“Do you know how to use this weapon?” – Nobody
Neil Young‘s score for the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film is hauntingly evocative, an improvised set made with electric and acoustic guitar, organ, and piano, recorded as Young watched rough cuts of the film over just three days.
Vibrant, endless, searching, guiding, and inspiring – Young’s guitar tones ripple through through the fields, cover the mountains, and scour the lakes with their pure holy roller tones – this music feels more like the declarations of some unspeaking presence, a force buried underground, echoing from caverns and crevices, rising up to paint the clouds on occasion, then dissipate over the coast into the roiling sea.
The only frame of reference for this album, aside the film itself, is perhaps the album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, by drone pioneers Earth. The title of that album, in fact, comes from a certain William Blake poem taken from the film and embedded in this album.
The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of 6,000 years years is true, as I’ve heard in hell. The whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite, and holy, where as it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But the first notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I will do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid. If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks in his cavern. – William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
This is important to understanding the texture and aim of the music. Powerful roaring clean, piercing guitar tones, undercut with judicious feedback and a rumbling low end, are the broad strokes with which this canvas is painted. Warm tones and a nighttime-in-the-woods ceremonial ferver color in the edges. Funereal organ pulse and delicate piano stabs define the lines. The full work comes crashing together via the epic centerpiece Guitar Solo 5, a 15 minute exploration meant to drag the listener far above terra firma (and lash the film viewer’s senses to the screen) into the embryonic soup where stars are born and alchemy is real.
While experience with the film is helpful it’s in no way essential to enjoying this record. Simply hit play and let the wild horse run free. In time, you’ll be ready for your own journey.
[pick up the mindblowing film itself at amazon while you're at it]