8 Apr 2016

John Carpenter: "Lost Themes II"

The Master of Horror returns with an album both ambitious and extrovert
John Carpenter's films have power and force even just by visual means. Add to his claustrophobic, impactful cinematography those chilling, minimalistic synthpieces he - often in collaboration with Alan Howarth - conjured up, and you've got a recipe for films that not only stand the test of time, but have also influenced countless of other filmmakers and musicians in a great variety of genres over the years. Though Carpenter is in some way retired from filmmaking, he has been keeping busy with music instead. 2015 saw his debut non-soundtrack album, Lost Themes, with the follow up album, Lost Themes II, coming out in 2016.

Where the first album was more or less a direct continuation of his film scores in terms of sound and composition, Lost Themes II is less so. While several of his new arrangements focus on the same cramped atmospheres, simple synth melodies and pulsating bass and drum beats, his newest tracks seem in many ways more ambitious - And in that way less of a crowd pleaser. Lost Themes could, at times, feel like gratuitous fanservice; As the name suggests, lost thriller anthems that never were. The sequel, instead, goes all in with tighter use of layered synthesisers, more analog-sounding and adventurous drums and beat-sections, as well as more varied instrumention. This time around, Carpenter's desolate bleeping synths are joined not only by his trademark piano accompaniment, but also prominent use of guitars - distorted or otherwise - and a broader array of effects and keys.

"Carpenter seemingly recalls artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream,"

As usual the director-composer delivers lively synthplay underlined by pounding key rhythms, but tracks like Utopian Facade also portray an aging artist who is not yet done evolving with its unusually cinematic and grandiose flurries. Like his iconic films, Lost Themes II's minor-key compositions invokes primal feelings of unease, paranoia and anxiety. Joined by his son and godson on the follow up to his debut album, Carpenter seemingly recalls artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, with the classic thinking of "less is more".

First and foremost, the album seamlessly shifts from between the various emotions conjured up by the instrumentation. The heart-beat transitions from panicky, urgent thrillers to the deeper wobbles of imposing synth-structures, or perhaps his pompous theatres of overtly grand expositions, could well have been too sudden if not for the same feeling for flow that is also well-known from his movies. Lost Themes II doesn't sound like a collection of throw-away material that was never used, but rather a cinematic journey and full on album unto itself.


Released in 2016 by Sacred Bones Records


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