Tuxedomoon: Bardo Hotel Soundtrack

Bardo Hotel Soundtrack
Crammed Discs

Tuxedomoon never really died—or even faded away. After enjoying considerable success in Europe—where they'd relocated from San Francisco in 1981—during the '80s, the avant-pop avatars simply took it easy, working on various solo projects and playing the occasional festival date as a band. Just as 2004's wildly varied Cabin in the Sky, their first studio recording since 1987's You, marked their return to post-everything form, Bardo Hotel Soundtrack signals their renewed involvement in the incidental music they've been making on and off since 1978. Loosely based on author, painter, and inventor Brion Gysin's The Last Museum, both film and soundtrack reposition the Tibetan Buddhist afterlife in the nameless Parisian fleabag once inhabited by the likes of Gysin, his friend and collaborator William Burroughs, and Leonard Cohen.

Discreetly peppered with snippets of dialogue and field recordings, Bardo works more as narrative distillation than mere accompaniment, offering an opulent homage to cut-up method originator Gysin in the process. The band even tosses in a capsule career retrospective, jumping quickly from a deliciously shambling live rendition of Cabin's "Baron Brown" to a bizarre, a cappella chunk of Desire's "Jinx," then a skeletal reprise of Half Mute's "Loneliness." But the instrumentals, particularly "Volcanic Combustible," hold the most charm. Opening with a dreamy violin solo over barely audible bubble 'n' squeak, the Astor Piazzolla-meets-Terry Riley confection slowly swells and ebbs, as guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica, and trumpet join the aforementioned fiddle, gamboling and frolicking with studied abandon in and around a supple core.