Shane Carruth is certainly making a name for himself, and after the well-received time travel flick PRIMER he’s back with UPSTREAM COLOR. Writing, producing, directing, and probably catering for the film as well, it’s been a very divisive picture (generally a good sign) and one that Carruth also composed the score for. But with his fingers in so many pies, is this a positive or a negative thing?
It seems to be the case from researching the movie (haven’t seen it unfortunately) that Carruth’s model for UPSTREAM COLOR is the Terrence Malick film THE TREE OF LIFE. I see this as no bad thing myself as I think that picture is a masterpiece, and listening to the album I can absolutely see this. Carruth’s music has a feel of the Malick about it, and is a fascinating listen at times.
As you might expect it frequently leans on the ambient side of things, with more of a guide for things as opposed to the more traditional archetype. It feels like nature; at times it’s stunningly beautiful, with a cacophonous mix of strings and piano augmented by synth washing over you like a clear ocean wave; at others it moves towards mixing with sound design as distant storms provide a foreboding atmosphere against a delicate glockenspiel.
It’s ethereal and otherwordly, and not perfect, although I don’t think it’s supposed to be. ‘I Love To Be Alone’ (one of the shorter track names) is a curious beast with a sparse piano movement shadowed by a slightly out-of-tune counterpart, creating a surprisingly uncomfortable experience. But it’s a powerful record, it may divide critics simply because of how ambient it really is, but there’s things going on beneath the surface that demands a more attentive listen that you think it may need.
UPSTREAM COLOR is out now from erbp
Words: Charlie Brigden