Nettle - El Resplandor: The Shining in Dubai [Sub Rosa - 2011]Clocking in at under 33 minutes, El Resplandor: The Shining in Dubai re-imagines King-via-Kubrick’s seminal haunted hotel story in the shiny capital of modern Arabia’s excess. Its primary conceptual failure is that such a creative and ambitious side project, from New York’s DJ /rupture (Jace Clayton), was afforded such a limited runtime.
The music here approximates the original source material but hardly touches upon the sonic equivalent to the epic cinematography that marks the film with such overpowering senses of locale and isolation, both crucially necessary for a story about stir-craziness. That said, the compelling music ably reproduces its inspiration’s recipe for an atmospheric blend of experimental, electronic, and classical music; it all just plays like a work-in-progress. The haunting female vocals that open El Resplandor and occur again at its premature climax serve the same sort of ominous but shallow hook as Wendy Carlos’ doomy theme for the 1980 film.
The rest of the record comprises a number of slightly dissonant, string-laden jam pieces interspersed with bursts of electronic effects that approximate Bartok’s studied cacophony—here given a North African tinge—while also playing to the repetitive minimalist strength of Kubrick’s favorite suspense-building contemporary composer, György Ligeti. “Espina” makes some real headway in terms of establishing the setting, and the buzzy “Empty Quarters” thickens the mood, but it’s not until the centerpiece “Simoon (Wasp Mind)” that an unsettling sinister undercurrent begins to play out in true Penderecki fashion, a welcome development that ultimately plays more like botched resolution than intriguing conflict, as the few remaining minutes of music lack narrative spark.
El Resplandor is perhaps better suited for a live setting, in which the venue would become part of the haunting experience as the unexplored motifs are given space to expand and substantiate.Richard T Williams