Scene and Heard – CCCXXVII : The Dancin’ Spy  –  Pekkanini (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

pekkanini-bild-750-px-2.jpgRight from the off, as that first resonant riff drops into place, Pekkanini nails his musical colours to the sonic mast and sails this creative ship through some very noirish, retro-infused sonic waters. As the title suggests we are in the realms of film and TV soundtrack, a 60’s thriller, a 70’s cop show even a Bond movie, and as is often his way, and in the cyclical nature of music, his backward referencing cultish, sound scoring seems to meet the underground and alt-dance club scene coming the other way. The result, much like Diamond Bullet before it, is a unique blend of then and now, the commercial and the cultish, the familiar and the unique.

It’s amazing the power of music suggestion, the ability that the first five notes of that opening riff to set the scene so brilliantly, conjuring furtive glances between fedora and raincoat clad men, of  chases through night time streets, of intrigue and danger. And if soundtracks seek to underline and emphasise the action and emotion taking place on screen, then The Dancin’ Spy belongs in the company of a tense and intense film noir or a slow burning atmospheric horror movie. It is just that the film hasn’t been written yet. Maybe this suggests a new approach to the art, write the score first and imagine the film from the sounds and emotions, action and story that it suggests. No? Just a thought. And as conformity goes out of the window a blend of dance beats and staccato keyboards form a platform for layers of riff and melody, gently pulsing bass lines, synth washes, guitar hooks are ushered in and all manner of affected sounds and of course his signature instrument, the Theramin become the norm.

The Theramin gets a bad press, long associated with 60’s sci-fi themes, the original Star Trek TV series along must have been responsible for a massive sales spike, it crops up mainly as a punchline to jokes about geekiness. But geekiness is next to Godliness and let us not forget that this much conflicted instrument is also the opening riff to The Beach Boy’s Good Vibrations, wanders through the middle distance of The Stone’s Please Don’t Go Home and has been employed by everyone from Rush and Led Zeppelin to The Pixies and, unsurprisingly, The Flaming Lips. Great company indeed.

What these songs in general and Pekkanini’s deft musical creations in particular prove is that The Theramin needs its day in the sun, a chance for a reappraisal, and tracks like The Dancin’ Spy show that not only can it hold its own as a lead instrument and core sound to a track but bring something, new, slick, strange, beguiling, retro-cool and ultra-modern to the musical table.

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