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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Heartland: Why Owen Pallett Has More In Common With Charlie Kaufman Than You Might Think

Last night I watched Adaptation. Y'know, that film written by Charlie Kaufman about Charlie Kaufman trying to write a screenplay? Yeah, that one. But whilst watching, I couldn't help but draw a similarity to someone a world away from Kaufman's weird set-inside-your-head screenplays; I couldn't help but think of Owen Pallett.
Released next week all around the world, Heartland is the third solo album from the Canadian violinist, better known by the Final Fantasy moniker that he retired late last year due to a legal threat from Square Enix, who brought us the video game franchise of the same name. But it wasn't just the name that Pallett originally took inspiration from - the title track from 2006's prestigious album He Poos Clouds is about loving a fictitious character from a video game. Pallett's obsession with video games can be traced back through his career, from his chosen stage name to song titles from his debut album (Adventure.exe, anyone?), and Heartland is no exception. Set in the fantasy world of Spectrum, Heartland is a tale of an ultra violent farmer, Lewis, and his struggle to come to terms with his creator and main deity of the land, our very own Owen Pallett.
An ambitious project, but nevertheless, despite the mythologies and stories Pallett has created, he never loses sight of the single most important feature: the music. A lot denser than He Poos Clouds, Pallett has maintained his personal charm whilst at the same time adding electronics and orchestras to create something that sounds, for want of a better word, epic. 'The Great Elsewhere' and 'Tryst With Mephistopheles' show some of Pallett's largest work yet, working with The Czech Symphony Strings and, on the former track, friend and composer Nico Muhly. It is also no surprise that Jeremy Gara of the Arcade Fire can be heard drumming on most tracks, most notable 'Tryst With Mephistopheles'. Musically, Heartland has already cemented itself as one of the firm favourites for album of the year.
So if the music betters Pallett's previous efforts, then what of the lyrics; the story? In creating Heartland, Lewis becomes aware of his creator, which sets the actual events narrated in the album into motion - it's a weird circle-like chain of events that no-one can really get their head around. Which brings me back to the Kaufman comparison. Pallett has continued to show himself as an artist in his own right - the fact that he is one of the most important names in popular music for his orchestral arrangements is completely irrelevant: as with any Kaufman script, Heartland is weird, captivating, confusing, and utterly brilliant.

1 comment:

Eileen said...

HA you said poo!
Immaturity aside, awesome review ;)

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