An unusual project: a feature film adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel of the same name. Dealing with sixties alienation, societal hypocrisy, sexuality, growing up, depression, and free (?) love, Tran Anh Hung’s film, released in 2010, is noticeably more subdued than one might expect. It focuses on the story of Toru, his life as a student in sixties Tokyo, his emotional turmoil of losing a friend to suicide, being adrift in the world, and his relationship with two different women, the melancholic Naoko, and the confident Midori.
The soundtrack is equally restrained (and surprisingly, has no Beatles’ references or anything), being equal parts staid, quietly dramatic, understated, with some songs by the ‘krautrock’ late-60s band CAN, providing an interesting contrast to the string heavy, acoustical pieces by Jonny Greenwood. Ah yes, Greenwood, multi-talented musician, composer, member of Radiohead, composer for such movies as Bodysong and There Will be Blood… But, the real gems of this album are not the orchestral pieces, but the guitar pieces. They are quite elegant in composition and tone. Melancholic and meditative, they vanish as quickly as they appeared. This would not be such a problem if the orchestral pieces were not so pallid. At best, they are ethereal and pretty (Watashi wo Toru Toko wa Watashi Dake wo Totte Ne), but mostly they are so unassuming that they gradually just drift off into nothingness. This may have been the point. Occasionally, there is a burst of energy, such as on the track Naoko ga Shinda, a Penderecki-esque piece with tense, dissonant voices under a solo violin.
BBC Concert Orchestra/Greenwood – [Naoko ga Shinda]
Greenwood – [Toki no Senrei wo Uketeinai mono wo Yomuna]
Quartertone Bloom is a stunner though, with the greatest thematic resolution and cosmic yearning that is prevalent throughout the album. It is a culmination of themes that could exist as a stand-lone concert piece (if it was longer). The ending is particularly gorgeous, reminiscent of Poulenc, Dukas, and Messiaen. The sense of ecstatic, sublime, romanticism bursts forth but is absent everywhere else on the soundtrack. That is the greatest weakness of the album. Despite its attempts at musically portraying un-fulfillment, anxiety, love, sensuality, and melancholy, it ultimately falls short. How appropriate, given the story’s tone of young ennui.
Greenwood – [Quartertone Bloom]