It has been said we’re in a new age of silent film, as we scroll through endless feeds of soundless auto-playing videos trying to satiate a hunger for mute visual culture which is both a companion and distraction.
But it is to a past age of silent film we return through Haiku Salut’s score for The General. The Buster Keaton film was originally released in 1926 – toward the end of the silent era – and the action-comedy has since come to be considered one of the greats of American cinema. Nottingham Contemporary commissioned an original soundtrack from the Derbyshire folktronica-trio and the resulting work brings out the subtle emotional detail of the film through a startling and immersive electronic score.
As the band’s expansive sound is often described as accompanying an imaginary movie this work turns the notion on its head, enriching a real film while standing strong in its own right too. From moments of gently shimmering electronica (‘Firewood’), through to more sharp-edged glitch-and-fuzz keeping pace with driving rhythms (‘Going Back’), and with echoes of their signature sound as piano is haunted by soft synth (‘Enlist’). Elsewhere wavering distortion and sharp beats bring a vintage hue to the modern while even straying towards dub (‘Train Steal’). And ‘The Flood’ has it all – a kaleidoscope of deconstructed post-rock, outer-space-sounds, stuttering rhythms, gentle piano and ghostly voices.
For a band consistently creating experimental yet deeply melodic music Haiku Salut’s score for The General is yet another success. Not only do they find new ways to immerse the audience into this cinema classic, but in doing so have shown themselves to be among the most artful composers of the moment.