Fantomas: Le Faux Magistrat
Over the last decade British guitarist/pianist James Blackshaw has quietly dazzled – cutting the usual John Fahey/Peter Walker guitar shapes and always with a deeply filmic sensibility, the yearn, the sorrow, it drips from the strings and drizzles down off the keys; nostalgia is framed as gorgeous hue. And he’s prolific too – also adding in a vocal cut on recent album, Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death and a duos-album with the similarly-minded musician, Lubomyr Melnyk. No laurels being rested on – and yet here, now we have the boldest, strangest, darkest, deepest album from Blackshaw.
Recorded live as score for French silent film, Le Faux Magistrat, here we have Blackshaw dabbling in menace, making music that John Carpenter would dream up, and (Part 8) music that the band Fantomas might hope to conjure. There’s those circular themes of course, little wafts that weave in and out, the familiar dance between the keys and strings, piano and guitar still crucial features in this music but here we get the bass and synthesizer rhythm section that creates little doom mantras, even some boom-bap drums at times. It’s not all that far from Tim Hecker’s music (he’s also contributed a score for one of the previous movies in the Fantomas series). A dart of flute here, a wee riff from the saxophone there and then, still, those gorgeous guitar passages (Part 9) that skip through classical shapes and feel like folk before falling into jazz and hints of heavy metal.
Here it all comes together – the arrangements you perhaps previously imagined when listening to the more sparse compositions within Blackshaw’s catalogue.
Everything here works – the slow build, the return to atmospherics, the drone-and-lurch moments (Part 11) where you think John Cale might be composing for The Dirty Three; the Eno-esque Part 12, the Knopfler-esque Part 4, little moments of Arvo Part, huge moments that almost stop the heart. It’s Blackshaw’s masterpiece; his finest piece of art.