Yo La Tengo – Sounds of the Sounds of Science

Yo La Tengo are one of the most consistently brilliant and longest-running bands in existence today, rivaled only perhaps by Sonic Youth in the longevity-with-strong-artistic-integrity department.  Beginning as nerdy New Jersey kids spinning out thrashy Velvet Underground-inspired post punk, they’re now elder statesmen with more genre permutations under their collective belt than most entire labels could hope for, much less a single band.  This release in particular showcases their penchant for out-there experimentation and a playful sense of the beautifully absurd.

soundsofscience_big

The Sounds of the Sounds of Science features 78 minutes of instrumental music – an entire score written and performed by the band to accompany eight legendary but rarely-seen undersea documentary shorts by influential French avant-garde filmmaker Jean Painlevé.

Originally debuted on stage at the San Francisco Film Festival in April 2001 with the band providing live accompaniment to the films, these pieces echoe the films’ haunting surrealist imagery, yet the music is equally evocative on its own, from the dreamy soundscapes of Sea Urchins and How Some Jellyfish Are Born to the harsher, more dissonant moods of Liquid Crystals and The Love Life of The Octopus.  The final track, The Sea Horse, is a sparkling highlight: inspired minimalist structure the likes of which Terry Riley or Steve Reich may blush at, with buzzy farfisa tones John Cale would jealously covet; a soaring and wistful gust of wind melody flitting above the structure; and all manner of distorted and submerged effects populating the depths.  It’s the sort of piece which handily sets me off to sleep on low volume, or makes my heart swell out of my chest when it’s turned up to proper levels, enough to convey the powerful undercurrent of longing and mystery locked deep within.

In September 2001, the group headed into the studio to lay down the complete score with longtime producer Roger Moutenot.  The resulting album also features exquisite cover photos from the films, along with eerie-yet-comforting illustrations by Jim Woodring and Jad Fair.

[this entrancing rarity is out of stock at boomkat, amazon simply doesn't carry it, YLT's own website store is down for maintenence..  BUT I have found a rare copy at discogs marketplace..  want to know how rare this album is?  It's NOT even on ebay!]

About David James

I try to do good in life. I strive to help others. My drive is to open minds, and make someone feel better. Sharing art aids in achieving this. Writing is what I do. Music is my passion.

Posted on July 16, 2009, in Music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. whoo!

  2. fromherewegosublime

    thanks dave, this looks interesting.

  3. fromherewegosublime

    have you seen the documentary??

    • optimistic_tour

      I have not but I’d love to. It’s actually 8 short documentaries – one song to soundtrack each one. I’m going to look around and see what I can find.. Thanks for giving this a chance, btw!

      It’s actually funny so many people in our group are getting into this band via the weirdest album they’ve made.. oh well, in is in!

  4. As you probably know by now, Criterion released an amazing collection called “Science is Fiction” which includes about thirty of Painleve’s films. Pretty mind-blowing stuff. Yo La Tengo’s soundtracks are included, of course!

    • I did not know that at all, thank you!! I will look into this… hopefully I can have some disposable income soon enough to purchase, that sounds wildly intriguing.

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