The Soundtracks Of My Life

My wall of John Carpenter movie soundtracks.

I’m a huge fan of John Carpenter. I love his movies, but most of all I love the music he wrote for them with his associate Alan Howarth. At the same time it’s very very minimal and constrained but delivers the mood perfectly. For his masterpiece Assault On Precinct 13, Carpenter wrote a score that used basically twenty different versions of only one central theme, but oh what a theme that was. When I first started toying around with synthesizers more seriously, I tried to emulate Carpenter’s style of pulsing one note basslines, long, eerie pad sounds and a hihat ticking nervously. Never quite got the mixture right though. Our band, Nightsatan can perhaps be seen as a continuation of that ongoing quest to achieve the feeling of tension and anxiety through music.

As you can see from the picture, my absolute favourite movie from Carpenter is Escape From New York. I have five different pressings of the soundtrack vinyl and I’m still looking for the spanish and german pressings. For starters I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies. As a kid watching rental-VHS movies they were my favourite kind. Nuclear war had destroyed the world and only a handful of punkrocker-looking people had survived and started fighting each other. Perfect. Secondly there’s just something about Snake Plissken that makes the Rambos and Terminators of this world flee in panic. Snake Plissken is truly the most badass character in the history of cinema. And the soundtrack for this movie is exceptionally good too.

As some of you might have already noticed, my “Wall of Carpenter” includes one soundtrack that isn’t by the master himself. That’s because I only had 14 Carpenter soundtracks and the wallhanger is for 15 vinyls. The placeholder vinyl until I find the fifteenth Carpenter, is the soundtrack for the cult movie Liquid Sky by russian director Slava Tsukerman and it has it’s place on this wall, because like Carpenter, Tsukerman too made the music for his movie himself. The film’s storyline of aliens running out of gas for their flying saucer and landing in New York to collect the chemical that human brain excretes in the moment of orgasm to fill their gas tanks is wonderful enough, but the soundtrack is something utterly mindblowing.

Excluding the “hit song” Me and My Rhythmbox the album was completely recorded with a Fairlight CMI “Computer Musical Instrument” an early digital sampler that only a handful of people could afford on it’s release in 1979.  The sound of the Fairlight is instantly recognizable and unimitable. But for this album they went completely over the board with it.

The melodies heard on Liquid Sky’s soundtrack are at the same time very childish and unmusical, even dischordant, like a child getting their hands on an expensive synth for the first time and at the same time quite complex and somehow remniscent of classical music and the minuets of 17th century France. Somehow this music manages to alienate the listener completely from the western tradition of hearing music and fits the overtly psychedelic imagery of the movie perfectly. It’s like the sountrack to a feverish nightmare. It’s been sampled among others by Trevor Jackson for his Playgroup project.

So if you ever come across a vinyl that looks like this, be sure to pick it up, I ordered mine from Australia and paid well over 40 euros for it.

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

The beautiful vinyl cover.

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Filed under Audio, Fairlight CMI, Rare synth track, Synthesizer

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