I’m very partial to a stellar soundtrack. It can make or break a film or performance piece, and some of the very best stand on their own accord as collections of music, prompting more than a tickle of the sensorium.
What would Risky Business be without Tangerine Dream’s twinkling ‘Love On A Real Train’? Would Ferris Bueller be as memorable sans Yello’s bombastic ‘Oh Yeah’? And what of the deranged Moog genius of Wendy Carlos, whose schizoid reworks of vaunted classical painted A Clockwork Orange ten shades madder? Hell, what about those steel drum workouts from Commando?
Vangelis and Ennio Morricone were two of the first compositional maestros who taught me how powerful and striking music can be, especially in the context of a film’s moving pictures. We need little introduction to the building suspense of Blade Runner’s synth arpeggios, or the snake-rattle sweep of Morricone’s Spaghetti Western epics. For all their enrichment of atmosphere and attention to detail, they turned very good scenes into magical ones, and very good films into memorable ones.
Where a Hans Zimmer might pander to the bloat of melodrama and the pomp of purpose, here we might appreciate the space between sound; a character’s mannerisms afforded further weight, for example. Less is often more. Surrealist filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s collaborator Edward Artemiev was yet another master of mood, a Soviet progenitor of modern electronic music through his synth experiments and explorations.
Dig a little deeper, and you start exposing the Alain Goraguers, Piero Umilianis and François de Roubaixs. The former strung together a superb collection of wistful jazzy vignettes, themes on mood(s), for the surreal psychedelic slight of sci-fi animation film La Planète Sauvage. The latter, De Roubaix, flavoured his nostalgic classical themes with the use of early synthesizers. His pastoral ‘Dernier Domicile Connu’ composition was but one of many inspirations for hip hop producers (Dusty Fingers Volumes for diggers – check ’em).
As for Umiliani – his remarkable oeuvre aside, you’d do wrong to overlook the bossa/jazz/library music rollover of the Svezia, Inferno E Paradiso score, a sweet and sultry aural companion to Luigi Scattini’s explorations of sexuality in his classic 1968 mondo-doco.
And here we barely touch on Blaxploitation; the J.J. Johnsons, Johnny Pates and Melvin Van Peebleses. The gritty urban asphalt jungles and funk flavours; the jive turkeys, brothers, pimps, players, and the realness and soul of city streets. Nor the fantasy-cop thriller Italian themes or funky porno licks.
Another time, then.
This week’s playlist
Piero Umiliani’s La Ragazza Fuoristrada. The French group Air had to be heavily inspired by the library music/lounge-jazz of this era. The similarity of mood and instrumentation, in the gentle dreamy synth lines and organ riffs, is paramount.
And, because we don’t spend all of our time gathering dust with old records – something from 2017. Neo Image’s latest Untitled on Mood Hut emphasises the notion of building off a simple motif – bringing together ambient breaks, crunchy lo-fi house reverb, and dub in a gentle and ethereal simmer.
THURSDAY JUNE 15
Waterfall Person and Thhomas
A Night Of Jazz – feat: Athésia
Knox Street Bar
SATURDAY JUNE 17
Vivid Closing Party – feat: Roland Tings, Dro Carey, Kato
The Imperial Hotel
SUNDAY JUNE 25
Classic Album Sundays: LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
FRIDAY JUNE 30
Keep It Disco – feat: Adi Toohey
SATURDAY JULY 1
Keep Sydney Open: Meet Me In The Cross
Various Kings Cross venues