Is a band that covers old movie soundtracks a kitsch novelty or a serious ensemble? The concept is certainly gaudy, but Morricone Youth are so precise and dramatic that it's hard not to take them at least somewhat seriously. On Silenzio Violento
, the six-piece ensemble takes you through several decades of trashy cinema, from slapstick goth horror to silly-disco funk; some songs could easily pass as James Bond themes, while others would be better suited to the likes of Dirty Dancing
. The obvious stylistic midpoint is Austin Powers
, but there's something a little smarter and classier at work here. Sharp, funny, sexy and captivating, this music is in motion; it's going somewhere, doing something, accompanying action yet not inextricable from that action. Vocalist Dreiky Caprice has a voice perfectly suited to the group's style; her voice is clear and clean, but not powerful enough to overshadow the on-screen action, seducing from a distance and bringing out hypnotic melodies from already entrancing arrangements. She is truly frightening on the bass-heavy "Brujo Malo", which would easily fit into a vampire action film, endearingly coy on the playful jazz singsong "Funny Thing", and ethereally quiet on the Spanish-tinged slow ballad "Bye Bye (end credits)", which gradually increases its pace to climax in a bossa-nova dance-along. While Caprice isn't an overly impressive vocalist from a technical standpoint, her delivery crosses so many stylistic lines that you could easily mistake her for three different people. The band is equally eclectic in its choice of covers: the tunes vary from typical orchestral "theme song" music to jazz, big band and cabaret -- musically uncategorizable, but entirely cinematic.
Silenzio Violento's real beauty is the fact that if you haven't seen the movies in question, the scenes the music accompanies are entirely up to you to imagine -- "The Black Forest", for instance, inspires Russian fairy tales, a rainy day in Paris and an unsuccessful Spanish bullfight all at once. Make what you will of it: the album does not guide you or force images into your mind, but hints at bizarre happenings and exotic voyages. Whether you listen to it it while reading a book or throwing a party, the songs will definitely inspire you in some way: "Drink"'s slow, sleazy jazz waltz begs you to partake in drunken debauchery, and "Heist", a suspense-filled instrumental full of frantic saxophones, will make you want to go out running just so you can pretend to be fleeing from an evil villain. To make matters even more entertaining, Morricone Youth put a straight face and dark sunglasses on these fantasies rather than playing them for irony's sake, and they seem a little more sophisticated as a result.
Silenzio Violento shouldn't be dismissed as a trendy curiosity (although hipsters would go crazy over it); it's a surprisingly sincere, and demonstrates real skill and originality. Someone should write a movie to go with it.