Moody and back in the present. John Carpenter arrives. Soaring synths, crystal piercing tones and brooding echoes can be found. Lost Themes is one to grab you and stay with you. Carpenter is also joined by his son Cody (Of the band Ludrium) and Daniel Davies (Who scored I, Frankenstein). Sacred Bones are known for their spook and this one will pull you right out of bed. We all know what John can see and hear. Now we all want back into that world, again...or do we ? Tense stuff.
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Limited 'Obsidian Green' coloured vinyl LP on Sacred Bones.
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This man needs no introduction. His films more or less speak for themselves, sharing the traits of being unbearably tense (Assault on Precinct 13) and borderline cheesy (Snake’s peril in Escape from New York). More common is the accompanying music - dramatic, moody pieces that hold still until you can take it no more, exploding into synth-mash action sequences. In some form of paternal Olympic ritual, Carpenter has passed his style on to his son Cody, who releases big, epic music under the name Ludrium and is joining daddy John for this LP. His tracks are theme-like pieces without a concrete concept or association - the whole ‘soundtrack to a lost movie’ thing.
That’s basically the whole idea for Lost Themes. Music that sounds like it was made for an emotional screenplay featuring Kurt Baldwin-Russellhoff and his magic band of supporting buffoons. It’s Carpenter’s first solo (but not actually) album, and it sounds exactly as you’d expect - tension builds during slow piano-led intros, a beat drops in to translate that into forward momentum, then the guitars and synths play some majestic chords that edge on the dark. Some of it shares ghost-y spook drama with the theme from Phantom of the Opera, but with much better production and nostalgic charm. Other parts have more in line with some Ghost Box stuff like The Advisory Circle, but there’s some crazy electro-tinged stomp jams like side A closer ‘Domain’. Take the opener too - it sounds downright mean with its minor chords and some evil overlord piano chimes and synth organ overlaid on a thumping kick drum. The image of the boogeyman is in plain sight.
For the die-hard fan of Carpenter’s work, this is the perfect alternative to rewatching those same films over and over. The music is firmly rooted in that ol’ 80s synthpop production sound, but with a bit of an update from Cody, Davies and electro. There’s a touch more progginess too, again perhaps invited in by his son. But for anyone outside of the Carpenter context, this will mostly befuddle and seem a bit out of place in 2015.
7/10 Doug F. 25th February 2015
John Carpenter's first non-soundtrack album is something any fan of the horror genre will surely be excited for, even if he hasn't released a half decent film since the late eighties. With the current resurgence of retro electronic music, plus labels like Mondo and Death Waltz putting out reissues of classic soundtracks, the timing of "Lost Themes" couldn't be much better.
Sadly, Carpenter can't quite deliver the goods. "Vortex" and "Night" are by far the best tracks, with that classic pulsating sequencer sound of "Escape From New York" coming to the fore. The rest of the album sits on the fence too much to pass as deliberately old school or modern. So many current electronic artists are more Carpenter than Carpenter is that at times this feels like it simply doesn't go far enough and comes off as a little bit tame. The Vinyl version comes with a download code giving you six reasonably good remixes of which the Zola Jesus / Dean Hurley version of "Night" is by far the best.
Ultimately, this is far from a bad album and serves as a pretty good introduction to John Carpenter's music if you are thinking of checking him out, but really doesn't quite live up to his legendary status.
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