One of my favourite things in music is when two musicians I like get together unexpectedly and release an album that both blows me away and makes me sit up and take notice. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan did this, in ample style. One recent collaboration that made me smile when it was announced was MEMORIALS. The group is made up of Verity Susman (Electrelane) and Matthew Simms (Wire and It Hugs Back). Their debut album ‘Music For Film’ lives up to the hype.
As the title suggests, the songs are from scores the duo worked on. This gives the album a cinematic feel. Whether you are replying to that irksome email at work; doing your weekly food shop; walking to meet friends on the weekend, or travelling home after a gig, listening to it makes any job feel more epic. Where the album really excels is on the melodies and rhythms. ‘Sportswear Couture’ is a standout moment. Opening with a glorious synth drone, it gradually – and gracefully – builds with vocals, drums, organs, and basslines. At its peak is monumental. The drone keeps washing over you. Then you start to pick out the melodies just below the surface and we’re off to somewhere else.
‘Music For Film’ is an enjoyable collection of songs. Tracks like ‘Tramps!’ feel like fully formed songs, whereas ‘Feel of Time’ sound like a work in progress. The album benefits from both of their inclusions. Its shows that MEMORIALS are still finding their musical feet and enjoying creating music together. Where the album does fall flat, however, is when the band don’t seem to have a solid theme behind the music and just play. ‘Blue Feather Boa’ and ‘A Job For Derek’ feel like these tracks. ‘Blue Feather Boa’ is fun, with a shrieking horn but ‘A Job For Derek’ sounds like Susman and Simms trying to write something for Stranger Things. Neither as strong as I would have hoped. While this isn’t a necessarily a bad thing, when played next to ‘Tramps!’ or ‘Feel Of Time’ it sounds a bit flat. This might be me being over critical, but it did diminish the enjoyment a bit.
That said, ‘Music For Film’ is a blast and needs to be played as loud as you can to give it justice. There are some wonderful drones, and tones, lurking just below the surface that aren’t appreciated at low volume on tiny speakers. Overall, this is an album to savour. It delivers big results in the present and hints at even bigger ones in the future.
Words: Nick Roseblade