Friday, 16 January 2015

John Carpenter's Lost Themes

To offset this week's (almost certainly) bad news that the Escape from New York remake is still a thing that's happening*, here's something really cool for Carpenter fans to look forward to.

Intriguing Brooklyn based label Sacred Bones Records is just about to drop Lost Themes, Carpenter's first ever LP of non-film score music (If you don't count the Coupe de Villes). It will feature an album's worth of unused material from his past, reworked in collaboration with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. I've never heard of the latter, but I know Cody as the spawn of Carpenter and Adrienne Barbeau (loved for her roles in The Fog, EFNY and Romero's Creepshow). He's previously collaborated with his father on Ghosts of Mars, as well as scoring both Cigarette Burns and Pro-Life for the Masters of Horror series.

I say that Sacred Bones is an intriguing label because I think their output is really interesting and eclectic. They release a diverse range of music that spans punk/post-punk, new wave, psychedelia, film music etc. At the punk end of the spectrum you've got bands like Austin's Institute (whose Giddy Boys 7'' on Katorga Works is fucking great by the way), New York goth punx Anasazi and Arizonan heavy psych/noise freaks Destruction Unit. They also distribute some stuff by Brooklyn artist Alexander Heir, whose work makes me drool and whose shop makes me lament the lack of cash in my wallet. 

As far as film related music, David Lynch seems to have found himself a comfortable home at the label, with a number of releases of original material as well as OSTs for Eraserhead and Twin Peaks in their catalogue. There's also a Jim Jarmusch collaborative project that appears to be tangentially connected to Only Lovers Left Alive.

Back to Carpenter, who had this to say about the upcoming LP:

Lost Themes was all about having fun. It can be both great and bad to score over images, which is what I’m used to. Here there were no pressures. No actors asking me what they’re supposed to do. No crew waiting. No cutting room to go to. No release pending. It’s just fun. And I couldn't have a better set-up at my house, where I depended on Cody and Daniel to bring me ideas as we began improvising. The plan was to make my music more complete and fuller, because we had unlimited tracks. I wasn't dealing with just analogue anymore. It’s a brand new world. And there was nothing in any of our heads when we started other than to make it moody.”

It's interesting to note here that once again he's being less than subtle in voicing his distaste for the filmmaking process. I don't think I can think of another director who's been so brutally honest about becoming burnt out by the system. I get the sense that he's extremely cynical about the industry now, to the point that he seems to loath it. Some people disparage his attitude, but as far as I'm concerned they're entitled little whiners who should consider shutting the fuck up. If Carps wants to spend the rest of his days sitting on the couch playing video games and watching basketball, than good for him. He's damn well earned it.

That said, I'm grateful that he's still got enough creative energy left in him to bring us this new album.

You can stream a track from Lost Themes called "Vortex" here. The album hits in a couple of weeks in a gatefold edition. The coloured wax editions have already sold out, but don't worry, you'll be able to buy one from some collector scum on ebay for hundreds of dollars soon.  

To wrap up by looking back thirty years, here's my favourite Coupe de Villes track, "1967". I love this song for the smoothness of Carpenter's vocals as well as the sombreness of his lyrics. His pain is palpable as he mourns the wasted promise of the optimistic '60s, and bemoans the empty, soulless avarice of the Reagan era. By his own admission here, the '80s left him feeling like a stranger in a strange land, and you can see that theme of alienation running through both The Thing and Starman. That this was also his most dynamically creative period is no coincidence, as great work is usually born of anger, not apathy. I've always seen this song as an odd little companion piece to They Live.

*I might change my tune if they hired Gareth Huw Evans or the Dredd directing duo of Pete Travis & Alex Garland to helm it.

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