into a noir groove....

The genre known as "noir" speaks to me at a deep level. Less creepy than goth, more nuanced than industrial, the whole noir groove grabs me where I live. It could be the visual aesthetic of the first "Batman" or "Blade Runner" movies. Clearly the Miles Davis soundtrack to "Ascenseur pour l'échafaud" qualifies in spades (would you expect anything less from the 1957 film by Louis Malle also known as "Lift to the Gallows?") Some go for novels by Dashiell Hammet while others savor the works of James Cain or Elmore Leonard. I dig it all. I can watch the early TV show "The Naked City" with as much enthusiasm as either "Justified" or "Da Vinci's Inquest." And I never get enough of the epic film "Chinatown" by Roman Polanski.

Anxiety and shadow define this scene in all its permutations. Right now I am particularly wild about a song that opens the TV show "Bosch." After stumbling through a few hours of techno insanity, it has become the ring tone on my IPhone.  The band, Caught by A Ghost, has constructed a dark jazz trumpet melody played over a crisp New Jack City beat on "Got A Feelin." What's more, the lyrics evoke a brokenness that speaks to this moment in time and the excellent use of black and white film clips work to kick up the edginess.

Corn sugar and caffeine
I feel my body in two different places
Still playing for both teams
Sometimes it feels I was born with two faces

I feel the smoke climbing up my cheeks
I hear the jokes and I smell the punchlines
I lay broken in my bed for weeks
My room's too dark and my bed's on the faultline

I got a feeling that I can't let go...

Sing a song about heartbreak
What do you know about the sweet taste of sadness?
I got a name for each one of my headaches
What do you know about the thin line to madness?

I need a new part with new lines
Anything if it's good for your head
You can donate your heart to science
But it won't bring you back from the dead

I got a feeling that I can't let go...

This may be my favorite sound of genre-bending music: a taste of old school jazz, a healthy dose of contemporary percussion mixed with a sophisticated hip hop lyrical sensibility that is neither cynical nor sentimental. Trip hop artists like Cinematic Orchestra awakened me to this groove and I've been addicted since hearing them on the sound system of a shop in Camden Market.

Like another sub-genre that speaks to my soul, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, the noir scene honors all that is wounded and gritty without ever giving in to cheap horror or sloppy piety. The heroes are broken souls searching for a bit of truth and light within the darkness. They engage the muck of the world as it is, no illusions here, and more often than not they are hurt in the process. And yet I see a quiet nobility to their suffering that gives shape and form to the complicated nature of compassion. The gospel puts it like this: greater love has no person than that she give up her life for a friend. And that is what keeps me coming back for more.


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