Monday, March 24, 2014

 Peer International Library 
Stringtronics - Mindbender

The world of production music (more commonly referred to as "stock music" or "library music") can be a deep and addicting one. You've probably heard a great deal of it too, without even quite noticing. The Monday Night Football theme? That's actually "Heavy Action" by Johnny Pearson. All that goofy music in The Ren and Stimpy Show and Spongebob Squarepants? Yup. Library music. It's a wonderful rabbit hole to get lost in and when you find that one album that truly grabs you, it's easy to suddenly find yourself hours later knee-deep in oblique album covers and song titles like "Funky Chase" and "Rally Car 2". 

It's rare that such a deep subsection of music would have a perfect entry point but I think most fans of library music would point to Peer International's 'Stringtronics' as one of heavy giants of the form. The story goes that Barry Forgie, arranger, composer and long-time Musical Director for the BBC Big Band, approached Peer with a set of six completed tracks that formed a sort of loose, atmospheric suite. The label then reached out to Anthony Mawer, Nino Nardini and Roger Roger to fill out the rest of the album with like-minded tracks. Luckily, everybody brought their A game to this one and 'Mindbender' ends up being of the few library albums that holds together as cohesive album, with a consistent mood and atmosphere that pervades the entire run-time despite having multiple composers behind it.

Personally I can't say enough about first six tracks, all composed by Barry Forgie. I don't know what divine inspiration consumed him while he wrote these tracks but for my money, it made for some of the most astonishing music ever put to wax. The real focal point for me is "Mediterranee", which manages to carry an amazing amount emotional beauty without ever tipping into pure cheesy melodrama. "Hunted" is another highlight, seemingly made to soundtrack the most stoned, laid-back chase scene in film. In fact every song somehow balance itself  somewhere between tension and beauty. It's truly unlike anything you've heard before.

Side B isn't as strong, but still delivers a few fantastic moments. Anthony Mawer's two entries are solid works, maintaining a consistant mood with Forgie's tracks while going off in their own unique directions. Nino Nardini seems to have been the most inspired by what he was given which resulted in the incredible "Tropicola", sampled by Danger Mouse for the Gnarls Barkley track "Feng Shui". Sadly, Roger Roger's two final tracks fail to make as much of an impression as the rest but they still manage to send the album off in an appropriate fashion. Don't sleep on this one, folks. Listen to it now.

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