Broken into two long parts via his somewhat trademark (ltd ed) cassette format (and via digital on Bandcamp) comes Howard Stelzer with the movie soundtrack to Joe Taylor‘s The Crossing (Handcranked Films) out on Flag Day Recordings on May the 8th. They will also release a full-color book of stills and essays by the people behind the scenes. From the start we are thrown into a live action scene that is drenched in Americana, the great outdoors. The scope is wide and most certainly cinematic. The story, I gather, is based in the desert of Nevada (the director hails from Las Vegas), but this doesn’t have the glitz and glamor of the strip, rather, the burning campfire and twang of a wild wild western.
Of Stelzer’s past work, I am surprised at first by the sound, though slowly, about six minutes or so in, there is this deeper atmospheric space experimented with on tape, percussion, guitar (Jeff Barsky) and a host of layered found sounds that jangle and twist over a smoky sweet drone. The background fades in and out like a cloaking device as Stelzer wields knobs, buttons and otherwise brings us fast-forward into the present day of where contemporary electronic movie soundtracks can reside in sound space. And this takes off with a search of the surroundings, a travelogue of sorts. The whole first half has a persistent course, leaving you in a bit of a dusty spot towards the end.
Picking up from there on side two the panoramic expanse widens with a dulling stillness, minimal crack and hiss. Effectively a bells/whistles soundtrack, this easily transports the listener to an uneasy outdoor locale where there is something going on just beneath the surface. Having not seen the film, but knowing that if you get a copy of the tape it comes with a vial of Nevada desert sand and an obsidian arrowhead, you know this is a gritty picture from the outset. Throughout there are distant shades of airbrushed tones that float subtly in the distance. A sound that leisurely drifts like tumbleweed through the desert. The Crossing is at times soothing and unassuming, though the deeper you listen the cracks and crevices reveal themselves as potential, obscure threats.