favorite soundtracks

My favorite soundtracks - Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

This film is all about loops. Tape loops & narrative loops. As ghostly fragments of sound echo and distort on tape spools, the story of a British sound engineer out of his comfort zone in a 1970s Italian horror film studio unravels within the hazy mist of a nightmare. We watch as Gilderoy struggles to cope with the dark nature of the film within a film, 'Equestrian Vortex'.

The band Broadcast are the perfect match for this, their music has always mined and ultimately transcended the rich seam of strange soundtracks and library music of the '60s and '70s. This film blends music and sound design in such a way as to blur those boundaries to brilliant effect. A real treat for sound and music lovers.

My favorite soundtracks - Utopia (2014)

I just picked up the Utopia series 2 soundtrack album on Record Store Day. I have to admit that I don't like all of the music from the brilliant Channel 4 TV series. Some of the more uptempo cues veer on the wrong side of cheese for me and those off beat chords always make me think of bad reggae, BUT all of that can be forgiven due to the absolutely astonishing amount of programming and sound design that really makes this soundtrack shine. There are so many off the wall and unexpected sounds that creep in to every cue, twisting and mutating like the story it underscores  - a truly original piece of work. Fragments of voices (sampled voice is used heavily throughout the work), manipulated choir, squelchy bass lines, found percussion and loads of distortion feature throughout, but it is the more subtle cues that really standout for me.

Vinyl copies are pretty scarce (It was released as a limited edition issued for Record Store Day), but if you search hard enough I'm sure you'll uncover a copy.

My favorite soundtracks - Planet of the Apes (1968)

Jerry Goldsmith's percussion heavy soundtrack for Planet of the Apes took avant-garde dissonance and techniques from musique concrete in to the cinema. Echoplex strings, stainless steel mixing bowls, swirling violent violins, bursts of piano and a host of percussive instruments conjured up this 'other world' that was familiar and yet so totally alien.

The film's mind bending climax (penned by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling and which tapped in to society's heightened fear of nuclear annihilation) stunning Oscar Award winning make up and costume design and Goldsmith's Oscar nominated score helped Planet of the Apes break box office records.

My favorite soundtracks - Mala Morska Vila (1976)

This Czech version of the Hans Christian Anderson Little Mermaid fairytale is the most dreamlike realisation of an underwater world you will ever see on the screen. The Zdenek Liska soundtrack is haunting, mixing orchestral and electronic elements that resonate with the intensity of the sea. There are deep electronic oscillations in here that feel like living organisms, and tightly filtered tuned white noise is used to dramatic effect. Composer Liska also used on set recordings effected and manipulated to add yet another layer of unreality.

The film itself is currently unavailable to buy.  The full soundtrack can be purchased from obscure soundtrack hunters Finders Keepers, whose Doug Shipton I have to thank for introducing me to this masterpiece of European cinema.


My favorite soundtracks - Forbidden Planet (1956)

It's easy to forget just how pioneering this soundtrack was at the time.  The use of electronic sound and music within films was relatively unheard of, and Forbidden Planet's soundtrack was the first to be comprised solely of electronic sounds, most of which could be quite challenging to general listeners heard in isolation.  Of course similar electronic experimentation was going on at this time, but none that reached the audiences of a major motion picture from MGM.  The richness and range of sounds that Louis and Bebe Barron conjured from their basic analogue oscillators is inspiring and perfectly complimented the strange futuristic world visited in the films story.  There was a bitter twist to the story though as movie execs downgraded the Barrons' credit to 'Electronic Tonalities' which they believe robbed them of an Oscar nomination.

Buy the album here.

Listen to this brilliant BBC radio documentary about the soundtrack and the Barrons, by Ken Hollings.



My favorite soundtracks - Assault on Precinct 13 (1978)

The first in a regular look at some of my favorite soundtracks. With so many to choose from its a tricky task, but here goes.

First up is John Carpenter's stark electronic score for his first feature film Assault on Precinct 13. The film itself is a pretty straight forward 'police under siege' story and is a great example of how a soundtrack can lift an otherwise unspectacular movie. Simple DIY electronics created using borrowed equipment, provide wavering synthesizer tones and repetitive primary drum machine rhythms, more noise than definable as actual drums, which lift the film and give it the cult status it rightly deserves. Its a powerfully evocative score that hints at later work to come in Escape From New York.

Recently re-issued by Death Waltz Records in a stunning package.