The combination of short films and instrumental artists seems like a match made in heaven, so it’s a surprise we see so few soundtrack EPs submitted to our site. Clara Engel, normally known for her vocal work, expands her palette on this brief yet beguiling set. The film itself is a challenge to the larger industry to make better films. In a summer of disappointing blockbusters and humble indies, small films have a real chance to stand out.
The advantage to a shorter soundtrack is that it doesn’t have to repeat itself, as its longer siblings are wont to do. The first four tracks of this EP each have something to recommend them, starting with the dark, memorable bass of “The Road”. One can sense the foreboding even without seeing the film ~ and of course one cannot help but think of the desolation portrayed in that other movie with the same title. “The Shed” is more of a dark ambient/drone piece, akin to Brian Reitzell’s work on Hannibal. Engel’s shimmering tones rise like mirages from a sweltering highway. The electric guitar is the highlight of “The Lake”, refracting tones like the film’s shifting emotions; and the repeated piano flourish of “The Forest” implies that hope has been halted in its tracks. When Engel finally sings on the concluding “When the Spell Breaks”, it does indeed break the spell; but the words fit, and her voice is appropriately funereal.
Aaron Mirkin’s short film provides two additional ways to experience the music. The most apparent approach is to watch the film; but in order to appreciate the sound design, one might also listen to the film without the visuals, as the segments that incorporate music also include poetic monologues. Each of these elements contributes a facet of the overall story, and together they form a seamless tapestry; but Engel’s score also succeeds on its own. (Richard Allen)