The mind's eye of John Carpenter from my perspective is a deep chasm filled with a dense macabre, almost playfully surreal foreground. His movies bring you into the moment thru the approachable characters and their environment almost as if you were there.
And in the background, it is an electrical heartbeat that has been deliberately wired to go from timid to panic stricken in a split second. Most people when watching a John Carpenter film don't realize how important the background music is, and how it was designed to enhance or amplify the mood at precisely the moment you were supposed to completely shit yourself.
It's very interesting because I now recall a night back in 1978 when I was only 10 years old and my oldest brother had just seen Halloween at the drive in theater. He was shaken up of course, and he got out his shortwave radio and tuned into the frequency that the drive-in theatre was broadcasting Halloween from and he played just the audio track of the film for me...
He narrates the scene in which the shape is inside the house, slowly chasing after Jamie Lee Curtis... the single piano bar chimes a chilling toll for each step he moves up the staircase. "Ok, she's hiding in the closet now... and now he opens the closet and they are fighting. Ok, now she uses a coat hanger to gouge out his eyeball..." my brother explains, and the music track gives me more than enough reference to make this 10 year old be completely horrified. This was the first evidence to me of John Carpenter was a master of his film, but also the soundscapes that became the breathing background information that you needed to process what was happening, or what was about to happen to you in a frightening way. How many movie Directors are also amazingly talented musicians and sound engineers that can create their own movie soundtracks that are beyond amazing? Not many, I can't think of another.
Now we fast forward to 2016 and John Carpenter has released a double album of his lost themes, backed with a small club tour to promote the album, do open Q&A sessions and play these incredible tracks live. I think everyone in attendance all thought simultaneously -- "Why the hell hasn't he toured and played his music live before, this is insanely good!?!?" The reviews of the album and live tour are all thumbs up, as well they deserve to be. Carpenter is all about sharing his dark world with anyone gutsy enough to step into his keep.
In September I picked up Carpenter's Lost Themes Remixed album, knowing it will definitely be a head trip. Growing up an industrial 'rivet head' punk rocker, I immediately recognized some of the remixing contributors. JG Thirlwell is as old school as you can get, releasing post-punk experimental industrial noise as far back as 1981 under the name of Foetus. The JG Thirlwell remix of Abyss stands out to me as the best remix on the album. It surprisingly has crisp, punchy synths that has a driving beat worthy of a dance floor and it also remains close to the original, yet distincly raw. Being a die hard fan of the industrial horror band Skinny Puppy, I was excited to see some new material from OhGr (aka Nivek Ogre - lead singer of Skinny Puppy, and accomplished solo artist) and would give the Wraith remix by OhGr high marks. Wraith remix opens with a very tight and clean drum pulse filled with the moaning murmurs of OhGr that would make any longtime Puppy fan light up like a pinball machine with anticipation. I really give OhGr and his longtime collaborator Mark Walk credit for creating a unique sound that is quite different than the signature Skinny Puppy album, but is still dark and ominous. The opening track, Purgatory as remixed by Prutient is also quite astonishing to the senses... it is probably worth getting this remix album just for this remix alone for how complex, dark, noisey and eerie it is. The only song to include vocals on this remix album comes from Zola Jesus & Dean Hurley on their remix of Night, which does a fantastic job of adding a vocal layer to this original instrumental track.
Below are YouTube links to the original track and music video for Night, along with the remixed version from Zola Jesus so you can listen to the before and after results that come out of this Lost Themes Remixed album. For anyone who loves cool synth music, this is going to give you a lot to check out and enjoy.