August 23, 2002

Eric Bachmann "Short Careers: Soundtrack to the Film Ball of Wax"

This is Merge's third soundrack album in less than a year, and, oddly, it's strikingly similar to the other two--both solo projects from well-established musicians, both instrumental based, both clocking in at less than 40 minutes, and both being slightly more experimental than the particular artist's normal fare. It's also Bachmann's formal solo debut as well, and after years of impressive records with Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers, who could blame Bachmann for wanting to put out a record under his own name?

Unfortunatly, unlike those previous two albums (by Portastatic and Stephin Merritt), Short Careers does not prove to be as enjoyable a diversion as one would hope, simply because without any sense of context, the music just seems...flat. While it must be stated that the music on Short Careers certainly expands on Bachmann's current fascination with dark, brooding atmosphere, that doesn't necessarily mean that these songs have the same level of passion of Crooked Fingers or even Bachmann's previous instrumental experiment, Barry Black.

Short Careers' shortcomings aren't necessarily Bachmann's fault. Music can work wonders for a movie, yet without having the advantage of seeing the film, you can't really appreciate the music, especially if the music makes the scene. Instead, we're left with ideas that seem somehow incomplete, and that adds up to songs that just seem to exist side by side, with no real connection to the song that follows or precedes it. At times, though, Short Careers sounds a lot like electronic instrumentalists In the Nursery, but without their cohesiveness.

Bachmann's made some great records, but Short Careers isn't one of them. Short Careers shows that Bachmann's delving deeper into electronic-based mood music, but this experiment proves to be less interesting and, ultimately, rather forgettable. While I still eagerly await each new Eric Bachmann record, Short Careers was a major disappointment, especially considering his track record.

---Joseph Kyle

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