The Continental OP, Slitch Music 12″, 2002

This is another soundtrack, recorded by Will Oldham and David Pajo—they’d worked together many times before during the Palace years. Pajo’s claim to fame is Slint and Papa M, but he’s had bit parts in too many other bands to warrant mentioning here. The movie is called Slitch. From Dragcity: “Slitch is a short comic film about a teenage girl’s summertime lust, featuring fantasizing, bubble gum, and bicycle riding. Directed by Dianne Bellino and soundtrack by The Continental OP. Slitch stars Will Oldham as a mentally unbalanced surfer, blending in seamlessly with a cast of lovely local ladies.” I haven’t seen the film, which is only 23 minutes long, but after reading that description, my curiosity has been piqued. Will Oldham as a mentally unbalanced surfer? What else is new. Most of the soundtrack is instrumental, some tracks even quite similar to those Oldham recorded for Ode Music. Side Two has two tracks with vocals plus a ‘secret’ untitled bonus track, which can only be got to by waiting for several minutes of silence or by lifting the needle. I’m assuming that that’s Pajo’s voice we’re hearing on Side Two.

Faster… is played on acoustic guitar, a sweet simple arpeggio with a warm bass note under it, then a few odd pinging notes echoing behind this simple repeating tune. A keyboard ocarina-type sound weaves in through the music, rises and dies away several times, on different notes. The guitar and pinging notes continue. It’s kind of atmospheric, but very level, with a touch of weirdness—that keyboard dies away into an off key tone that sounds vaguely disturbing.

La La La… uses the exact same instrumentation as “Faster” but with a slower, slightly different melody, and light airy voices singing “La-la-la la-la-la la la la” loudly over top of the guitar and keyboard swashes sweeping hither thither in the background. Those “la la la” voices—there’s at least two voices—ride on a simple tune, up and down, as a light drum and hi-hat join the mix. It has a dreamy ethereal feel, though not what you’d call subtle.

Glock… is played on glockenspiel, just a very simple two note melody, shimmery guitar chords taking the same role as the keyboard in the previous two songs, and another odd little vibrating warble behind that. You could imagine…what? I don’t know—a sequence with the camera following someone around doing a mundane daily activity, a guy on a bike say, delivering fliers in people’s letterboxes, that sort of thing. It’s pensive, sparse guitar notes giving it that lonely feel, suspended notes, hovering mid-air, unresolved. Snare drum bash and end.

Heavy Minor… this is all weirdness and harsh, drums, a machine like groaning noise, electronic, heavy, never quite getting too loud, but like machinery grinding against itself, piercing tones that soon fade out to yet another guitar arpeggio, electric, humming ominously, a few beats of a drum, low humming tones, again that same suspended feel that sounds lonely. This has a dark feel, at night, or it might be soundtracking the sound of incomprehension in someone’s head. It’s lightly disturbing, more like horror film effects, creating a worrisome mood. I do quite like this piece. Once the screeching machine groaning noises start up again with the guitar it’s quite effective, until we get someone laughing through a telephone, or they could be crying, hard to tell. The groans and moans fade in, fade out. Not bad.

Fantasy… this is even better still. It’s another guitar arpeggio, but woody, and low, and run through some strange effects pedal making it sound distorted, a repeating bar that ends with a shimmering harsh electric sheen. Meanwhile there’s a low rumbling very fast rhythm happening far below that, with a tick-a-tick-a hi-hat bringing the speed. The mood is dangerous, like someone on the run, and there are voices that sounds like crows, raging in and out faintly in the background. This is really cool. I like it, but it’s not too long.

Acoustic Minor… is the same arpeggio heard on “Heavy Minor” I think, but, as the title suggests, acoustic, while other acoustic notes, lower down, heavier, provide a counterpoint. It’s very repetitive and simple. Reminds me very much of Oldham’s work on Ode Music. Doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Just that same sort of floating, suspended sort of vibe.

James Tired… is fast, big burbling bass line, graunchy electric guitar riff, thumping beat, and a rough vocal, presumably Pajo. It has power, speed, verse and chorus rise, with male harmonizing on the chorus, quite catchy and loud and bass-heavy, and faint speed metal riffing. And what’s he singing about, I’ve no idea. Couldn’t really make out any words.

Magnifico… has more of a stuttering rhythm, at first, before roaring into another quite catchy melody, “Woah, oh woh / Magnifi-co-oh-ohhh.” The singing thereafter is quite ‘punk’ sounding, and again, absurdly uttered so that you have no idea what he’s saying. The song picks up pace, gets louder, harder, briefly stopping for a stutter-punch section, until the chorus picks up again, and you find yourself stupidly singing along, “Woah-oh-oh, Magnifico-oh-oh.” Sounds like a theme song for some kind of superhero who uses magnetism. Or it could be about “a nobleman of the Venetian Republic” according to my mac’s built-in dictionary. Yeah, presumably it has some bearing on the movie. I don’t know.

So “Magnifico” is listed on the official tracklisting as being 9:25 in length. Once the above song finishes, we have several minutes of silence, before some very strange reggae song starts up. It’s a different song altogether, but doesn’t have a name. It’s all echoey, with someone singing, “I want to smoke a jar,” over and over in a cod-Jamaican accent, to a simple thudding beat, scratching, watery, blurry reggae guitar part. The guitar part sounds quite good, but the song quickly fades away after about a minute or so.

I am going to officially proclaim this as the number one least necessary Will Oldham record you need to hear. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the style of soundtracking heard on Ode Music and Seafarer’s Songs, so it is distinctly Oldham’s work, but even so, it’s a curio that would be better heard on DVD with the movie playing.

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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