Being a member of Sonic Youth earns you the right to have whatever you put to tape be released by some label somewhere in the world. I suppose it also earns you the right, or weight, of having every one of these recordings reviewed. You are up to bat Lee.
Music For Stage and Screen is soundtrack music. And like many a soundtrack album there is an inherent awkwardness when you the listener do not have the advantage of viewing. The soundtrack albums that work are the ones that aren?t soundtracks, but greatest hit soundtracks of the 70?s and 80?s, or the new groovy hits unearthed by the ever music-savvy young director (i.e. Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson). Or, the soundtrack record works when it is Chariots of Fire. Why does Chariots of Fire work? Vangelis. Come on people.
If we are unable to judge the tracks on their sound to film ratio, then we are left to examine them on the basis of their sonic quality and improvisational dialogue. When you pull Alan Licht, Christian Marclay, Lee Renaldo, William Hooker and G?nter M?ller into the same room you are most certainly guaranteed a moment or five. So the music dialogues. The other strength of this record is the brevity of the songs. Most are in the one to three minute range. As a result the album gives an overview and span of the capabilities of this ensemble. The sonic palette is diverse, so the album never feels stuck in a delay pedal rut.
While the theatrical nature of the film forces the music to take on shapes and tones of narrative the result is non-narrative music. It feels voiceless, and by voice I mean that of a storyteller. The songs while musically exciting lack serious narrative. But this could easily be attributed to the missing player on this record. The silent player who set the speed and direction of the improvisation has to sit out on this release. It is like watching television with the sound turned off, but the reverse equivalent.
So Renaldo, good work. But, better left for the audiences of these films and plays, that our treat us with the DVD, not the vision-less audio. 7/10 -- Michael Kaufmann (29 June, 2006)