Ralfe Band – Bunny and the Bull

January 01, 1970

(Ghost Ship Records)

 

www.ralfeband.com

 

Original soundtracks spend most of their lives in the
shadows, occasionally emerging as a wingman for the characters, as a scene’s
exclamation point, or as a narrative bridge elsewhere (unless you’re in a Dogme
95 joint, of course).  So there’s no
guarantee that the music that sounded so good accompanying the cool flick you
saw can carry the weight of a visuals-less listen on its own.

 

Still, in today’s Web-world, soundtracks serve the function
that FM radio and MTV once did, bringing an already established act to new and
larger demographics – for example, Elliot Smith in Good Will Hunting or DeVotchka in Little Miss Sunshine. Those are the exceptions,
of course, and they benefitted those musicians only because the films went the
celluloid-equivalent of viral.

 

For the Ralfe Band, the brainchild of British
songwriter/composer Oliver Ralfe, it’s unlikely the little 2009 British indie
film about a road tripper who never leaves his apartment – judging by the
trailer, think Spike Jonze’s Being John
Malkovich
-quirky — will rocket the band or its soundtrack to success. On
the other hand, the British band has turned in a compelling listen independent
of the accompanying film, coloring the comedy in wistful Eastern European and
Spanish Gypsy tones.

 

Pairing Ralfe with filmmaker/writer Paul King was a natural;
the Ralfe Band’s two previous records – 2005’s Swords and 2008’s Attic
Thieves
– were praised for their cinematic qualities and also comprised of
instrumentals and songs, just like Bunny
and the Bull
. Beyond that, Ralfe is an award-winning filmmaker in his own
right, his self-shot documentary about the Bob Dylan-obsessive fan Tangled Up in Dylan: The Ballad of AJ
Weberman
earning the “Raindance Award” at the 2006 British Independent Film
Awards.

 

So what about the music? Divorced from the film (haven’t see
it), the 22 tracks range from brief instrumental sketches to full-fledged
songs. Piano is Ralfe’s main instrument, and he uses both in-tune keyboards and
the broken-down 19th century piano (for eerie accents) at the remote
British country home where the band recorded in the dead of winter. They form
the musical bedrock for old saloon, gut-bucket bass sing-alongs (“Title Theme”),
Harry Nilsson-like weepers (“Fairground Waltz,” “Attila the Dogman”), recurring
classical motifs in the mode of Rachels’ piano-and-strings pieces (“Stephen,”
“Cocktails”), Morricone Western flavors (“Atlantis Rising,” “Snow Climb”), and Gypsy
influences inspired by the film sets in Poland and Spain (“Shut Inside,” “Crab
Eating”).

 

The integrity of the music as a piece is unquestionable. Everything
fits with everything else and carries the same melancholic but redemptive air, sometimes darkly, sometimes with a light
heart. Some of the shorter sketches don’t convey much weight beyond what
they’ve been titled – “Museum” or “Snow Song,” for instance — and with 14 of
the 22 tracks coming in under two minutes, there’s sometimes a sense that
you’re rushing from one scene to another a bit like a Keystone Cops routine.
That’s of course where the celluloid comes in, and the drawback of any
original-music soundtrack. Overall, though, Bunny
and the Bull
stands on its own – often quite wonderfully, too.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Cocktails”
“Fairground Waltz” “Crab Eating” “Attila the Dog Man” JOHN SCHACHT

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