After a beautifully dreary and subdued series of numbered releases ("1," "2" and "Three"), The Black Heart Procession's gloom-and-doom swagger has finally culminated in its most ambitious, multilayered and non-numerically titled album to date, "Amore del Tropico." The recording has a lazy yet desperate cinematic ambience that seems like it could have been created while simultaneously watching David Lynch's "Lost Highway" and Alejandro Jodorowsky's "The Holy Mountain" back-to-back while barricaded in a foreclosed house on a week-long Tussin bender with the A/C broken. So it's of little wonder that BHP decided to use the album's sticky imagery as the plot for its DVD release, "The Tropics of Love: A Tropical Murder Mystery."
Like the album, BHP's loosely plotted narrative unfolds in the fictitious Florida town of Black Palm. Songwriter Pall Jenkins begins as the film's (singing) narrator, but then disappears after three tunes. After that, the film crams every element of cheesy private-dick flicks into the remaining 50 minutes, with musical collaborator Dimitri Dziensuwski starring as suspected murderer Luigi, the main character who, for a lion's share of the movie, seems to spend his time looking sweaty and pathetic in a smoke-filled interrogation room.
Jenkins has divulged that he made this DVD for no other good reason but for the fuck of it. He hired a friend's production company, hashed out a rough storyline and two months later the movie was completed. With the painstaking amount of time it must have taken to make the warm layers and textures of Amore, it's puzzling that they would think that they could get away with such a cut-rate DVD product. The box's liner notes seem to even apologize for what comes off as a home movie of a lousy high-school play rather than a scripted film: "done at home and made by a group of cheap friends this is as good as it gets with no budget."
To sweeten the publicity pot, along with the "Tropics" DVD, BHP sent along an improv-heavy offshoot recording they made in Holland while touring on the "Amore" release: "In the Fishtank: Black Heart Procession and Solbakken" (Konkurrent). And while there are a few flashes of brilliance, this record effectively confirms the point that the best music (and the best DVDs plotted around that music), as far as BHP is concerned, takes time and planning -- lots of planning.