Music is magic. You know that or you wouldn’t be reading this. Sometimes the best plans one makes — hiring the greatest players, songwriters, singers, arrangers, etc. to a room and having them create — only yields crap. Other times, an ordinary solo performer without a particular inspiration sits alone and comes up with an extraordinary work. Such is the case of Tracey Thorn and her eight-song, 17-minute EP of original music for the Carol Mosley film set at a girls school in the ’60s, The Falling. Thorn has received her share of accolades for her roles in acts such as Everything But the Girl and Massive Attack, but this soundtrack stands alone in its haunting gloom. This is the sound of loneliness and isolation as when eating one’s bitter heart tastes better than anything else in the world.
Thorn wrote and performed the score completely by herself using musical instruments one would find in a school band room (piano, guitar, recorder, bass, percussion) to fit the ambiance of the movie. She only allowed herself one take on each instrument to keep the heartfelt, do-it-yourself ambiance fresh. The playing is primitive in a good way. Each sound is valued for its qualities before moving on to the next. And every note on the piano rings, every note sung reverberates, every string strummed just hangs there as the mind conjures what to do next that won’t break the spell the sounds have made.
The shortest songs last less than two minutes and suggest the limited span of most dreams. Tracks such as “Hospital”, “Are You There”, and “They Only Do Harm” offer despondent evocations of being distant from the here and now. The melancholy is muted by the sweetness of the little things we catch ourselves thinking when we don’t know we are thinking. The ephemerality becomes an essential part of the experience.
And the three-minute plus songs that bookend the disc provide periods of reflection before and after whatever occurred. The question of, “Does anything happen in a world where everything kind of sounds the same, but nothing ever really is?” becomes moot. Thinking changes what is thought about, even when nothing ever transforms. All the seasons are different, yet the year comes annually. The earth rotates on its axis, and we all move in orbit.
Heavy stuff to impute to a disc whose function is to provide background noise to a flick about a group of females who share an impulse to faint for no reason (but then again, for all the reasons in the world). Thorn captures that vibe and turns it into a sonic balm for those who seek catharsis in the slow and self-centered pace of being one with oneself. The soft and gentle rhythms become the aural equivalent of going to the seaside to watch the waves ebb and flow as a way of getting in touch with what’s inside.
So you can’t dance to this, sing along with it, or party hearty with the music. Songs from the Falling provides an atmospheric ride to a place you did not know you already were — that space between the ears that’s not your conscious mind.