Music

Golden Arm Trio: The Tick Tock Club

These 12 captivating pieces practically project themselves from your speakers. Every listen conjures up a new 37-minute flick in your head.


Golden Arm Trio

The Tick Tock Club

Label: Shamrock
US Release Date: 2007-06-05
UK Release Date: Unavailable
Amazon
iTunes

The scene: an art-school class of music geeks and movie buffs, mostly black-shirted, with messy, cigarette-scented hair.

-- OK, class, let's start with some free association. I say "experimental, evocative musical score", and you say...

-- Morricone?

-- Of course.

-- Badalamenti?

-- Good choice.

-- You there, smirking.

-- Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott.

-- Yes, excellent animated illustrations.

-- You in the back, in the Austin City Limits t-shirt, what did you say? Graham who?

-- Graham Reynolds.

-- (Class in unison) Who?

Cut: to review.

Let me, your humble and blown-away PopMatters reviewer, introduce Graham Reynolds's Golden Arm Trio and their most recent release, The Tick-Tock Club. These 12 captivating pieces practically project themselves from your speakers. Every listen conjures up a new 37-minute flick in your head.

The Austin-based Golden Arm Trio -- actually not a trio at all, but the 36-year-old Reynolds and about, oh, 24 friends -- have created a masterful work here. There's the high-hat and horn-fueled sinister spy-jazz of "20 Million Ways to Die in Chicago", which is two-thirds abstract Ellington and three parts amped-up orchestral adventure. Ultra-impressive "Disco", displaying no trace of the genre of its name, is the liveliest and most interesting piece I've heard this year, from any genre. Its sawed strings and thumped piano build over four-and-a-half minutes, with careening guitar lines and horn squalls that burst into a lovely and menacing cacophonic mess.

The liner notes explain how several tracks are related through re-imagined repetitions of theme, melody, and instrumentation. Two of these tracks are directly inspired by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. A melody that first appears as a haunting cello and vibraphone duo in the opening track "Dmitri Dmitryevich", a Shostakovich tribute, receives a six-minute orchestral expansion in closer "DSCH". Just as these two compositions bookend The Tick- Tock Club, they would also well escort a film's opening sequence and rolling credits.

The listener is presented a range of sonically visual options in the "scenes" within The Tick-Tock Club. The title track, appearing after the brief intro piece, is Mancini on acid -- three minutes of surreal drama, where hyper horns and swirling strings compete for an exciting aural apex. Strings dominate the elegant "He Lies Like an Eyewitness" and the minimalist "Eventide". "Greyhound", with its compositional echoes of the Masada String Trio, pairs a cello with a piano for stunning effect. The jaunty "The Duchess of Parma" recalls the cartoon scores of Scott and Stalling, while setting the scene of a space-age bachelor pad.

Multi-instrumentalist Reynolds is well-aware of The Tick Tock Club's utility as a soundtrack. The album's web site encourages listeners to write accompanying stories, and several have. After you've tackled this challenge, you can craft another script based on one of the site's alternative track sequences, one of which front-loads the up-beat and driving pieces and ends with the more classically-oriented, melancholy ones. The site also explains that "The Tick Tock Club Film Project" is in the works, with a handful of Austin filmmakers working on short films to accompany this music. Let's hope that the visuals live up to the audio.

Moreover, this isn't Reynolds' first foray into film music. He has scored five features, dozens of shorts and more than 20 silent films, most prominently, the soundtrack to Richard Linklater's animated adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. Reynolds has also written five symphonies, two operas, and countless chamber music pieces. He is now working on a ballet, an album of Duke Ellington material, and a concert-length adaptation of Homer's Odyssey for the Austin Children's Choir.

Despite these classical associations, Reynolds employs his Golden Arm Trio moniker to assert his most cinematic and edgy rock-influenced work. This is the Trio's fourth album, and it is one that will educate and surprise students of filmic-crime-jazz-rock-improv-noir-string music.

Ennio who?

9

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image