Naïm Amor: Soundtracks Vol. IV (Amormusic)

The French-born musician and composer Naïm Amor, a longtime Tucsonan, is a member of many bands of varying styles. In his solo recordings, though, Amor has written elegant, gripping music for movie soundtracks that sometimes don't yet exist.

Amor's latest, the fourth in a series, is a haunting series of 16 instrumentals from his score for the documentary Precious Knowledge. The movie examines the struggles of ethnic-studies students in the Tucson Unified School District as they face opposition from the state government and the anti-immigration sentiment in our culture.

Amor plays almost all the instruments, with assistance from talented locals like Marco Rosano, Tom Walbank and Andrew Collberg. He also peppers the tracks with snippets of dialogue from the movie. The composer's "deliberate non-literal approach" is intended to reflect the manner in which TUSD's Ethnic Studies Department promotes "the learning of ancient culture backgrounds only to create a new world, a new culture."

Soundtracks IV combines breezy European avant-pop with dusty Southwestern mood music—and an occasional twist of hip-hop beats or mariachi trumpet. It might be dubbed "spaghetti Western meets the Left Bank," but that only partly describes the music.

The brooding strings and piano of "Undocumented (Pricila Theme)" and the winds and marimba of "A Matter of Life and Death" recall modernist classical compositions of the early 20th century. Like "What Nobody Talks About" and "The Seed," many cuts have a disarmingly sweet Continental flair—but just as often, a dark vein courses beneath.