No. 34: Blake Leyh Makes Us Listen Closer To “The Wire”

On March 9, HBO’s The Wire aired its series finale, and its evocative closing credits theme, “The Fall,” rolled out its ominous bass line and eerie violin for the last time. For five seasons, music supervisor Blake Leyh‘s sole contribution to the show’s score, which followed every episode’s closing scene, was equally fitting to punctuate a shocking plot twist or a character’s slowly sinking realization.

Leyh withheld “The Fall” from commercial release—despite years of requests—until the official series soundtrack, The Wire: ” … and all the pieces matter”, was released in January. (Full disclosure: Leyh had consulted me about some of the soundtrack’s Baltimore music selections, and thanked me in the liner notes.)

In February, Leyh released the fascinatingly dense X-Ray Yankee Zulu Tango, his fifth album of ambient instrumentals and film score music. Instruments drift in and out, and suddenly change shape with trippy, dub-like reverb and distortion twisting each repeating motif, and at one point, on “Gracias Por la Noche,” Leyh sings en Espanol, in a gravelly voice reminiscent of Tom Waits. While it’s not exactly an hour of variations on his Wire theme, it’s close enough if that’s what you’re looking for, and it features several of Leyh’s final collaborations with “The Fall” violinist Andre Burke, who passed away in 2007.

Blake Leyh [official site]The Wire [HBO]80 ’08 (and heartbreak)