On Top – Phillipe Petit and Friends (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Philippe Petit and Friends - On Top (cover)Whilst On Top feels like a strange and beguiling  soundtrack, what the film it is the score too really does  defy imagination. If soundtracks seek to underline and emphasise the action and emotion taking place on screen, then On Top belongs in the company of a tense and intense film noir or a slow burning atmospheric horror movie. Conformity goes out of the window from start to finish and alongside more regular musical instruments and traditional recording techniques, everything from spoken word, found sounds,, strange percussive objects and the amplified results of stones and pieces of glass being played with, moved and manipulated make up the mix.

This is an album more concerned in inducing mood, emotion and reaction in the listener, the songs, if indeed they can be regarded as songs in the conventional sense, are fractured and unexpected, fall in and out of musical norm and into the realms of sonic gene-splicing and the building of chimeric musical creatures, part music, part noise, held together with the most mercurial of acoustic glue.

It comes as no surprise that Petit has in the past worked and collaborated with a range of musical explorers from Lydia Lunch to Throbbing Gristle’s Cosey Fanni Tutti, Barry Adamson and James Johnson, the latter found everywhere from Gallon Drunk to Faust to The Bad Seeds. The same restless spirit lies at On Top’s heart, the same need to explore the fringes of music, to find out where you end up when you push beyond conventional song and structure, when you find yourself beyond the place where the rules were written, where the only guideline is your own imagination.

Music like this is like high-end cat walk fashion shows. You watch the models (tracks) walk down the catwalk (album) in all manner of impractical (musical) trappings and you instinctively think that you would never see anyone out in the street wearing that. And that is true, but like those over the top, catwalk designs, the trickle down affect and subtle influence that this sort of music has on the more mainstream and conventional is a lot more powerful than you could even begin to realise.

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