Normally, the debut standalone record release of a 67-year-old man might sound like a strange thing to review. When that man is John Carpenter, a review makes a bit more sense. Quite literally, Carpenter’s directorial credits reads like a child of the 80s’ (or a stoner’s) “Best All Time” list. Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape from New York, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China, and Escape from LA all have something in common aside from being universally loved cult classics. Yes, John Carpenter directed all of these pithy gems, but he is also the composer of each film. The theme from the classic slasher, Halloween, is melodically synonymous with the idea teenagers paying dearly for simply being teenagers and all of Carpenter’s compositions are unmistakable as his.
Lost Themes consists of nine original tracks and six remixes of those tracks. All the tracks are composed by Carpenter and performed (at his home) by Carpenter, his son Cody (of the band Ludrium) and Daniel Davies. Essentially a movie-less sountrack, Lost Themes is the quintessential Carpenter and while you might not necessarily blast this on your drive home, it’s definite mood music. From the opening track, “Vortex,” Carpenter allows listeners to grasp a concept which he so potently conveys in all his work: music is not simply thematic, it is theme itself. “Vortex” is the type of track where, should you close your eyes, you can easily conjure up any number of scenes: a post-apocalyptic street gang confidently walking towards a showdown, a foggy cemetery with an ugly supernatural secret in a sleepy town, a perfectly 70s horror movie. All of these things are John Carpenter.
Lost Themes is all of Carpenter’s films and none of them, hence the beauty of its standalone nature. The tones alone – creeping percussion, thumping synth beats, eerie keyboards – are enough to paint a picture, perhaps sketch a character. The last score, in its truest sense, that was worth purchase might have been Bear McCreary’s work on Battlestar Galactica but even that tended a bit too African-drummy. Yet what makes this album worth listening to (multiple times) is that Carpenter, despite being less-than-great as a musician or even as a composer, is a master of aura and mood and tone. You will not come across another album with this sort of imagery and, when considering it’s almost completely devoid of any sort of context, one can understand Carpenter’s genius. A limited musical pallette notwithstanding, his artistic vision is strong and, as most musicians would tell you, those who do more with less are the true geniuses.
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