotely Can-esque, they're going to be thrown for a loop. As those familiar with Schmidt's previous soundtrack releases already know, we're dealing mostly with low-key moods and darkly ambient musical landscapes here. The feel throughout most of the tracks is a contemplative one; though things often turn toward the murky and foreboding, the music never gets overtly heavy. Whether employing keyboards, strings, or wind instruments to make his statements, the vibe is most often an ethereal one. Even on the tracks where there's percussion and an actual groove at the center of the arrangements, such as "Tattoo" and "Airport," Schmidt never abandons that smoky, evanescent quality, consistently reminding you that you're in a theater of the mind here.
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