John Parish: Screenplay – album review

John Parish-Screenplay (Thrill Jockey)
DL/CD/LP
Out Now

Producer, singer, songwriter and composer John Parish assembles some tracks from various movies he has scored. Chris Hearn listened. Chris Hearn likes.

This is a fantastic collection of movie score tracks that, although are from completely different movies, come together as one to create a unique soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t actually exist. In John Parish’s words: “Rather than release each one as a ‘Soundtrack to…’ it might be an interesting idea to try to compile an album with the highlights from several movies, something that would be a good listen regardless of whether you have seen the films”.

Generally, I’m not a fan of soundtracks. There are only two soundtracks that I own that I really like. One is the soundtrack for ‘Lost Highway’ and the other is the soundtrack to ‘The Virgin Suicides’. Both of these albums I love, and both remind me of ‘Screenplay’, especially the contributions by Angelo Badalamenti and Barry Adamson on the ‘Lost Highway’ album.

‘Screenplay’ is nineteen tracks of innovative, inventive, beautiful, daring creativity. Every song on here is good. Every song on here is worth a close listen.

The oriental tinged opening track ‘Katharina’ introduces a sound that repeats itself throughout the album. There is something exotic in here that creeps through. It is a laid-back, chilled out, almost jazzy song that sets the tone for much of what is to come. This is a crispy cool album. It’s David Lynch/Twin Peaks kind of cool. There is no hurry here, just relaxed hipness and this song kicks it off well.

 

A few tracks in, ‘Minotaur Pt. 2’ sees a harder guitar track surface, which although marks a departure from the opening tracks, slides in well and makes for a perfect fit. This whole album has been arranged in a way that works well, with sounds and song flowing nicely for a complete album experience. It is an album to listen to from beginning to end.

‘L rsquo Enfant D rsquo en Haut’ sees the return of some nice, heavier feedback laden guitar, over a fuzzy electro loop, and is up there with ‘Minotaur Pt. 2’ as my favourite tracks. Soft, minimal, moody and slightly suspenseful piano shows up quite often in songs like ‘Girl Wurli’. To put it bluntly, there is no shortage of excellent work here.

Parish is best known for his work with PJ Harvey, having performed with her and produced several of her albums. In the 80s he found himself drawn increasingly into the world of production, and has gotten involved, seemingly even to his surprise, in scoring movies. Based on this album I would have to say it was a good move. He’s good at it. Each of these songs is powerful on its own. Combined with images and a story, I can imagine the impact would be heavy.

I will admit, I have not seen, nor even heard of the movies that Parish has scored which include ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Plein Sud’’, ‘Sister’ (original title L’enfant d’en Haut) and ‘Little Black Spiders’. But, in many ways, it doesn’t matter (as Parish hoped for). The songs speak for themselves. I’m just impressed by John Parish, and now want to look further into his back catalogue, and I now have a renewed interest in finding out more on PJ Harvey who is someone who hasn’t piqued my interest before.

‘Screenplay’ is a powerful album from a multi-talented and fascinating man. It’s a collection of music worth picking up. Do it.

Visit John Parish online at his official website and on the Thrill Jockey Records website. Listen to ‘LBS End Titles’ from the album on Soundcloud.

Words by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.

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