Various Artists - "IAMAPHOTOGRAPHER: A Tribute To Antonioni's BLOW UP" (Plain Recordings 2001, plain101)

From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)

I felt intensely hip and intellectual listening to the music on this recording. Often, I didn't really understand the music, or was unable to make the connection between it and the movie, but I felt hip and intellectual nonetheless, which I think is perhaps the point.

IAMAPHOTOGRAPHER is a collection of tracks recorded by current artists as a tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni's groundbreaking 1966 cult film, Blow Up. The film itself not only brilliantly captures the hip epicentre of swinging era London, but also provocatively showcases the emptiness of the lifestyles of those involved in it. At times, the music on IAMAPHOTOGRAPHER seems to celebrate that emptiness, by being experimental for the sake of being experimental. Avant garde style without the substance. At other times, it grooves nicely.

Mushroom best captures the jazzy feel of Herbie Hancock's original film score with Antonioni's Groove. Other more jazz oriented numbers on the album include the mellow and sexy sounding Full Frontal Nudity by Birdsong's Airforce and Arthur Doyle's strange and sometimes repetitively irritating You End Me on the African Express (which features the same aching notes played over and over again on the saxaphone, interjected with lo fi mumbling-I must admit, I largely failed to understand this piece). Matmos echoes the jazzier side of the film as well with the amusingly titled Despite Its Aesthetic Advances In Its Policing of the Sexuality of Public Space Antonioni's Film Perpetuates Misogyny and Homophobia.

On the stranger, avant garde side of things, we get Dean Robert's A Yard of Birds (a reference to the appearance of The Yardbirds in a memorable club scene in the film) which revels in feedback and atmospheric electronics, and William Parker's Sonic Animation, an intriguing foray into dissonant bowed strings, which perhaps outstays its welcome a little at 9 minutes in length.

Ambient selections include Loren MazzaCane Connors' The Wind in the Trees/The Couple, which attempts to evoke the feel of a key scene in Blow Up, rather than the overall feel of the whole film, the gentle and almost Celtic sound of Amy Denio's Wind Up, and the sparse minimalism of Walking Around by Dawson Prater (a little too minimal for my tastes, consisting largely of one long, warbling drone and that goes on for 12 minutes with little else happening-though I must admit it is, in a way, evocative of the meaningless perambulations of one of the characters in the film).

Starfuckers perform 30.0/31.0, a rather noisy sound collage with out of tune guitars held together by a bizarre, drunken percussion rhythm. Providing a dramatic contrast to this is Richard Youngs' pastoral 1966. With it's gentle acoustic guitar, flute and chime sounds, it seems to me to evoke the morning sun shining through the bedroom window of a country farmhouse, rather than anything in the film. Amusingly, Sun City Girls' Rolled Up Collar sounds like the late night wasted version of Youngs' track. The album closes with the minimalist accordian, plunking piano, and melancholy clarinet (?) of Fabulous Jajouka by Dorgon

One the most memorable moments in the film is when the photographer, played by David Hemmings, meets a model he knows, at a party in a London flat. At this encounter, she is now obviously high on something, walking around in a semi-delirious state. He asks her about a comment she made the last time he saw her. "I thought you were going to Paris," he says. Barely looking at him, she replies, "I am in Paris." Well, if someone heard me listening to IAMAPHOTOGRAPHER and commented that they thought I said I was going to go and listen to a great album, I would say, "I am listening to a great album."

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Contact via snail mail c/o Plain Recordings; PO Box 2947; San Francisco, CA 94126.

Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

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