It’s been an odd few months since the last Soundtrack Spotlight. With the pandemic bringing the entertainment industry and the world as a whole to a grinding halt there’s a bit of a dearth of big new movie releases and accompanying soundtracks. So we’re going to be looking at some stuff that’s a bit off the beaten path, a bit less mainstream.
Kicking things off with April, and something truly oldschool, the Supermarionation fans out there have a treat with Silva Screen releasing Barry Gray’s soundtrack to Supercar on vinyl. This is the first time it’s been out since the Fanderson (Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society) released it along with Fireball XL5 in 1998, and a second disc in 2013, but now it’s finally getting a general release for those puppet-fanciers of you out there.
April also provided us with the soundtrack to water-borne horror movie Sea Fever by Christoffer Franzen. The soundtrack is decent enough, but not anything that needs to be a must buy. It’s got some stand-out tracks though, like ‘Discovering the Animal’, ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘We are Sinking’ among others. It’s one of those albums to stick on when you need music to tune out, something in the background to let you work.
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Also released in April was Kristian Eidnes Andersen’s minimalist and occasionally atonal soundtrack to the impressively creepy and disturbing movie Vivarium (directed by Lorcan Finnegan and starring Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg). The film tells the story of Tom and Genna who want to buy a house together. Hearing about a new development called “Yonder” they allow the quirky estate agent Martin to drive them out there, only to discover that they are unable to find their way out. The film is eerie and otherworldy, a study in oppressive, alien isolation, and the sparse soundtrack emphasises that beautifully.
Other notable/interesting/quirky releases for April come from Varese Saraband in the form of the soundtracks to both Army of Darkness and Hackers getting CD and vinyl releases, while La-La Land brings us the soundtrack to early 80’s slasher flick The House on Sorority Row.
Kicking May off we’ve got a duo of cult Australian sci-fi in the form of a new release from Invada which features both the soundtracks to Incident at Ravens Gate and The Time Guardian, by Graham Tardif and Allan Zavoid respectively. Of the two, the score for The Time Guardian is the stronger offering, with a much more distinctive sound through its use of synths and martial rhythms. Ravens Gate is a more generically instrumental affair, decent enough but unlikely to make a lasting impression.
May also saw the release of the stonkingly good soundtrack to the Shudder production Blood Machines. This soundtrack ended up being on near constant repeat for the fortnight after I saw the film. While the story was a bit of a mess, the soundtrack is a thing of utter delight. Drum driven, synth heavy, upbeat and ominous by turns, it’s a throbbing, primal, retrowave extravaganza and one I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase on CD or vinyl should the opportunity arise. Did you like the soundtrack to Kung Fury? Then check this one out.
In more mainstream May releases the soundtrack to hard-hitting war epic 1917 gets a vinyl release. Thomas Newman did a great job here, the wistful strains of opening track ‘1917’ transforming into the more taut and hurried ‘Up the Down Trench’ setting the scene nicely. This is an album that deserves to be listened to on its own, full of great tracks such as the nerve-jangling screech of ‘Tripwire’, the thumping drums of ‘Englander’ and the rattling tension of Lockhouse.
Moving from this to the latest release from Junkie XL is a bit of a tonal shift. We leave behind the muddy trenches and intimate portrayals of young men at war and instead focus on the antics of a little blue hedgehog and the mustachioed maniac that pursues him. Yep, it’s time to take a look at Sonic the Hedgehog. Mr Holkenborg does a great job at taking the music from the game and updating it in ‘Welcome to Green Hills’ and ‘Dr. Robotnik’. The rest of the soundtrack is less directly influenced by the game, but it’s another solid outing from the man who brought us the soundtracks to Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool and The Dark Tower.
Other May releases include the score for the first season of Steven Universe. It’s a quirky affair, featuring the incidental and background music from the series. While perhaps not as immediately catchy as the vocal tracks, there’s a lot to like here such as the somewhat sad strains of ‘Pearl’s Theme’, the ethereal ‘Lion’s Theme’ and the surprisingly harsh and strident ‘I Am Lapis Lazuli’.
Wrapping things up, June is slim pickings, but there are still some interesting releases out there. Scott Adkins sequel Debt Collectors (also known as Payback) gets an MP3 release, with the soundtrack brought to us courtsey of Sean Murray (not to be confused with the Sean Murray who makes lots of promises about No Man’s Sky). It’s rather a good soundtrack, playing with themes that would sound at home in both Western and Blaxploitation films. Check it out if you get the chance.
Awesome Spanish horror flick The Platform/El Hoyo gets a soundtrack release as well. The story of a man imprisoned in a strange “Vertical Self-Management Center”, fed once a day by a platform that descends from above, the music from composer Aranzazu Calleja is as integral to the feel of the film as the visuals. Sparse, tense, with a ticking motif that runs throughout the entire length of the score as the hours and days slowly tick by for the prisoners on their platforms.
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Other enjoyable releases this month include the soundtrack to horror anthology Scare Package. It’s a great collection of tracks, running the gamut from 80’s pop to synth and traditional horror fare to accompany each of the short films. Tracks 12 through 17 are my favourite in terms of naming – ‘The Final Kill’, ‘The Final Final Kill’, ‘The Final Final Final Kill’, etc, etc….
Finishing off this quarter is Girl on the Third Floor, the story of a man’s attempt to renovate a dilapidated old house and the horrors he finds there. I mean there have to be horrors (unspeakable or otherwise) or else this would just be an episode of Flip This House or Homes Under the Hammer. The soundtrack to accompany it, by the trio of Alison Chesley, Steve Albini and Tim Midyett is another sparse, measured affair, punctuated by distortion, bells and jangling strings. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but it’s the kind of thing I sometimes find myself in the mood for.
The pickings are likely to still be slim for the next month or so, but there’s still some good music out there if you go looking! Alternatively, don’t go looking. Just read this every quarter and we’ll do the leg work for you.