Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French born photographer who is widely considered as the father of modern photojournalism. He had an inspirational gift of capturing the reality of street life in haunting, sometimes moving, and highly atmospheric images. His legendary status is forever assured among the greats of photography.
He not only inspired a generation of photographers and art students but his work has also sparked the imagination of musicians. Sicilian sonic cinematographic band HC-B not only owe their name to him, but also much of the inspiration behind their second album Soundcheck For A Missing Movie.
Such is the connection between the album and the artist that it left me frantically searching to see if the track titles in any way matched up with Monsieur HC-B’s work. The intrigue is further teased when you log on at the bands website and you see some of those powerful black and white images.
He wasn’t just a master of photography, a skill that saw him taking portraits of many famous people including Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jnr., Richard Nixon , Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Samuel Beckett, he was also a film maker. So here we have music inspired by his photographs, his films, and his life's work, Soundcheck For A Missing Movie, HC-B style.
This is an album that is vast in scope and imagination. Ranging from the seductively melodic, through to thrillingly intense and dramatic movements, it will both stimulate and captivate the listener. It's power is that it successfully creates a labyrinth of vivid visual images within your mind, like those left behind by the man who provided the inspiration.
Released on the Australian label Hidden Shoal Recordings, Soundcheck For A Missing Movie serves up eight complex and compelling pieces. The band formed in 1999 and released two self-financed EPs, My Green Apple, and the oddly named to101222. Both of these showed a developing style constructed around both the compositional and the improvisational.
Their debut album Sliding On Barents Sea arrived in 2003. Since then they have been busy performing mainly in their native Italy. Soundcheck For A Missing Movie was recorded and mixed at the Dream Factory in Catania, Sicily, before being mastered in Chicago, and finally released on an Australian label.
The album triumphantly builds towards several peaks of symphonic brilliance. Attention to detail, well developed ideas, and formidable instrumentation are all very much to the fore.
“Crystal Lane” soars majestically, and “Missing Movie” simmers intoxicatingly before exploding within a crescendo of crashing yet controlled guitar. Meanwhile “Dead Horse Walking” creates a whole range of powerfully evocative musical scenes.
It opens with “A Dusty Book, A City Of Lights”. A gentle acoustic introduction gives way to driving guitar and an early taste of symphonic drama. “Black” arrives as if being filmed from a distance before gradually enticing you into its maze of many sonic diversions.
“Slow Compensation” is an exquisitely constructed piece with additional vocals from Sabrina Sciacca seductively intertwined within violin. Meanwhile “Playing With Planes” adds an exquisite splash of brass.
“Hot Afternoon In The Bulls Square”, the single from the album, drives its way into your mind, whilst slowly building in intensity. When they add the highly effective free form jazz horns they create an effect that is like walking blindfold through rush hour traffic.
It is little wonder that Hidden Shoal Recordings have been likened to 4AD. Bringing expansive music of this quality, from a band who can give devoted attention to detail one moment whilst contriving together to create free form cinematic rock the next, has to be applauded.
Clearly this is a band that has as much focus as HC-B himself.
Soundcheck For A Missing Movie is available in both CD and MP3 format.