Wonderful words by the ever erudite Adam Turner.
Returning from a screening of the 1981 classic Michael Mann film, The Thief – a movie soundtracked by pioneering electronic act Tangerine Dream, Music For Dreams founder, Kenneth Bager received a visit from Turkish musician, Tolga Böyük. The pair then sat down to watch William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, and take in another Tangerine Dream score. Suitably inspired, they switched on Tolga’s laptop studio and began writing and recording. Before night had fallen they’d finished five tracks, which they decided were the music for a film not yet made, a film they called East Of North – the compass points of their respective homes. The following day they kept going, and wrote five more.
The ten tracks are very much influenced by the aforementioned “TD” – long synth shapes, floating, rippling melodies, the 70s sci-fi feel, portentous chord changes and dramatic sequences. Opener, The Meeting, has all of these, and a high pitched, wordless vocal too – producing plenty of drama and some achingly good `70s West Berlin vibes.
This segues straight into Blood Is Thicker Than Ice – washes of sound and slowly building tension, topped with arctic twinkles. A sultry Vangelis / Blade Runner style sax solo serenading halfway through.
Betrayal, the longest track on the album, is full of chiming synths and pitter-pattering rhythms. In their imaginary film two people are stuck on an ice cap, each trying to fool the other. Betrayal summons this imaginary scene. Its gentle lullabies underscored by more menacing tones and some sinister cello.
The film – that exists only in their heads but which increasingly I can see as the soundtrack plays – shifts again with two shorter pieces, The Hunt Begins and Wounds Of Sorrow, a buzzing backdrop of ambient noise. Here To Eternity slows the pace with long melancholic chords. Something has happened, a tragedy has befallen somebody, and the character arc shifts to a new space. The synths taking up a mournful tone, a long extended wail.
Then we’re back to the action. Rearrange Your Face is more uptempo, the throb of a sequencer driving the plot forward. We’re on the run, crashing through the icy landscape as the rhythms rush on, the timpani beating down beneath the high-pitched topline. Love Of my Life is more abstract, and a stillness descends again, a pause before the movie’s momentous climax, the hero’s true character revealed.
Choices Of Consequences takes its cues from a third late 20th Century film-scoring maestro, John Carpenter. Its arpeggios jumping right out of Escape From New York, but with an ambient backdrop that keeps it from being pure pastiche. The drama is intensifying, plot lines tied-up, and narrative arcs resolved. The End brings it all together, and to a close. A lower key and sombre piece, with the credits about to scroll, our hero surviving and making it off the ice cap and back to safety. Strings swell, the cello reappears, and the soundtrack and screen fade to black.
Tolga Böyük & Kenneth Bager`s East Of North is out now, on Music For Dreams.
You can find more proper, on point, prose from Adam Turner over at his own brilliant blog, The Bagging Area.