I must confess that until recently I had given Anne Dudley little thought,
having unfairly regarded her as a rock musician with little appreciable musical
talent. Exposure to Art Of Noise on television in the 1980's was enough to prejudice
me for decades, while whatever Oscar-winning contribution she made to The
Fully Monty passed me by entirely. Then last year I heard the song "Pie
Jesu" from The Miracle Maker being performed live on television,
and received the soundtrack to Monkeybone, a work of remarkable invention
if not an especially enjoyable listen in isolation for someone who still has
not seen the film. Clearly there was much more to Anne Dudley than I had realised.
This beautiful new album should hopefully awaken more people to her talent,
being a freshly recorded collection of themes and melodies from various phases
and facets of her diverse career. The music has all be newly arranged by the
composer, these versions centring on a string quartet, orchestra and solo players
as listed above. The general style has something in common with neo-classicism,
in that the formalism of the Baroque meets a warmer, more introspective and
emotional 20th century English sound. This sound is then, in some
pieces, infused with a jazz sensibility, a form explored by many composers in
the early decades of the 20th century when the neo-classical movement
was at its height.
The album opens with, in Dudley's words, "a full-blown romantic"
version of the theme to The Crying Game, leading to the utter peace of
"Pie Jesu". Both pieces display an fine ear for melody and
appropriately crafted arrangement. "Turbulent Serenity" was
written for an advert directed by Tony Kaye, here expanded into the sort of
rich theme for string orchestra one associates with George Fenton, a pastoral
English yearning clearly from the land of Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Two further,
equally lyrical and attractive, though dark hued pieces, have their origins
in Dudley's collaborations with Tony Kaye, "American History X"
is the title music from the film of the same name, while "Two Brothers"
highlights one of the key scenes of the drama.
"A Different Light" reworks music from the television series
Anna Lee into a piece of exquisite serenity, while "A Different
Life" spins a variation on the chord sequence from one of the two centrepieces
of the disc. "The Club With No Name" is an eight minute experiment
in moody electronics, orchestral strings and late-night jazz and belongs to
the soundtrack of a non-existent film. If it were ever to be made it most likely
would be Blade Runner II. Finally there is "Moments in Love",
previously a famous 12" single and something of an icon in Dudley's
career. For this disc she reincarnates it as an eleven minute piece which starts
with luxurious piano, joined by elegant string quartet, which after four minutes
surrenders to pin-sharp, digital rhythms and synthetic voices. The strings gradually
return and are joined by a deeply passionate Latin flavoured trumpet for the
lavishly melodramatic and deeply cinematic climax.
While those who refuse to accept electronics under any circumstances will dismiss
two of the high-lights of this release this out of hand, the quality of the
writing shines through and both the musicianship and Dudley's arrangements and
production display impeccable taste. Imagine a comparable sound world to that
of Michael Nyman, but filled with far more consistently interesting music and
most importantly, blessed with real emotional warmth amid the crystalline detachment.
A different light indeed, and one I am most glad I have seen.
Gary S. Dalkin