Evening’s Civil Twilight In Empires of Tin – Jem Cohen (2009)

‘Empires of Tin’ isn’t an album of sort, but rather a film-project, featuring a harrowing and spell-bounding performances by some of Constellations more revered and respected musicians featured on their roster. In this intriguing film, Jem Cohen offers a bleak, though in some ways, affecting, piece of film, featuring bittersweet and almost horrifyingly and beautiful images accompanied by an incredibly strong set of songs and instrumental pieces. The music and the film projections work seamlessly together, to create what is an incredible experience.

In some ways, it is a little hard to review a film-project as one would a CD soundtrack. Often the imagery of the film itself is so separate and distant from its accompanying soundtrack, that it’s almost that band’s soundtrack albums (such as ‘Prince Avalanche’ or ‘Les Revernants’), are in an essence, separate from the films’ they so well accommodated to. I find, that in the case of ‘Empires Of Tin’, that the music, and the imagery, play such an important role in accompanying each other, that they can perhaps be viewed as both a film piece, and an album piece.

In any case, the film’s influence in terms  of Jem Cohen’s direction of the participating bands and musicians. who include Godspeed You! Black Emperor members Efrim Menuck and Jessica Moss, and hauntingly beautiful singer-songwriter Vic Chessnut, makes for an incredibly beautiful, and sad experience. The music itself plays an important role in not only accompanying Jem Cohen’s video footage, but supporting it, makes for an incredibly interesting listening experience.  Fans of the many wonderful artists who are a part of Constellation Records, would find a lot to be enjoyed, or perhaps thought upon, on this film/music project. The musical pieces included in the film cover a range of varying styles, including post-rock elements, and simple band performance. Solo pieces by the various musicians provide a sometimes disturbing though intriguing and beautiful set of imagery, which works well as a presented piece of art. It seems though, that the most crowning moments on the film are those featuring Vic Chesnutt, who simply sits atop his wheelchair, and bares his soul and heart through his songs (spanning a wide range of his career).

It’s a phenomenal piece of film-work, that seems to border on the concept of filming a live performance of a band, but also making an avante-garde film. There is a structure, to the music and footage incorporated in this film. Everything just seems to work incredibly well, and it seems Jem Cohen has done a phenomenal job of presenting harrowing images and concepts, and supporting it with the use of some of the most harrowing and intriguing bands in the past few years. It should be said, that it is a slow film, and thus it might not keep the attention of the casual viewer. Though those who are interested in both film and music as an art-form, will find a great many satisfying elements to ‘Empires of Tin’, which, although not the greatest,is perhaps one of the finest things Constellation Records have released.

Film/Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Scenes/Songs

  • Sponge
  • World War One
  • Coward
  • Blanket Over the Head

Jem Cohen’s film project ‘Empires of Tin’ was released 26th January 2009, and can be purchased at: http://cstrecords.com/cst056/

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Categories: 5-Star Reviews, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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