John Carpenter – Lost Themes II


Album

Lost Themes II

Label

Sacred Bones Records

Year

2016

For Fans Of

Gunship – Mogwai – Snake Plissken

Summary

Another round of spacey thrills from The Master.

Rating

90 / 100

When people have been calling you ‘The Master of Horror’ for the better part of 40 years, what can you do but embrace it? If you’re someone like John Carpenter, one of the most iconic film directors and score composers of all time, it probably makes a great deal of sense to release your first solo single on a night as prolific as Halloween. Maybe for a group peddling dated goth rock or some try-hard, death-grind-gore-and-kitchen-sink metal band, such an opportunistic release date would be hard to swallow, but for Carpenter it only served to add to his allure and prestige. After all, this is the man behind classic films of the 70’s & 80’s like ‘Escape From New York’, ‘Assault on Precinct 13’, ‘Halloween’, ‘The Thing’ and ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ to name just a few, and his work in those decades has lived on and helped to define how action, thrills, horror and musical composition could be forever spliced into a myriad of enthralling and diabolical combinations.

His début solo record, ‘Lost Themes’, was released in early 2015 and quickly became a runaway sensation: reigniting the fire of film buffs and music critics alike, who engaged openly with Carpenter’s first original music in many years, delving head first into the pulsing rhythms, sci-fi synth lines and dense atmospherics on display. And this year, Carpenter is poised to pull off a move ripped straight from the film franchise play-book: releasing the sequel less than two years after the original début (Disney & Warner Bros. must be mad pissed). Returning with the eagerly awaited follow up, ‘Lost Themes II’, it appears that Carpenter has welcomed the jolt that ‘Lost Themes’ provided to his career, and used it to amp things up to 11 on his second approach.

Every facet of ‘Lost Themes II’ is familiar yet strikingly more intense. The opening of ‘Distant Dream’ is a loud and triumphant awakening, sure to have unsuspecting listeners reaching for the volume control in fright. This shock soon gives way to pounding drums and flirtatious synths, letting the listener sit back and comfortably enjoy the ride. Which, by the way, is exactly how this record should be consumed: like a good film—somewhat reclined, content and horribly engrossed. ‘White Pulse’ wracks nerves by successfully building tension with string sections, before unravelling into a loose knot of diffusing moods. Tracks like ‘Dark Blues’ and ‘Angel’s Asylum’ recall Carpenter’s best film compositions with driving, loud rock backbones and layers of neon sleaze. ‘Virtual Survivor’ and ‘Bela Lugosi’ retain his signature sound, but also become emboldened by the welcome addition of electric and acoustic guitars.

However, what really serves to differentiate ‘Lost Themes II’ from its predecessor, is the strengths of other influences at play. Never one to be driven by ego, Carpenter enlisted help from multiple collaborators on this record, including his son Cody Carpenter (who was also present on ‘Lost Themes’) and his godson Daniel Davies. And it’s this effect of having ‘multiple ears’ on these compositions, which allows them to come off as well rounded, cohesive and built atop one another. With each hand sketching a way forward, these tracks become less like individual songs and begin to resemble the delicate pieces of a larger and more fragile puzzle. This is no more evident than towards the end of the record, with the haunting ‘Last Sunrise’ and the brilliant, uplifting ‘Utopian Façade’.

Conclusion

In many ways, the objective of this record (and by virtue, the original one) is already spelled out in its title. ‘Lost Themes II’ implies a hearkening to points in time that the audience might not be able to recollect, or may have intentionally misplaced. John Carpenter’s project capitalises greatly on that curious sense of mystery, and like smoke clearing in the wake of some unforeseen calamity, the songs on this record serve to cultivate moods and textures in the listener that in return, offer a brief glimpse into a shadowed world. And it’s ultimately how Carpenter is able to tap in to those feelings of déjà vu and nostalgic reverie, to conjure of images of a place that is at once wholly alien and eerily reminiscent. A fitting soundtrack for your own, personal horror show.

Tracklisting

1. Distant Dream

2. White Pulse

3. Persia Rising

4. Angel’s Asylum

5. Hofner Dawn

6. Windy Death

7. Dark Blues

8. Virtual Survivor

9. Bela Lugosi

10. Last Sunrise

11. Utopian Facade

12. Real Xeno (Bonus Track)

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