John Parish: Screenplay

Seeing as John Parish’s aim was for the compilation to function as a stand on its own piece as much as a highlight reel of his film work, it does at least do the job for Parish devotees who aren’t necessarily world cinema fans.

John Parish


Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2013-04-16
UK Release Date: 2013-04-15

John Parish’s film score compilation, Screenplay, can be somewhat disorienting if you think of it as such. If you have neither seen the films Parish’s scores have backed – or you have downloaded this album digitally – there is no clear indication of which film any particular selection is from. Seeing as Parish’s aim was for the compilation to function as a stand on its own piece as much as a highlight reel of his film work, it does at least do the job for Parish devotees who aren’t necessarily world cinema fans.

The music comprising Screenplay is mostly taken from Parish’s contributions to the films of Belgian director Patrice Toye (whose 1998 film, Rose, served as Parish’s first foray into motion picture scoring), the French-Swiss filmmaker Ursula Meier, and French screenwriter/director Sébastien Lifshitz, among others. IMDb summaries and illustrative song titles reveal that the first several score snippets on Screenplay are from Toye’s latest film, 2012’s Little Black Spiders. These selections reveal that Parish is becoming more adept at film scoring, as they are some of the album’s strongest showings. Slight Francophilic touches are discerned here and there, yet the pieces never lose sight of Parish’s guitar signatures; his playing on “Katja Gives Birth” sears like the surface of the sun.

Screenplay sometimes makes it a joy to imagine Parish's sometimes Beefheartian flourishes on songs like "L'enfant D'en Haut" worm their way into an Oscar shortlisted film like Meier's Sister. Other tricks, like the treated wine glass samples in "Les Billet", show that Parish's creativity hasn't been stifled by the sometimes constrained genre of soundtrack work. It helps that the other instrumentalists Parish has worked with on these scores are regular collaborators of his and musical kindred spirit, PJ Harvey, such as drummer Jean Marc Butty and guitarist Jeremy Hogg.

Much like his work with Harvey, Parish’s film work reveals him as an able collaborator when working with strong women. That Screenplay regularly features work inspired by films of female directors is a blessing, as are the guest female vocalists who appear on a few tracks. Tammy Payne of Jukes contributes some nice airy singing to “The Girls Rehearse”, while Spanish singer Maika Makovski is a little looser on “The Minotaur (Pt. 2)”. The only Parish-sung song, “A Glass of Wine”, comes at the end of the album, and, while not a highlight, it is still strong enough to be worthy of assuming its place as a lighter cut on one of Parish’s proper solo releases.

Given that so many indie artists have compiled their adventures in film scoring in recent years, it might be tempting to charge Screenplay of following in the footsteps of something like Mick Harvey’s Motion Picture Music or Tinderstick’s massive compilation, Claire Denis Film Scores. But just as these stand alongside the artists’ regular output, so does Screenplay stand among Parish’s own understated albums. That a band like Mogwai can score a series without having seen it (on this year’s Les Revenants) has proven once and for all that one need not be familiar with the source material to enjoy a soundtrack album. While it would have been nice to have a clearer idea of what exactly Parish was scoring from track to track, Screenplay has enough blissful moments that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Using it as a gateway into the world of Belgian cinema or female directors certainly wouldn’t hurt, however.







Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.