Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Soundtrack to the Winter

Err... where did January go?

I spent mine mostly holed up indoors. Log fire, Sailor Jerry's, Articulate, crossword, Playstation and (to get to the point) DVD player.

Usual form is to watch a movie then get obsessed with it's genre for a week and scour eBay for others of it's kind. Most recently the post-apocalyptic-last-man-on-earth-is-not-alone genre has become the focus - it started with 'The Omega Man (1971)' with Charlton Heston and hasn't finished yet. For the best part of January - and with credit to an enthusiasts... enthusiasm (...er?) - it was John Carpenter.

You've seen so many John Carpenter movies even if you missed the clue in the title of nearly all of them - 'John Carpenter's... (197*)' - and the more you see the greater the bond between them. The hook for me was (getting to the point again) the soundtrack. Every one, including the ones he didn't compose the music for, has a distinct sound that becomes something of a signifier for his work as an auteur - incidentally the music for 'The Thing (1982)' is composed by soundtrack legend Ennio Morricone.

For the most part you find sustained analogue synths accompanied by seventies style guitar licks, eschewing the gratuitous porn style for something far more atmospheric. Considering the mystical, supernatural vein of Carpenter's work the soundtrack conveys the message. It's akin to other classic horror scores - notably Italian band Goblin who were commisioned for Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead (1978)' - in that as standalone music it plays beautifully against the Krautrock sound so prevailent in that era but lacks a commercial tone.

Having said that John Carpenter does stray into camp eighties Giorgio Moroder territory. Even releasing a bit of it for the infamous Kurt Russell-fest 'Big Trouble in Little China (1986).

Now, as the seventies comes back around as a forecasted trend this summer, the sound is filtering into new music. Zombie Zombie have a krautrock style well appropriated to a Paris-Shoreditch movement - their post-modern G.I.Joe/The Thing video kick-started a lot of this post. A proper slow burning disc for me has been Principles of Geometry's album 'Lazare (2008)' (French too), it has all the hallmarks of a John Carpenter score but with the introduction of polite MC-ing and collaboration from Eurovision's own Sebastien Tellier. Further, the guy from MVE (who has begun putting aside the random Italian bootleg Goblin CDs for me) put me onto Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom 'The Days of Mars (2005)' from DFA. They have clearly squirrelled themselves away for a few years, and aren't exactly shop music, with a 4 track album of 12 minute songs using multiple samples of live keyboards.

Hopefully amongst the new albums out this year they'll be a bit more from these retroactive-progressive artists and it'll be interesting if us Brits have anything too. It would mean a lot more to sink teeth into and an opportunity to broaden the adventure.

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