Well, here we are. The final One Liners column of 2020. This series has shifted a bit over the past year — from a broader focus to zeroing in on film and television scores and soundtracks. In keeping with the spirit of the most recent One Liners, though, today’s will be broader. It’ll also encompass a bigger window of time than usual. I realized today that I haven’t written one of these in two months! Here we go.
Dawn to Dawn — “Meridian”
One of my favorite artists of the past several years is Montreal-based Tess Roby. In 2018 her exquisite debut album, Beacon, on Italians Do It Better introduced us to her deeply moving vocal style and intimate lyricism. At the time I described it as follows: It’s an instant masterpiece that occupies a space unencumbered by the strictures of time or fad. Roby opens a window into her heart and soul in an authentic and meaningful way, revealing an engaging level of wisdom and vulnerability.
Dawn to Dawn is a new band she’s in with fellow Montreal residents Adam Ohr and Patrick Lee. The trio became close friends and ended up writing and producing music together. The first single to come out of this experience is the dark and propulsively ethereal dance number “Meridian.” It has the mesmerizing quality of Roby’s solo work, but takes on a dreamier, more enigmatic character that is much more comfortable on the other side of midnight. Expect an album next year. That is, if you can handle the wait.
Gregtronic — Explorations, Vol. 1
He scored one of my favorite horror-comedy films, 2015’s The Final Girls. Gregory James Jenkins is back with a release under his pseudonym, Gregtronic, to give us the genre-diverse studio album Explorations, Vol. 1. The 13, well, explorations — into kosmische, techno, electroclash, Carpentersque score cues, rock, experimental electronic, and various shades of house, among other things — are an invigorating experience. They may not have much in common by way of genre, but the tracks on Explorations are all progeny of one particularly talented composer with a noteworthy vision: written and recorded, start-to-finish, in one sitting as a kind of stream of consciousness. The music cultivates a sense of self-discovery with the listener that is no doubt tied to that experiment.
Morgan Kibby — Grand Army (Music from the Netflix Original Series)
She was once the secret weapon of M83, and has in recent years worked with the likes of composer Rob Simonsen and Lady Gaga, but Morgan Kibby is just as creatively successful when at the helm of her own musical self-determination. I’m always hyping “Future Husbands Past Lives” from her 2014 album (as White Sea), In Cold Blood, but her score work is just as sublime. On her music for Katie Cappiello’s Netflix show, Grand Army, Kibby uses a large palette of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, along with seemingly her own vocalizations, to cultivate some truly beautiful and important moments.
“Mad Corny” is a massive splash of meaning replete with cascading arps, uplifting pads, ethereal vocals, and emphatic percussion. “Sid’s Vulnerable” is an experimental electronic cue with fuzzy sonic manipulations and glassy, pensive synths. “Injustice” is a chunky ’80s action score cue through a modern lens. I could go on. Needless to say, even if a show about teens in Brooklyn isn’t for you, this score will be. If you’re a filmmaker looking for inventive music to complement your picture, hire Kibby NOW. The album is currently available digitally, although it’s worth some label issuing a vinyl release.
Devonté Hynes — We Are Who We Are (Original Series Score)
Dev Hynes’ score work in the past couple of years is somewhat unrecognizable from both his Blood Orange project and much of the production work for which he’s been known over the past decade or so. This is actually a good thing — he finds the true and appropriate path for each aspect of his profoundly talented musical expression. His music for Luca Guadagnino’s HBO Max/Sky series We Are Who We Are fits well the visual aesthetic of the Call Me By Your Name director. The rolling, Glassian minimalism of the main piano parts serves at the vanguard of ambient electronic passages awash in beautifully warm and sometimes distant synth pads. It’s a gorgeous and dynamic score. The album, which also includes compositions from Julius Eastman and John Adams, is out now via Milan Records.
Cliff Martinez — “Rubber Head (Miami Nights 1984 Remix)”
The Drive Soundtrack isn’t inherently a synthwave album and Cliff Martinez’s score isn’t synthwave — though the soundtrack’s pop songs and Martinez’s score certainly have helped the genre over the years. So it’s a cool experiment to see what an actual synthwaver could do with some music from the film, and who better to do it than Miami Nights 1984, who helped create the genre? The Canadian synthwave pioneer takes the propulsive original and injects in it a harder-edged intensity more situated in the 1980s. Perhaps this is what the film’s score would have sounded liked had it been released 25 years earlier? This single, along with Waveshaper’s take on another cue, “I Drive,” are out now via Lakeshore Records’ Bandcamp page and on other digital platforms as part of the The Rise of the Synths Presents series. (Why didn’t I think of this for a Vehlinggo Presents series?)
Perry Botkin — Silent Night, Deadly Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The intuitives over at frequent Vehlinggo partner Burning Witches Records have reissued Perry Botkin’s haunting synth score to Charles E. Sellier, Jr.’s controversial holiday slasher film Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the result is superb. The label remastered it from the original analogue tapes at Abbey Road Studios, and it includes two cues that have never before been on vinyl, as well as 10 alternate mixes from the original recording sessions. You can get it now.
(Editor’s Note: The One-Liners column is a concise but meaningful way to highlight Vehlinggo-recommended releases. It’s not exactly weekly, but it can be. Entries are almost never one line, but they could be. Check out the most recent One-Liners post.)