Angel-A is the soundtrack to a Luc Besson film that has yet to make it over to this side of the Atlantic. The film centres on a young man whose attempt at suicide is disrupted by a mysterious young woman he meets on a Paris bridge. Upon writing the film, Besson tapped Norwegian singer Anja Garbarek to undertake duties as the film’s musical composer, citing her albums as an inspiration behind the story. What Angel-A offers, then, is a set of darkly elegant jazz-noir mood pieces that serve to evoke the smoky cityscapes of a cool, black-and-white French New Wave Paris. The soundtrack is mainly comprised of two of Garbarek’s previous releases, 1996’s Balloon Mood and 2001’s Smiling and Waving, as well as a few brief instrumentals and two new pieces. The two new pieces are the sumptuous highlights here: the supreme lushness of “No Trace of Grey” features the quiet surge of a string-section wrapped snugly around a jazz-rippled groove, while the soul-sinking bass plunges that inform “It’s Just a Game” are interrupted by spacey cabaret-like interludes, in which Garbarek murmurs the chorus almost tauntingly. The older material on the soundtrack feature some ingenious sonic touches as well, from the clattering of knick-knacks that make up the rhythm of “The Cabinet” to the deep, spacious hollows of “Balloon Mood”, which echo back a ghostly vocal amid the swell of eerie atmospherics.
The gorgeous, spooky, and lingering ambience of Garbarek’s music is somewhat derailed by the bluesy contributions of Eat and Hiro My Hero, the other artists that feature on the disc toward the end. But since the soundtrack features heavily Garbarek’s work, the closing numbers by the other artists can be easily overlooked, without spoiling the sultry mood that precedes them. Keeping in mind that this is a soundtrack, these songs mirror perfectly the emotions of the film, the ghosts of the story’s characters haunting the lyrical refrains. However, to those unfamiliar with the film, the soundtrack stands alone as a solid, well-rounded effort and also a wonderful introduction to those not yet acquainted with Anja Garbarek’s music.