With a resume that includes thousands of studio sessions for artists including Blondie, Billy Ocean, and Onyx, multi-instrumentalist/trumpeter Mac Gollehon has enjoyed a career without parallel. His latest album, The End is the Beginning, due out this week from Nefarious Industries, finds Gollehon exploring new territory. While performed entirely solo, the album was conceptualized by David Brenner, who collaborated with Gollehon recently under his noise moniker Gridfailure. The End is the Beginning is inspired by the scores to movies such as The French Connection and Dirty Harry and smashes them into other genres such as industrial, noise, and free jazz.
If The End is the Beginning merely echoed your standard crime movie soundtrack, it might be enjoyable but wouldn’t warrant a review. The listener would already know what to expect. From the beginning, though, it is clear this album is far from predictable. “As Your World Burns” begins with a loop of church bells before odd bits of percussion and layers of trumpet begin to blanket everything in sight. In some ways, it is soundtrack-like, but what the hell kind of movie is being watched? This short opener quickly gives way to “Enigma,” a much longer piece. Strange synth lines collide with a static drone; the horn converses with bits of snare drum and violin. The feel is ominous. Violence isn’t at the forefront but stalks around behind the scenes. The threat is palpable.
The threat becomes more apparent with “Neon and Gunpowder.” The track opens with the sound of a knife being sharpened on a stone and the sound of a gun cocking. There’s a strange bassline and Mike Patton-esque vocalizations. This track illustrates what is so fascinating about this album. There are all sorts of soundtrack vibes to the playing, but Gollehon adds in experimental elements such as free-playing, drone, and noise and mashes them into what sounds like the work of the foley artist, the person that makes the actual sound effects for a film. It is like a variation on the idea of found sound.
Hence, each piece on The End is the Beginning is not only the music of the film but the sounds of the set as well. It’s a strange film no doubt, but not one beyond the listener’s capacity to imagine. The vision culminates with the title track, which closes the album. Here, the music is reminiscent of instrumental versions of late-era Scott Walker, but with the sounds of the brakes on a subway train underpinning the score. Perhaps it is the protagonist escaping a surreal cityscape via the train, or the antagonist falling in front of the aforementioned train, or given the feel of the album, something much weirder. But it is this sense of abstraction which gives The End is the Beginning its allure. One can return again and again and try to decipher the non-existent plot or re-imagine their own. Either way, Mac Gollehon has provided more than enough material to allow the intrigue to live on.