The story goes that Sonic Youth so enjoyed making the couple of tracks they’d been allocated for this film that they decided to make an LP’s worth of material. If true, that spirit certainly comes through in the recording. It’s a fine piece of work and certainly the most enjoyable listen I’ve got from spinning one of their records in quite a while.
The record has twelve instrumental tracks of varying but pretty standard LP length and one thirteen minute whopper, Thème d’Alice, which (like Mother Sky on Can’s Soundtracks LP),threatens to engulf everything around it with its sheer bravura and presence. Whereas Mother Sky is a driven (and sublime) mantra, Thème D’Alice has a feel of a long drawn out jam that could be from the Church of Anthrax or Loaded sessions. It really is charming as well as being slightly cocky and it struts through its allotted time oblivious to any disapproving tuts or glances.
The other tracks seem to be either aural studies in character psychology or sensual appraisals of mood and atmosphere. The pieces don’t feel unfinished however; rather they manage to balance fleeting, suggestive feelings against a prevailing mood of doubt and suspicion. The tracks are very tensile: Thème de Jérémie is a moody and downbeat shrug set over a pitter-patter beat, whereas Jean Bapiste à La Fenêtre is a shifting, uneasy but weirdly slovenly set of short passages. Another thing, I really don’t know how Sonic Youth manage to distil the essence of bored and stroppy teenagerdom so well; Alice et Simon and Jean Baptiste et Laetitia sound like bitty, gauche conversations whereas Au Café drips with that restless melancholy, so beloved of Youth.
The band work in enough texture and mood to keep things fresh, and the LP’s structure is strong and cohesive; enough to satisfy any listener that taking on 13 instrumentals won’t be such a hard task. It’s actually a really great listen, topped off with one of the finest rock and roll work-outs of the last 10 years or so.
Well worth your time.