Photo Courtesy of Whited Sepulchre Records
Jordan Reyes’ latest output is not your typical album. Although its runtime of 36 minutes falls in the range of a full-length, Fairchild Soundtrack + Border Land EP is really a combination of the Chicago musician’s recent film score and a three song EP, with both sharing similar textures and feelings. But, despite these commonalities, listening to each project on this release is like visiting opposite extremes: one minimalistic and breezy, the other chaotic and challenging.
This release’s six initial songs make up the Fairchild Soundtrack, commissioned for Kali Kahn’s 2019 short film that explores themes of youth, innocence and trauma. For the film, Reyes crafts unobtrusive music that uses bell-driven melodies, wondrous synths and sparse arrangements. The most realized of these songs, the opener “A Child’s Dream,” is a welcoming piece that would be at home in a sci-fi movie. Later tracks such as “Siren Song” and “Guileless” present variations on the bell motifs of the opener, and together they succeed in defining the soundtrack’s airy tone.
But not every song is gently reassuring. The track “Walking Across A Bridge” evokes youthful fears through a low, round synthesizer that progresses a two-note melody at a glacial speed. Likewise, “Killing A Monster” employs slow, bellowing foghorn to conjure the image of someone facing his or her greatest fear. The track features a crystalline synth that contrasts well with the main synth, balancing out heaviness with just the right amount of clarity.
Between the two projects, Fairchild Soundtrack is the more enjoyable, easier listen. Its compositions are as comforting as fond childhood memories, even though there are traces of danger lurking on their edges. The soundtrack is an impressive feat considering it is Reyes’ first foray into film scores.
But juxtaposing the soundtrack, the release’s final three tracks that make up the Border Land EP introduce more challenging songwriting with centerless compositions that are, at times, virtually atonal. These songs, which were recorded in motel rooms while Reyes toured the East Coast, weren’t written as background accompaniment but as self-contained pieces that use chaos and experimentation to drive them forward.
“Touching Down,” the EP’s opener, functions as a well-placed bridge between the opposing styles of the two projects. The song has enough upbeat energy to fit in with the six previous songs but also enough movement and density to suggest a break in the weather. The following track, “Broken Crown,” an anxiety-inducing crawler with a trumpet-like synth, drifts further into the dark ruminative vibes at this EP’s core.
The aptly-named closer, “All Things End,” is the most experimental track of them all and blasts the listener with a cacophonous mix of shrill synths and whooshing knob turns. Waves of white noise create an atmosphere devoid of footholds before a clear melody arises to aleve some of the dissonance. Calling back to the Fairchild Soundtrack, the song uses bells at its beginning and end, forging a sonic connection between the projects. Reyes stated that the songs on both projects were “cut from the same kind of spiritual cloth.” So while the end results differ, there is a sense of cohesion among these nine tracks, at least in the toolset used to make them.
And if releasing the Fairchild Soundtrack and the Border Land EP as one entity shows anything, it’s how skillfully Reyes can adapt his current style into different contexts and still emerge with equally effective material. Using bells and a handful of synth tones, he immerses the listener in a world that ranges from the comfort of childlike wonder to a whirlwind of heady confusion. Reyes not only expertly captures the themes of Kahn’s film, but also includes personal songs to make this release grander in scale than the average OST.