American movie theaters will see a limited release this year of The Proposition, a Western drama written by Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave. On this mostly wordless soundtrack, Cave and Dirty Three multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis wander lowly through barren desert and valley balladry. When the strings aren't mourning the recently deceased, they're scoring desperation and painting 1880s-style primitive lawlessness. Each of the three hushed title theme sections is grounded in Ellis's droning violin loops and a distant floor-tom march. In a voice reminiscent of the barely enunciated broken-man verses on Skip Spence's Oar, Cave pleads for a proper burial amid flat, gurgling bass and funereal strings on "Down to the Valley." "Martha's Dream" retains every bit of dread that its bookending tracks offer, in urgent chamber melodies countering each other until its brief three minutes close up. Cave's channeling dead outlaws on his soundtrack, for the mere reason of scoring their return from the grave.
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