TRACKER, THE: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
The first thing we hear is the chirping of birds. We are deep in Australian countryside, and as Archie Roach’s earthy vocals enter over sparse, clean guitar chords we realise we didn’t really need the ornithological effects to tell us that. It’s there in his voice, rich and raw, yet exercised with tenderness and a tremulous, yet tightly controlled, vibrato that trails off into a vast landscape. It’s also there in the strong, uncluttered arrangements. Broad organ pads fill out strums and slide guitar work, while warm bass contours fit snugly between steady rimshots and crisp snare backbeats. It is powerful and minimalist music allowing the full scope of Roach’s tone to come to the fore, and evoking wide, open, unindustrialised spaces.
We know that we are in the wilderness, and we also know that we are back many decades, when a fledgling federation was still recovering from the shock of WWI and there were no controversies concerning Aboriginal reconciliation, because there simply was no notion of it.
Graham Tardif’s music and Roach’s vocals combine on this soundtrack to produce a powerful paean to freedoms lost, and the strain of cultural tension. Straightforward, honest and simple in lyrical and rhythmic approach, what the album lacks in subtlety and variety it more than makes up for in integrity and cohesiveness. Although the only metaphor to tie the Aboriginal experience to universal history, or the many subtexts of colonial oppression, is the tired old saw of freedom shackled by chains, Roach’s raw emotion imbues the soundtrack with a profundity that comes from the heart.
Movingly elegiac, there is not nearly so much ire here as lament. These are beautiful sounds that echo ugly truths. Roach’s greatest achievement is to emote with the stately solemnity of a man standing on a cliff top, surveying a landscape that hardly changes, while all the while bearing witness to tumultuous vicissitudes of human history. It is an earthy, poignant experience for the listener, and as cathartic and poignant as the American blues.
Published August 8, 2002
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ROLF DE HEER INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
TITLE: The Tracker
MUSIC and SONGS BY: Graham Tardif
VOCALS BY: Archie Roach