Andrew Downing’s new album Silents is actually two soundtracks he composed for silent films: 1904’s Impossible Voyage and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from 1920. Jazz, bluegrass, klezmer and Arabic music, Downing has done it all as musician, and it comes together in this album for a riotous trip across the silver screen. These crazy, fantastical stories find their perfect match in Downing’s imaginative soundtracks. On “Train Trip,” I quickly found myself aboard a huffing steam engine with a rag-tag group of Jules Verne-esque characters, traversing the Swiss Alps en route to the sun. “Inside the Booth” descends from jazzy lullaby into the madness of Dr. Caligari’s cabinet. This is by far the most enticing and exciting insane asylum I’ve ever heard. Downing doesn’t need silent pictures to tell these stories, he’s got brilliant sound instead.
- Jen Hoyer