You won't find two cities more different on the surface than Paris and Tucson. But while listening to transplanted Frenchman Naim Amor's instrumental music you sense that the Sonoran desert and Le Champs Elysees may not be as far apart as you imagined. The third in his Soundtracks series of all-instrumental songs adds a Parisian flair to Amor's cinematic collage of lounge jazz, country, Left Bank waltzes, and slack-key and surf guitars, heightening the affect of watching Sergio Leone and Francois Truffaut co-direct an intimate bedroom drama in the middle of a Spaghetti western. Mostly, though, one suspects it's just Amor's Euro DNA that makes for such a romantic spin on what is traditionally somewhat lonely and sinister musical (and visual) territory.
There are no extant films to go along with this series, but that almost seems beside the point anyway (we imagine Amor wouldn't say "no" to a Miramax paycheck, though). With imaginative instrumental music - these days meaning the rare recordings that don't ape Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai -- the films spool out in your head like fragmentary scenes. The distorted guitar at the close of "Precious Second" may evoke the big sonic vistas of Friends of Dean Martinez, but the Hawaiian lap steel and vibes preceding it provide cozy contrast, as though you're seeing it from an interior shot. "Keeylocko" bends and twists like drunken cabaret run through peyote lounge music, a harmonica melody weaving to snake-rattle percussion, stuttering banjo and baritone guitar. Even the wistful twang-shuffle "Reminds Me of a Song" closes with an end-credits climax of interweaving guitar lines that generates significant heat.
But Amor, who programs and plays nearly a dozen instruments on the record, doesn't limit his stylistic map to just familiar environs -- he brings those into other surprising territories. "Klezmer Muzak" takes a "Love Rollercoaster"/Ohio Players-like bass line, mixes in some spooky vibes, lap steel and clarinet, and presto: Balkan Klezmer funk. The late-night accordion and jazz guitar of "Soul Mambo" read like a ‘60s film score to Jean-Paul Belmondo's conquests, while "Tucson Nocturne" spurns any obvious desert-music tropes for a raucous film noir feel built with saxophone, nearly free-form percussion, and surf guitar. But maybe what's most impressive about the Soundtracks series is how Amor takes many of the same ingredients found in the music of his friends and Tucson neighbors Calexico, and comes up with something entirely different and equally compelling.
Standout Tracks: "Where the West Ends" "Reminds Me of a Song" "Klezmer Music" JOHN SCHACHT