Brian McBride Brian McBrideThe Effective Disconnect
If there were something similar to an employment exchange for ambient composers, I would like to think that it should be mostly oriented around and focussed on the field of documentaries about the animal world. In my humble opinion, this is one of the most favourable places to generate soundtracks and background music with total freedom, with all the expressive intentions in the world and, of course, it’s better paid than any independent release. The pieces fit together: atmospheric mantras of emotions frozen in time, evolutionary and grandiloquent, like a background curtain of images in slow motion of whatever mammal, insect or amphibian in it’s natural habitat, whether that be under dramatic, poetic or domestic circumstances. How is it possible that the great documentary houses, like the BBC, National Geographic, Jacques Perrin or Canal+ France, haven’t stopped to think about that, and still insist on using the boring and gratuitous well known classic pieces and resources typical of advertising campaigns?
In a more independent field, from an author’s viewpoint and with a clear accusative calling with an ecologist layer, the tandem team George Langworthy and Maryam Henein decided to go that way, ordering the soundtrack for their documentary “The Vanishing Of The Bees” from Brian McBride, half of the duo Stars Of The Lid, known for their supreme, exemplary and always precise North-American ambient. The group’s career is familiar to the genre’s connoisseurs, although it was their last album, “…And Their Refinement Of The Decline”, that brought them beyond the specialised circles, and achieved more acknowledgement and presence in the media. In any case, it seems like the interest of the filmmakers for the music of McBride was sparked by his solo debut, the marvellous “When Detail Lost Its Freedom”, a record that should be eternally vindicated and which for many people, including yours truly, is far better than most of the SOTL catalogue, especially because of the way it’s creator throws out the drone beat of his band in favour of a sensibility closer to Brian Eno, the ambient humanised with melodic adventures of profound emotion and impact.
And that’s what the filmmakers seemed to look for in order to transmit gravity, ambition and sensibility in their film, an aseptic but crude investigation into the progressive and fulminating disappearance of bees in the USA, for reasons –the so-called CCD syndrome– that are still not fully explained scientifically, but which many bee experts relate to the radical exploitation of bees by humans for our own benefit and which has led to extreme uncertainty, disorientation and detachment among these pollinators, who constitute a fundamental piece in the food chain. It’s a fascinating and devastating phenomenon, which is brilliantly described in a film perfectly complemented by McBride’s score. “The Effective Disconnect”, in fact, could be a solo album in it’s own right, because it really seems created as such, both because of it’s ambition and it’s desire to propose ideas and new concept within it’s own discourse.
McBride signs his most organic and accessible effort here. Those string arrangements, synthetically filtered, that appeared shyly and stealthily on the recent SOTL releases, now get a starring role, exercising with impunity as the spine of the whole. The composer seeks a less ascetic sense of the emotion, and for that he doesn’t only inject more life to those arrangements and supply his mantras of recognisable and not at all elusive melodies, but he also changes the structure and the way his group works in a clear and open way. Maybe because of the influence of the images, the dependence of a message or the visual beat of the film, we find a McBride who more than ever investigates a format of song and independent and autonomous composition in order to remove that idea of long and inexhaustible drones from his organisation chart. He gets more to the point: shorter songs, total condensation of his proposal, maximum use of time and, as a consequence or a cause of all that, the drawing of a more intense, devastating and convincing sound than we have been used to from him so far, halfway between emo ambient and contemporary soundtrack music, of a withering emotion. Tim Rybak