Two partnerships result in two exquisite albums

(From left) Munaf Rayani, Michael James, Mark Smith and Chris Hrasky of rockers Explosions In The Sky.

A couple of weekends ago, my friends and I argued over dinner the fraught 2012 century- leaping movie Cloud Atlas based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell.

Someone called the co-writing/production/direction of the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer a hot mess. Yet another felt the trio did bring something new to the table: Uniting six narratives (to distil the Nietzschean concept of eternal recurrence), the directors controversially made the Caucasian actors play people of different races.

That's the beauty and danger of collaboration - by relinquishing total control, you never quite know what you get yourself into and this week's top releases show how partnership can elevate the overall art.

German electronic whiz Klaus Schulze once opined: "As always in musical collaboration: One has to like to each other. As simple as that." In this case, the musicians must have been terribly fond of one another.

Austin post-rockers Explosions In The Sky joined hands with David Wingo of the pensive Brooklyn-based quartet Ola Podrida to soundtrack American film auteur David Gordon Green's latest outing, Prince Avalanche.

The film, about two men leaving the city to repaint traffic lines in wildfireravaged Bastrop, Texas, is a delicate two-hander.

Explosions, who can invoke the kind of breathtaking symphonies one associates with Iceland's Sigur Ros, rein in the flourishes for a much more nuanced effect.

The opening track Fires isn't a fiery bombast, but crackles and even shimmers. Embers of synth illuminate some laboured human breathing.

Wingo has steered Explosions into the road less treaded - how does one achieve fulfilment without crashing cymbals?

Take in unassuming tracks as Passing Time and Alone Time and you are gradually disarmed. A guitar softly plucks as a woodwind beseeches. A dolorous piano line soon gives way to electronic keys and loops.

These placid interludes prepare one for the gorgeous climax Join Me On My Avalanche, which is discreetly rendered in a minor key. Tremolos race and the percussion flutters like sunbirds. Every second is not taken for granted.

Similarly, Brooklyn bedroom producer Julianna Barwick steps out of her own comfort zone for her second album, Nepenthe (named for the Greek medicine for sorrow). She travelled to Reykjavik to work with Alex Somers (partner to Jonsi of Sigur Ros) and a clique of Icelandic artists including members of alt-rock bands Amiina and Mum in Sundlaugin, the famous swimming-pool studio.

These kindred spirits intuit one another's vibe: Barwick's reverb-soaked loops and wordless incantations are woven into this gauzy yet iridescent whorl lit by a sparse guitar riff by Robert Sturla Reynisson and stringed magic by Amiina.

Once in a while, Barwick's voice rises above the ether, clear, and the effect is exquisite. You feel time, the luxury of it.

Explosions In The Sky headline the indie-music festival, Camp Symmetry, on Nov 2 at Gardens by the Bay.

Tickets at $125, $145 and $350 from www.campsymmetry.com and at the Fred Perry Laurel Wreath Collection Shop.


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