Release Date: Oct 20, 2017
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen, Original Score
Legendary director John Carpenter brought his live soundtrack experience to Liverpool's Olympia just about a year ago, and the reaction was something close to ecstatic. Combining large video screens with driving synth rock, it was probably the most direct exhibition of the director's USP imaginable. Loud neon, wailing synths and pounding energy. The Master of Horror crossing into the musical mainstream to receive his dues.
From It Follows to Stranger Things, synth scoring's debt to maverick director/composer John Carpenter is incalculable. Six years after his last movie, Carpenter proved as much last year with a tour that left fans grinning like freshly-carved pumpkins at the chance to rediscover the minimalist throb and metronomic thrust of his DIY punk-synth landmarks. In the absence of a live album, these re-recordings with a band including son-of- John Cody offer loving snapshots of Carpenter's reckoning with his track record, here covering the years between 1974's goofy Dark Star and 1998's macho Vampires.
The influence of John Carpenter's movies is undeniable. Halloween wouldn't be Halloween without Halloween for example, and the exploits of Michael Myers have influenced slasher movies ever since he first donned that specially adapted William Shatner mask and terrorised pretty much anyone he came into contact with (but particularly, Jamie Lee Curtis). Likewise, it's pretty much impossible to take a walk on a foggy evening without thinking about being terrorised by pirates.
Even if you have somehow never seen a John Carpenter movie, you know what one sounds like. One of America's finest living filmmakers, the master of horror--among other genres--has directed at least half a dozen high masterpieces, including Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, and In the Mouth of Madness. In 1978, with the prototypical slasher Halloween, he helped create a form that's been emulated ever since; a decade later, with They Live, he fashioned a camp-cult classic of such depth that philosopher Slavoj Žižek has held forth on its significance.
The mid-2010s found undisputed master of horror John Carpenter far busier as a musician than as a filmmaker. After releasing two volumes of original, non-soundtrack compositions (Lost Themes I and II) and touring for the first time, he revisited the themes to a baker's dozen of his most well-known movies from the '70s, '80s, and '90s. As with the Lost Themes albums and his concerts, he's joined by his son, Cody Carpenter, and his godson, guitarist Daniel Davies.
Vintage horror is all the rage right now. Blame it on the overnight success of Stranger Things or the rise of streaming services offering a glutton’s worth of nostalgic works at one’s fingertips, but it’s a thing, and a very lucrative thing. Every weekend there appears to be another juicy horror convention worth attending, while every week there’s another exclusive vinyl reissue by Mondo or Death Waltz worth forking over $50.
Funny how a guy can put out a decades-spanning greatest hits record just two years after releasing his debut album. Of course, we're speaking only on technicality here— the filmmaker-turned-rocker has been composing scores for his movies since 1974's Dark Star. This anthology record comprises the themes from 13 of his films, re-recorded with the family band who collaborated with him on his two Lost Themes LPs.
The 10/8 piano melody that soundtracks 1978's Halloween is almost as unrelenting as Michael Myers himself; marked by the constant stabs of synth and that sense of motion. But that's all it is. Yet the feeling of dread breathes down your neck. Something is coming at you, but you're not quite sure where from.
For some the memory of Halloween night as a little kid is tied up with store-bought or parentally improvised costumes, walking the cold local streets, knocking doors in search of treats; warming, filling, psychosis-inducing candy overload. The sounds are of children's chatter - excitable, trepidatious yet bold as they scare themselves with tales of a night on which the ghouls come out to play. Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998 by John Carpenter For others though the memories are much more voyeuristic - a night spent thrilled and terrified in front of a TV screen watching teen proxies hunted and savaged; they race through the streets of their hometown unnoticed as they attempt to escape the indescribable things that the line between this world and a much darker one has allowed, unbidden, to cross.