John Carpenter – Lost Themes


[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

From the opener “Vortex”, John Carpenter pulls back the curtains into his own personal and private visions of sound design. Now, admittedly, some of what’s on here sounds dated and that’s entirely fine in this case because if you were of age in the 1980’s you saw his movies. And what’s more, your view of the world was invariably never the same after viewing what he’d done. The list is well-known by this point, you younger ones would be doing yourselves a favor by checking out IMDB if you haven’t already. Even for the first chunk of the 1990’s, Carpenter’s films were nothing short of visual revelations. This album could have easily been drawn from all of these pictures. Listen closely to see if you can pick out which ones he was thinking of when doing this. Maybe he wasn’t thinking about his oeuvre at all but there’s just too much similarity in tone for it to be coincidental.

The majority of these pieces are opened with establishing flourishes that echo his style of directing to a tee. So many chase sequences rip and roar through his music and also at times the whole thing grinds to a halt allowing the audience to luxuriate in the dread he’s so adept at summoning. Don’t be put off by some of the sound choices he’s made, there is reason for them and it’s something I’ve always admired most about what he does: contrasting melodies both on celluloid and in the subconscious. You can feel the inevitability of psychosis flowing through the collection of neurons and synaptic junctions in the mind and you’re also not out of line for noticing how your pulse rate has risen while listening.

As the title implies, these are themes and not cues so their length is quite justified. It is as though he decided to create miniature orchestral suites to both his existing films and those not yet available outside of his mind’s eye. We go through all the movements of the storyline with majestic progressions rubbing shoulders next to guttural, almost bestial rhythmic underpinnings; the outcome of all nine pieces on here is consistently dark. Like devils spreading their wings under the glittering stars of early evening when the skies pull back so it concludes each and every time on ‘Lost Themes’. An uneasy truce with things best not discovered, just leave them to it and pray they don’t notice your interloping ears.

Go on and succumb to the brief resolutions contained herein but don’t let down your guard, this isn’t the end nor will the next episode be anything but a malicious confrontation between what is seen and that which hides in both daylight and plain sight. Home is where the horror is, so I’m continually reminded in this world… but Carpenter’s synthetics hint at there being nothing consoling even when you breathe your last. God help you if you begin to see things on your own before then. Another favorite device of his shows up to double down on this release, too: I’m not mad but fuck me, everyone else around me is. The sights and sounds of home are no escape, the familiarity of those you know and love will not make it stop. Hideous, unending and maniacal laughter is everywhere.

A tauntingly cruel vindictive benediction of darkness.

Carpenter’s love of all things celestial is on full display with awe-inspiring interludes which call into question just how alone we actually are in this universe. Unfortunately for humankind, what is coming through on here doesn’t bode well for our survival. The menacing villainy of the supernatural is also given a good seeing to with some diabolical elements being brought into focus on “Domain”. The entire thrust of this track seems to be an allusion to the dangers of what comes by contacting whatever is on the other side of the dividing line between life and death. Our fellow is no stranger to things going bump in the night and douses every one of these exceedingly opulent creations with enough suspense to rattle the nerves of even the most resolute fan. Been a while since that’s happened.

Thanks again, John. Your work disturbs like no other.

John CarpenterLost Themes
Sacred Bones Records, SBR123
CD/LP 2015

3 responses to “John Carpenter – Lost Themes

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed this album as much as I did. It makes for ideal driving music! What did you think of the remixes? I loved the OhGr and Thirwell remixes in particular.

    Carpenter is a master and I hope that he will be putting out more music given he’s semi-retired from filmmaking.

  2. I enjoyed those two mixes, the originals jump out at me more though. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of his music, god knows he has a lot out there already!

    • I’m just glad he’s able to capitalize on the whole retro-synth soundtrack wave. He’s always been so ahead of his time that it’s taken awhile for his films and musical scores to get the full credit they deserve.

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