Victor Sjöström’s 1921 film, The Phantom Carriage is a masterpiece of atmospheric cinema, pushing forward the art of special effects and narrative structure. The mood it created set a benchmark that filmmakers still look up to today. This film provided the perfect canvas in which to provide musical accompaniment, and until 2008, the accompaniment was what one generally associates with silent film scores.
In the realms of underground music, KTL are something of a wonder duo, comprised of Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg. Since 2006, they’ve been channeling their distinctive music sensibilities into a series of deeply atmospheric recordings that owe a debt to drone, dark ambient and noise music. That such a group would be approached about recording a film score is not incongruous by any stretch of the imagination. When one considers the musical outfits O’Malley has been involved in (Æthenor, Burning Witch, Fungal Hex, Ginnungagap, Grave Temple, Khanate, KTL, Lotus Eaters, Pentemple, Sarin, Sunn O))), Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, Thorr’s Hammer) and Rehberg’s work with such artists and bands as Jim O’Rourke, Christian Fennesz, Dennis Cooper, Gisèle Vienne, Stephen O’Malley (as KTL), Tina Frank, Matmos, Tujiko Noriko, Kevin Drumm, Marcus Schmickler, Michaela Schwentner (aka Jade), Matt “Skitz” Sanders, Russell Haswell, Florian Hecker, Carlos Giffoni, Gert-Jan Prins, Mika Vainio, General Magic, Zbigniew Karkowski, Z’EV, Rosy Parlane, Keith Rowe, Sunn O))) and Mimeo, it all makes sense.
The atmosphere summoned by these musicians is a perfect homage to the atmosphere created by the original film. Sub bass looms from the speakers, percussive reverberations echo, screeches, scrapes and noises abound. The sense of drama is executed perfectly and, in my opinion, counts as the best work KTL have ever done. Enjoy this selection of clips.