Mick Harvey may not be a household name, but the solo albums, collaborations, soundtracks, and musical accompaniment he’s been a part of since the late-’70s add up to a tremendous body of work. His latest release crams music from two separate projects together on one disc. The first is Waves of Anzac, the soundtrack to a documentary called “Why Anzac,” where actor Sam Neill recants episodes from his family’s history which dovetail with the history of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (aka ANZAC). I only have the soundtrack to review, and not the accompanying film, but the subject matter, and the tone of Harvey’s instrumental music (which includes titles like “The Cemetery,” “After The Bomb,” and “Modern War”) leads me to believe there’s a lot of tension in the story. The soundtrack has a lot of instruments, but it’s the meticulous string arrangements that are dominant throughout. There’s something beautiful, and almost classical in nature about the title track, but I keep coming back to “The Somme” which features a haunting piano melody that harkens back a bit to the mood of a few mid-’90s Bad Seeds songs. All that tension finally boils over on “Vietnam,” with jagged guitar noise conjuring up mental images of war-torn landscapes and brutal devastation.
The Journey is a four-part composition Harvey wrote and recorded with The Letter String Quartet, and originally released as a standalone download in 2019. It’s a soundtrack of sorts, but instead of accompanying a movie, these songs were recorded to support asylum seekers caught up in Australia’s offshore detention program. All the feelings of struggle and anxiety the detainees (i.e. prisoners) have is captured in these songs, which have a far more urgent and direct tone to them than the Waves of Anzac soundtrack. The final part of this four-song suite ends with vocals (the first on the album) emerging from the string section, perhaps offering a final sense of hope and peace after so much turbulence.
This isn’t music for everyone, but if you’re into atmospheric film scores, as always, Harvey’s got the goods.