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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Tracker
Blankets
FILMguerrero

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004

The mafia of the movies and TV has a saying: "Never go against the family." Religious fundamentalists often live by the same principles - disavow openly the beliefs of your parents, and you might not wind up in a New Jersey landfill with a bullet in your head, but there's a good chance you'll be shunned for life. True believers tend to hold grudges.

So, when you grow up in a Christian fundamentalist household, like Craig Thompson did, walking away from the religion you were raised in takes a certain kind of courage. In a way, it's like a homosexual child coming out to his parents for the first time. Or maybe it's more like facing an addiction and battling it until you become free of its hold, because a belief system can be as much of a crutch as alcohol or drugs. Only with religion, you're often born into it - sort of like a crack baby. The indoctrination begins almost at birth in families so devout. When you first experience an inspirational worship - it does happen on occasion - the feeling is transcendent, like that initial high you get the first time you do any kind of mind-altering substance.

Gradually, that feeling goes away, and whether its church or drugs, doing it becomes routine or habitual. Habits are hard to break. Thompson got out while he was young, making a clean break with organized Christianity in a silent prayer at a Promise Keepers' event his dad dragged him to. The graphic novelist who wrote and sketched last year's critically acclaimed book Blankets - a semi-autobiographical tale of two boys growing up in a Christian fundamentalist household in a small northern Wisconsin town - related the story of his self-excommunication in an interview I read while doing research for this review of Tracker's soundtrack.

Thompson is probably better for it. He revealed in the article that he still has faith in a supreme being, though he's lost his religion. Sometimes you have to prune a tree to make it grow. Once that element of compulsion is gone, the freedom to separate those things you actually believe in from that which you've accepted on blind faith can lead you to a stronger belief than regular church attendance ever could.

So, here's the assignment for Tracker: write music for a story that deals with the inner turmoil of adolescent boys who are outcasts in society, and in their own homes. Follow Blankets through the love story of its central characters - two teenagers who find each other at a religious ski camp and turn to each other for support through the tumult of adolescence. And somehow, get at the heart of the real struggle, the erosion of faith and family bonds in someone so young.

At least Tracker, the nom de plum for John Askew's recording project, has Thompson's stark, expressive drawings and easy flowing narrative to go by. Not all listeners will. If you don't, you may find Tracker's Blankets tough to get a handle on. "Snow" and "Vanishing Cave" are pieces of incidental music that go well with the mood of the scenes they relate to, but without the images, the off-key instrumentation and found percussion strike me as too minimal, kind of like an empty warehouse with various tools scattered about on an otherwise clean floor. They sound like they're lost inside the book itself.

Moments like these are few and far between, however. Mostly, Tracker's Blankets sketches dreamy, hypnotic soundscapes that introduce the lonely heartbreak of Portastatic's instrumentals to Ennio Morricone's wide-scope cinematic flourishes. "(We Were) The Trees" opens the record with windy kettle drums and animal breathing that envelope splashing cymbals and carefully plucked, deep, rich guitar. "The Flurry (Pt. 1)" lights up a wintry night sky with twinkling guitar and iridescent keyboards, which give way to the downcast piano and found sounds - either rain or a crackling fire, I'm not sure which - that darken "Static." Marching to a deliberate tempo, with traces of feedback and horns that weave in and out, "Static" aches with melancholy and is one of the loveliest tracks on Blankets.

The guitar lines of Blankets usually billow slowly, like the frosty breath that escapes from your mouth on a frigid day. "The Flurry (Pt. 2)" draws out like blood filling a syringe, with polyrhythmic drumming providing the rolling topography and guitar feedback scratching at a grey sky. "Stirring Furnace" is a little more sparse, opting for vibes, loops and light guitar picking that sounds almost Spanish to set the mood of a place that's been deserted for years. The end comes with "Everything Is Beautiful", which features the only vocals on the record. Wafting steel pedal and faded horns provide the backdrop for folk guitar flurries, an appropriate finish that embodies all the hope, longing and disillusionment of the characters.

Tracker's Blankets, with its varied instrumentation, makes for great headphone music, ideal for lonely, rainy afternoons at home, or those desperate hours after midnight when all the questions that plague your mind come upon you like the devil - not noisy and aggressive, but quietly sinister and vague, intent on disturbing your peace. Quiet. I think he's already here.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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