It shouldn’t come as a shock that avant-garde, noise-rock Sonic Youth was commissioned to craft the film score for the relatively obscure French teen thriller “Simon Werner a Disparu.” However, the band branches out by reeling in its propensity for chaotic noise on this tastefully contained record. Though most listeners will have to simply imagine the adolescent Parisian longing, meaningful glances and clouds gathering ominously overhead that the instrumental Simon Werner a Disparu was meant to evoke, the album stands alone as an ambient but subdued record, with or without the context of the movie.
Simon Werner a Disparu
The delicate, echoing “Les Anges au Piano” (which translates roughly to “the angels at the piano”) drifts along hypnotically, guiding the listener into a dream-like state with its reverberating guitars and repetitive piano taps. The occasional, deliberate off-key notes keep listeners engaged in the track and the dream firmly lucid.
Not all the songs are so blissful. “Theme de Laetitia” is stressful to listen to, as the first minute is composed of a terrifying high-pitched feedback which finally descends into a restrained but claustrophobic wall of dread-inducing guitars. The track backs the listener into a corner, which is sonically nuanced, but not exactly pleasant to hear — this could be the point in the movie where the killer closes in on his victim.
Sonic Youth tightens its chokehold with another hauntingly beautiful track, “Escapades,” which segues so effortlessly into the equally gothic and moody “La Cabane au Zodiac” that at some point it stops mattering which track is which, since layered, subdued guitars and tiptoeing drums mark them both. “La Cabane au Zodiac” manages to toy with the listener’s emotions by shifting back and forth tonally from dramatic and unnerving to hazy and dizzyingly atmospheric.
“Au Café” is a welcome respite from previous blood pressure-raising tracks. Sonic Youth continues to play around with soft drums but amps up the song with distorted guitars, before stripping it down to a couple dueling guitars and letting it fade out. It embodies dreamy teenage angst without ever saying a word.
The band finally reverts back to its noisy roots with “Theme d’Alice.” At first, the track features gauzy guitars before collapsing into musical pandemonium with random, head-banging gusto. It creates a stressful suspense before finally allowing each guitar to disappear one by one, leaving nothing but reverberating chords and shaking hands.
Simon Werner a Disparu isn’t always an easy listen, but the album is gripping and is cinematic without ever devolving into melodrama. Though it was created to essentially remain solidly in the background, the record is too compelling to simply accompany a movie. It has its own rising and falling action, climaxes and endings. It may be a soundtrack, but the record has its own story to tell.