Oiseaux-Tempête returns to its instrumental strength with Tlamess (Sortilège), the score to a Tunisian film about a soldier who leaves the war upon learning of his mother’s death. Directed by Ala Eddine Slim, the film has been making the festival rounds while collecting accolades. Much of the impact can be attributed to the moody, evocative music, which the collective has been perfecting over the course of nearly a decade.
Dropping the vocals of last year’s From Somewhere Invisible, the band is able to create emotion through suggestion rather than through word. A mallet-based intro leads into a segment of drone, a reflection of the way time seems to stop when we receive news we are unable to process. The slow trailer ~ a scene from the film ~ reflects the importance of the inner life, even as the outward life seems to hold the most excitement. The clip features opening track “Canyons” and leaves the door wide open for expositional and compositional development. The themes will later reappear in “Overwinter” toward the end of the set, but much will have changed by then.
Eventually the guitars will enter, signifying an escalating conflict. How did the soldier’s mother die? How will he react? Will he return to the war once his leave is over? The movie has been described as “enigmatic,” “abstract,” and “obtuse,” often in the same review. Oiseaux-Tempête’s music is a perfect match. The band is known for political leanings, implied even in its instrumental outings (the cover of their debut album portrayed inverted prayer hands). Lyrics make specific points, while instruments beg for a wider array of interpretation. In like manner, images (a mysterious black rectangle, a giant snake, a well) possess symbolism, and speak louder than words. In one scene, two characters stare at each other while their thoughts are subtitled. As the drums enter, one may think “manhunt” or simply “conflict,” but one may also think excitement or tribal dance. This is what makes Tlamess work as an album, even surgically removed from a movie that many will never see.
By “Jettatura,” it’s obvious that something sinister is on the way. But is it more sinister than war? The poster portrays the snake, cleverly hidden in foliage. In the same way, Oiseaux-Tempête hides drama under layers of foreboding, casting a spell that will not be broken until the end of the album ~ and if one can glean its interpretation, the film. In the closing (title) track, the band finally explodes into full post-rock glory. Perhaps, watching the film, our minds will be blown as well. But the powerful music produces its own amazing images. (Richard Allen)