John Carpenter - Lost Themes

by Gerry Hathaway Rating:10 Release Date:2015-02-02

The popularity of 80s-infused, electronic film scores has been steadily increasing in recent years, due in part to the resurgence of the vinyl format and the successful analog-driven soundtracks of films such as Drive (2011) and Maniac (2012). These influences can be traced back to the vintage electronic scores of iconic director and film composer John Carpenter. Following in the footsteps of fellow auteur David Lynch (who surprised everyone with two albums in 2011 and 2013 respectively), Carpenter has returned to music with his first proper solo release, Lost Themes.

Carpenter’s film scores range from stark, minimal analog electronic sequences (Halloween and Halloween III) to synth-rock swagger (Big Trouble in Little China, Coup De Villes). Both sides are represented very well on Lost Themes.

Consisting of nine tracks bearing ominous titles, all of Carpenter’s trademarks are on display: Threatening piano chords, rock guitar-lines, and the ever-present, pulsating electronic bass. The record kicks off with the stomping synth-rock of 'Vortex', which has a feel not too dissimilar from the score for Escape From New York. Tasteful but minimal percussion make this a track you can move to.

'Obsidian' contains brooding piano and guitar interplay before morphing into a playful organ riff. 'Fallen' opens with melancholy strings and percolating analog squelches before darkening to a sinister crescendo.  

'Domain' and 'Mystery' find Carpenter flirting with Goblin-esque Italian prog-rock and are choc-full of funky synth and guitar leads which recall the theme to Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). 'Abyss' is straight out of an 80s slasher film with its moody, staccato synthesizer motif and punchy synth bass. 

The record becomes increasingly cinematic on 'Wraith' and 'Purgatory', which shift between baroque, jazz, and electronic. Carpenter returns to his trademark throbbing synth-bass and horror-inflected strings a final time on 'Night', ending the record with the same chilling atmosphere as Halloween and The Thing.

What makes Lost Themes so cool is that it delivers on the concept of sounding like genuine cues from films that were never made, while still giving stylistic nods to Carpenter’s past work which genre fans will truly gush over. The digital release comes with six remixes, the most notable of which contains a vocal version of 'Night' featuring goth pop queen Zola Jesus and 'Wraith' featuring industrial legend Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy. Lost Themes is an engaging experience not to be missed.

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