John Carpenter

Lost Themes

Sacred Bones

Feb 03, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


John Carpenter's image has long been that of a highly individualistic master craftsman with a throwback sensibility. In addition to directing, he's often written his own scripts, occasionally produced and edited his own films, and almost always created his own synthesized scores. While his philosophy may have been rooted in post-Watergate paranoia, his visual sense was informed by the lofty aesthetic virtues of old school Hollywood filmmaking.

Perhaps that's why it's initially disconcerting to hear the analogue wizard embracing digital recording on his first non-soundtrack LP, Lost Themes (after all, this is the filmmaker who dreamt up both a button that could deactivate all electronic technology, and a hero who was willing to push it). In certain cases, such as the drifty passages of "Purgatory" and "Abyss," the atmosphere indeed feels somewhat sterilized. Yet it's a genuine joy to hear Carpenter loosen up over the course of the album, taking the kind of chances he never would have in his more serious film scoring. Nearly every song contains multiple movements, and it's not uncommon for a single track to begin with the composer's signature icicle synth stabs before seguing into a guitar solo that has more in common with prog rock histrionics than Assault on Precinct 13's classic theme.

Yet in no way does this make Lost Themes an uncharacteristic or unrewarding work. In fact, the record thrives on a balance of anachronistic, hokey fun and sudden, trancelike power. Carpenter regularly utilized rather ridiculous, outmoded starting points in his work (ghost stories, magic sunglasses, a haunted car, and the bogeyman himself), forcing these ideas to play by his rules, and revitalizing them in the process. So while Lost Themes may ultimately be slight compared to the filmmaker's finest soundtrack work, it's certainly a welcome new footnote in the Carpenter legend. (www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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