The Moomins – Graeme Miller And Steve Shill’s Unreleased Soundtrack

by Freq | 2017-02-18T11:08:03+00:000000000328201702 11:08

Finders Keepers

The Moomins - Graeme Miller & Steve Shill's Unreleased SoundtrackThe opening sentence of Andy Votel‘s sleevenotes for the long awaited Moomins soundtrack is just about the most perfect phrase to describe this record, so here it is for your delectation:

Imagine, if you will a foreboding homemade electro-acoustic, new age, synth driven, proto-techno, imaginary world music Portastudio soundtrack for a Polish-made animated fantasy based on a Finnish modern folk tale and created for German and Austrian TV, composed in 1982 by two politically driven post-punk theatre performers from a shared house in Leeds.

I certainly could not have said it better myself. Quite how Graeme Miller and Steve Shill came to be involved in a project to soundtrack the adventures of our fuzzy hippo-like adventurers, I am not sure, but apparently with the aid of an ocarina and a Wasp synthesizer, they were given the go ahead to do so. Finally, after some thirty-five years, it has been released and I guess anybody of a certain age will be rushing down to the shop to pick this up just for the wave of nostalgia that it will bring. To be honest, it deserves appreciation on its musical merits alone and if the above doesn’t convince you, then I will try to help.

It is not a long album by any stretch, with fifteen tracks barely running to half an hour, but the musical adventures and bargain basement ideas contained therein are part of a British children’s television musical landscape that included the surreal likes of The Clangers and Ivor The Engine. The fact that the protagonists were contemporaries of Gang of Four and The Mekons makes this a surprising direction for them to take, but perhaps it was the opportunity to produce something with no boundaries and also no preconceptions that appealed. Either way, with their trusty instruments they produced a self-contained and unique sound world that is imminently recognisable to those who remember the show, but also will appeal to anybody who is open to having their ears twisted by sonic bedroom pioneers.

A lot of the tracks contain the kinds of rhythms that came pre-programmed into Bontempi organs of a certain age, so some skip along at a bossanova, others may waltz and you may even find a samba or two. The moods veer from slightly melancholy to mysterious to all-out party time and the sounds produced are wild and varied. Some of the track titles will bring back memories: “Hattyfatners Row” is the rhythmic sound of a work song for dwarves sawing but only lasts for about fifteen seconds.  “Hobgoblin’s Hat” has a space wind echo with some eastern instrument intoning over the top while other things tap and drip in a murky, mysterious manner. ‘The Moomins Theme” itself has the ocarina sounding like birdsong over a wonky rhythm with little explosions and odd minor key changes is reprised here and there as the tracks run though, even appearing as a childlike waltz in one track and drifting and limitless with a Spanish guitar accompaniment for “Woodland Band Afar”.

Elsewhere, we have the Waltons-like “Woodland Band” with ba-ba-ba sounds shimmering in the background among crazy jungle rhythms and cheeky monkeys, a singing saw and xylophone, distorted rockets taking off and a whole panoply of surprising and pleasing musical effects. The album is an adorable, strange and decidedly home-made treat that is a welcome addition to any discerning collection.

-Mr Olivetti-

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