Jon Keller is one of those sorts of musicians any player would be proud to have playing beside them. Versatile, multi-faceted, and adept at adding just the right amount of texture and grandiosity to anything without overdoing it. He’s a Midwest guy that has been making a go of it in Nashville for the last few years. Before moving to Tennessee however, his home stomping grounds were Fort Wayne, IN and he graced the stage with guys like Lee Miles and Mark Hutchins, making them look and sound all the better for it. Here’s the thing, Keller is a hell of a songwriter in his own right. He’s released two amazing albums under his own name, Deceiver and Down In A Mirror, since 2010. His “sound” lies somewhere between a more rocking Elliot Smith and Grandaddy in classic Sophtware Slump-era. His voice is both equal parts Elliot and Jason Lytle, with just a tad more caffeinated energy. Musically he’s like a Midwestern Jon Brion, melancholy but in as giddy way as possible. On the surface he makes simple, organic pop songs but ornaments them with chiming flourishes just under-the-surface details that show themselves after repeated listens. In other words, he’s not just some ego head’s right-hand man. Jon Keller is the real deal. While Keller was doing his thing in “Music City”, he was tapped by fellow Hoosier, friend, and budding filmmaker Greg W. Locke to score his New York film debut ‘Forever Into Space’. The result is a mix of Keller’s stellar pop songwriting and ambient musical stage setting that’s on par with the likes of Cliff Martinez, Jon Brion, and even Ry Cooder’s work in ‘Paris, TX’.
The soundtrack opens with some of Keller’s solo work pulled from both Down In A Mirror and Deceiver. The tracks “Deceiver” and “Ghosts” seem pre-ordained to set the stage for a story about 20-somethings in New York trying to make a go of it. Great, melancholy pop that deserves a bigger audience, and with the inclusion on this soundtrack may get it. There are also three new tracks that haven’t appeared on any of Keller’s previous albums that showcase his knack for songwriting and studio prowess before we hit the actual score. “Morning at Tanahey” opens with e-bowed guitar and the sound of a busy New York City street. Part ambient drone and part character introduction, it’s a great piece that sets the stage. “Forever Into Space Theme” is carried by a bass line and a strummed rhythm. “Pigtails and Heroin” shows Keller’s knack for creating mood and emotion with nothing more than a guitar and an e-bow. If you’re not familiar with an e-bow, it’s nothing more than a piece of plastic that is powered by a 9-volt battery that when put over the strings of an electric guitar it creates perpetual sustain. Depending on the player you can create a varied group of sounds that can border on blissful…or dreadful. Keller is a wizard and the e-bow is his magic wand. He can make symphonies with nothing more than his guitar and his e-bow. He uses this tool to great effect throughout his score for Forever Into Space, but never overindulges. He mixes a wide variety of mood-setting musical pieces that range from ambient drones to mournful pop tones. The short but sweet “Staten Island Ferry Theme” is a short, soulful Hammond B-3 piece that brings to mind Michael Penn’s “The Big Top(Theme From Boogie Nights)” while “Not Doing Porn” comes in and dirties things up a bit. And “Tram Babes Theme” sounds like the beginning of some great lost Harry Nilsson track.
Jon Keller, like always, adds prestige, professionalism, and heart and soul to yet another project. I have not seen Forever Into Space yet, but having listened to it’s soundtrack I can say I’m all the more excited to. Check out the soundtrack at http://jonkeller.bandcamp.com/album/forever-into-space-soundtrack.
8.6 out of 10