John Carpenter provides one of the predominant points at which music and movies meet. The legendary independent film director – the man responsible for Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween and Escape from New York – first came to musical prominence in the late 70s and early 80s when providing the soundtracks to these genuine classics of the horror and sci-fi genres. Carpenter’s disturbing dystopic visions were given even greater emotional resonance by their musical accompaniments. Dark, sinister scores characterised by evocative minimalism and heavily synthesised bass lines, they added immeasurable drama and tension to those cinematic masterpieces.
As his second career as a composer gathered pace, last February John Carpenter released his first-ever album of non-soundtrack material. Inspired in part by a series of ‘imaginary’ films, and Assassin’s Creed and Borderlands video games, Lost Themes saw Carpenter collaborating with his musician son Cody and godson Daniel Davies. And where once he had relied upon old tube synthesisers for his sound, now the celebrated Master of Horror was using modern keyboards, Logic Pro software and a series of plug-ins. Yet for all of these changes the end results remained essentially true to the classic Carpenter blueprint of haunting atmospherics.
Lost Themes II is the logical sequel to last year’s record. It may once more be music without any obvious visual accompaniment, yet it still manages to project the movie that is constantly playing inside your head onto some imaginary screen. The first in a series of sonic vignettes, ‘Distant Dream’ leads the procession, slowly rumbling over the horizon from some faraway vanishing point. ‘White Pulse’ embraces those trademark Carpenter signatures of menace, the macabre and impending doom. And ‘Persia Rising’ is a contemporary Prince of Darkness, in turn ethereal, sombre and downright creepy.
The influence of his fellow American composer Bernard Hermann – who could list Psycho, Vertigo and Taxi Driver amongst his many great motion picture soundtrack credits – can still be heard percolating through much of John Carpenter’s work, both men sharing an innate ability to match their nightmares to music. Yet on Lost Themes II we can only envisage the terror therein. This is no more apparent than on the swirling ‘Dark Blues’, a brooding, lumbering presence of a track that subconsciously conveys unspoken menace.
Following the release of Lost Themes II John Carpenter will embark upon his first ever live dates. Performing with his son, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies and various members of Tenacious D‘s band, it announces the next stage in this man’s quite remarkable artistic renaissance.