Sacred Bones Records
I grew up with John Carpenter’s film – exhilarating things, thrill-rides through black comedy and bad comedy and great action (and intentionally bad action) and sci-fi and horror. So often he was pulling together ideas from more than one genre, almost always his films relied, at least in some part, on the music – his music. It’s possibly a strange (unique) claim to fame that Carpenter is a filmmaker whose biggest impact and influence has been felt through his music; a musician who everyone knows because of the films he made.
Those little snippets of mood music, eerie and wonderful, giving pulse to the images…
Well, here’s John Carpenter’s Lost Themes, his first full-length album – and though this isn’t a score, nor a set of actual lost themes, it feels like a series of stitched-together film suites. The songs – instrumentals, natch – are all around five minutes long, so move through a few frames, a handful of ideas crystallising around those familiar icy synths and rock-hard guitar riffs.
You’ve probably grown up with Carpenter too – if not directly, through his films and their scores then through the appropriation (Dr Dre, DJ Shadow) or the obvious influence (anything from Apex Twin to Cliff Martinez) and Lost Themes provides fresh new versions of the Carpenter sound, co-composed with his son and godson, you could certainly believe, at least in some cases, that these are leftover/spillover ideas from his various projects dating back to the 1970s.
There’s a gentle monotony I guess, much as is there is if you’ve ever committed to listening to a full Carpenter film score on its own away from the moving images. But it’s easy to embrace – and worth it for the highlights. Those eerie touches on the opening brace of Vortex and Obsidian, the summary-snapshot that is the album closer here, Night. An almost perfect reminder of Carpenter’s great skill to make music that takes you for the drive, the images that accompany are the scenes outside the car, worlds you are thrilled by, but could never really live inside.
It’s nice to have him back – and you get the feeling this was some liberation for him, making just music, no film-gimmick to sell it. He sounds good. It feels right. It’s most certainly for fans. A lovely aural postcard.