The soundtrack to Harmony Korine's film, Mister Lonely, begins in a nursery sweet cascade of music-box tones, a whispery voice intimating alienation. "I don't know if you know what it is like to want to be someone else, to not want to look like you look, to hate your own face and to go completely unnoticed. I have always wanted to be someone else," says the character Michael. (It is "Michael's Opening" after all.) And this initiates a strange and intermittently beautiful collage of spoken word, luminous arpeggios of guitar, piano and viola, earthy blues and ethereal vocal musings. The movie, by all reports, layers surreal imagery on top of tenderness, obliquely telling the stories of a nun who dropped from a plane unharmed and an outcast colony of celebrity look-alikes.
Scoring duties are split between J. Spaceman (or Jason Pierce), ex- of Spaceman III and Spiritualized, and the Sun City Girls, Alan Bishop, Richard Bishop and the late Charles Gocher. They are, of course, very different sort of musicians, with a distinct palette of influences and experiences, and yet, the whole thing flows rather smoothly. Spaceman's tracks follow a circling, mesmeric series of arpeggios, more an idea or a mood than a theme, while the Sun City Girls tracks tend to be longer, eerier and more different from each other. Sun City Girls' "Spook," for instance, is an icy texture of overtones and disembodied cries, bell-like sustained notes rising through a mist of layered reverberations, while their "Steppe Spiritual" has the drone and mystery of muezzin call. Spacemen's cuts range from the found sound clatter of jungle-hooting "Panama 1" to the near classical precision of "Garden Walk," but return again and again to the calm chord progressions of his opening "Blues" pieces.
In addition to the opening cut, there are two other spoken word pieces, a rather lovely declaration of faith called "Nun's Prayer" and a more desolate, damaged affirmation of same by Werner Herzog ("Father Utrillo's Broken Nation"). One gets the mood and tone of the movie and bits of the story from the Mister Lonely soundtrack, but in a fractured, incomplete way. The music is quite lovely and evocative and but not entirely freestanding. Only a few tracks--"Mister Lonely's Viola" is one--work as self-sufficient songs. Others seem to require imagery to make sense, and you flip through the accompanying booklet to match the pictures to what you're hearing.
Strange, beautiful, but curiously truncated, these songs hint at a fuller experience, which can, perhaps, only be gotten through the movie. • Jennifer Kelly