Jennifer Gentle likes the cinema. Which is good, because I do too, and on the newest offering from the Italian group (sophomore with Sub Pop) they take us on a thirty-six minute trip through a bizarre and twisted merry-go-round fit for the auteur himself, Federico Fellini, with an offering that feels more like a film soundtrack than a rock album.
The Midnight Room starts off with the sweeping wind of "Twin Ghosts," a song that was undoubtedly inspired by the shady northern Italian home in which Gentle's mastermind Marco Fasolo recorded the album. Apparently known for previously housing a "suicide by rifle," the studios lent quite the atmosphere for Fasolo's haunting jaunt. The opening track breathes for nearly five minutes before leading into "Telephone Ringing," where we find what will become pretty much the norm for the rest of the album - stripped down arrangements covered by an exquisite tapestry of keyboards. "It's In Her Eyes" and "Quarter To Three" both fall in line with the same aesthetic and seem to draw from the same influences - a twisted combination of early Bowie and Sgt. Pepper's "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite."
Personally, I attribute a lot of music to imagery and influence, and in this regard The Midnight Room is quite fascinating. "Mercury Blood" feels like an Ennio Morricone tune right out of his spectacular Spaghetti Western work and "Take My Hand" feels like it would fit right into Nino Rota's bizarre accompaniments to Fellini's most fantastic work (I'm talking about you 8 1/2 and Amarcord). It's "The Ferryman" however that warrants the most attention. There is an urgency about the pace of the track, creating a sense of dread that is almost exciting. Guitars pluck along with waltzing drums in a piece that recalls Ingmar Bergman's iconic dance of death from The Seventh Seal. t is a new addition to the mythology of the afterlife, and it is definitely the highlight of the album.
After the final exhale of the spacey "Come Closer" it seems that picking apart the stories behind The Midnight Room might be a bit more enjoyable than the actual content. Save for a couple of tracks, namely "The Ferryman" and "Take My Hand," Fasolo and company have a somewhat intriguing album, but more than anything they've got an interesting story and a wealth of worthy influences.