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Straw Man Army: HMS cassette

Straw Man Army: HMS cassette


Tags: · 20s · hcpmf · instrumental · krautrock and experimental · new york · post-punk · punk · soundscapes · soundtracks
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Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the time-bending experimental feature-length film, Her Majesty’s Ship (2019).

Based on Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle (1831—1836), HMS is the modern classic of historical filmmaking that, sadly, few have seen in its intended form. Suppressed by the studio and riddled with production issues, much of the film fell victim to the cutting-room floor, resulting in a major commercial flop upon its theatrical release. Part biopic, part colonial history veiled in a time-travel adventure narrative, HMS tells the story of a young Darwin’s journey through South America and the crisis of scale presented by his findings—a crisis that will throw doubt on the origin of humanity itself…

Straw Man Army’s ambitious soundtrack, presented here for the first time, captures the freewheeling energy of the film and its attitude of exploration via a wide range of samples, found sounds, and themed arrangements—all resulting in a strange work of historical fiction in its own right. Her Majesty’’s Ship OST comes packaged with comprehensive shot-list transcriptions and storyboard drawings from the original film production, and includes an introductory essay on this complex film as published in Film Comment Magazine for the occasion of this release on Stucco Soundtracks.

“The film, like [HMS Beagle] itself, sets out towards a crossroads on the oceans where history itself commingles with the present and the future, to stare blankly at the sheer force of creation that proliferates the globe and to mourn an adventure which never really took place—namely, the blossoming of a world without industry, without imperialism and its prison colonies and its violence; a world devoid of clocks and timestamps and folders stuffed with nameless files” — Film Comment Magazine


Our take: Straw Man Army and Stucco Records surprise dropped this release on us, Beyoncé style, and I had to stop what I was doing and listen immediately. After I hit “play” on the BandCamp site, I read the description and this part stuck out: “Straw Man Army’s ambitious soundtrack, presented here for the first time, captures the freewheeling energy of the film and its attitude of exploration via a wide range of samples, found sounds, and themed arrangements.” Like many people, I’ve dipped my toe into the world of film soundtracks over the past few years, particularly enjoying the soundtracks to 70s art / cult films like La Planète Sauvage, Profondo Rosso, and Belladonna of Sadness. I don’t know if Straw Man Army has been mining these same seams for influences, but the resemblance is uncanny. Her Majesty’s Ship OST features a series of 13 instrumental themes, all of them short and tonally distinct, suggesting a narrative without outlining one. Each track is its own rhythmic and melodic world, and the samples add even more texture and nuance. Not that you have to be into film soundtracks to appreciate what Straw Man Army is doing. Her Majesty’s Ship OST sounds as much like Can as anything, with complex, grooving drum patterns that take the rhythmic intricacies of other D4MT Labs projects even further out there. The sound also isn’t unprecedented for Straw Man Army; the Sun Ra-ish instrumental that started Age of Exile (perhaps my favorite record of 2020) could slide right into this track listing. The packaging is also interesting, housed in a red envelope with a thick booklet that extends the imaginary world of the music in literary form. This is awesome; so awesome that I kind of wish it was an LP rather than a tape, but I’m just happy to have it period. Oh, and just to lay it on even thicker, we only got a few of these and we don’t expect them to last long at all. I suggest you jump on it.