Dean & Britta 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

New soundtracks for rare experimental films.

Wyndham Wallace 2010

Presumably it didn’t take The Andy Warhol and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s resident rocket scientist to come up with the idea of employing Dean Wareham and his wife Britta Phillips to provide a soundtrack for a selection of Warhol’s legendary screen tests. Wareham has for years been associated with Warhol’s prodigies, The Velvet Underground, thanks to his formative musical years with Galaxie 500, whose stylistic debts to the New York avant-garde pioneers were conspicuous, if overstated by critics. His next band, Luna, may have taken a more pop approach, but the influence was still evident, and while his work with his partner owes as great a debt to other 60s legends like Lee Hazlewood and Serge Gainsbourg, that familiar narcotic haze still haunts his music.

13 Most Beautiful… actually offers 21 tracks thanks to a selection of bonus remixes by former Spacemen 3 member Sonic Boom, My Robot Friend and Scott Hardkiss, and Dean & Britta prove themselves more than adept at soundtracking Warhol’s strange slow-motion, single-take films of Factory regulars like Lou Reed, Dennis Hopper and Nico (alongside lesser-known affiliates). Even without the visual accompaniment, there’s a sparkle to the lugubrious instrumentals Silver Factory Theme, Incandescent Innocent and Herringbone Tweed (a reworked Luna B side), while their witty yet affectionate choice of the Velvets’ Not a Young Man Anymore as Lou Reed’s theme also gets a second potent reworking courtesy of My Robot Friend.

Phillips takes centre stage for her fair share of tunes too, though the application of vocoder to her rendition of Dylan’s I’ll Keep It With Mine (used for Nico’s screen test) is perhaps a mistake. As she proves on Knives From Bavaria (Spoonful of Fun), her playful bubblegum delivery is more than capable of holding its own, and she and Wareham also display enviable chemistry on the ghostly I Found It Not So, where their voices float amidst a skeletal backdrop of guitars and microKORG.

Available as a DVD as well as on double CD, 13 Most Beautiful… continues to justify Wareham’s increasingly respected and enduring presence, simultaneously drawing attention to his ongoing work with Phillips. Equally as importantly, it highlights yet another of Warhol’s artistic endeavours with just the right mix of reverence and charm. Pop art, indeed…

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