Album review: Marc Ribot's 'Silent Movies'
Solo guitar records can be an acquired taste. Frequently viewed like manna for players and obsessives, the sometimes spare, technical nature of the effort can separate the music listener from the musician-listener, and the casual fan from the fanatic.
With a tough-to-pin-down back catalog that includes detours through Cuban jazz, six-stringed Albert Ayler tributes and stints lending his stinging tone to atmospheric songwriters like Tom Waits and Joe Henry, Marc Ribot is the sort of guitarist who merits following wherever he turns. Often eager to explore the noisier side of things in prior outings, Ribot turns inward for “Silent Movies,” a collection of 13 instrumentals compiled from the guitarist’s library of never-used film scores or otherwise film-inspired pieces. At times the results are spare, even minimalist, and if not immediately redolent of a crowded movie house then still evocative as with the contemplative “Flicker,” where Ribot’s plucked guitar twinkles against a gentle overdub of what could be the hum of passing traffic.
At its best, the record deals in darker fare such as with the feedback-laden mini-epic “Natalia in E Flat Major,” which carries the same steely edge as Neil Young’s “Dead Man” soundtrack, or the ominous walking blues of “Requiem for a Revolution.” Ribot’s work here may not always cry for attention like some effects-laden summer blockbuster, but it can be a quietly immersive art house favorite in the right hands.
-- Chris Barton