John Carpenter’s music for his string of early ‘80s horror films was less a matter of directorial control freakery and more down to lack of budget to commission another composer to provide a score. To Carpenter’s credit, his music for films like ‘Escape From New York’ did a brilliant job of capturing the edgy, suspenseful mood of those movies, albeit through the comparatively new form of synthesisers rather than the traditional orchestral motifs more usually used as cues in films.
For his second ‘Lost Themes’ album, Carpenter once again worked with his son and godson to develop material in the spirit of those early film soundtracks, and while it might have been delivered on a tight schedule not dissimilar to the frantic way that his early movies came together, the trio had the benefit of more planning time. The result is somewhat more expansive than its 2014 predecessor; more complex and more layered.
You still have moments like the opener, ‘Distant Dream’ or ‘Angel’s Asylum’, where the track is lead by a simple idea – a chugging, paranoid synth sequence or a haunting one-note melody being Carpenter staples – and this album works best when those ideas are allowed to flourish and persist. When the arrangements get too embellished and full, they veer too far away from what makes Carpenter’s economical gestures so enduring, relying too heavily on virtuosity for comfort. If you can look beyond that, tracks on ‘Lost Themes II’ like ‘Dark Blues’ and ‘Last Sunrise’ will have your pulse quickening just as much as his old soundtracks did.
Words: Mat Smith / @mjasmith
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