Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2012 March 12 • Monday

The 208th Soundtrack of the Week is a Waldo De Los Rios double feature: A Town Called Hell and Savage Pampas.

After a brief "Prologue" of marching snare and other percussion, A Town Called Hell hits us with "The Attack", a heavy, off-kilter piece that shows Waldo De Los Rios's genius with the rhythm section. Pipe organ is used to great effect, as well. About halfway through it becomes an urgently driving piece not too far removed from spaghetti western music.

Then there's the "Main Title", which has a wordless men's choir singing over a guitar that sounds a bit like a jaw harp. Various accents are provided by—what? Electric bass guitar and/or piano? Not sure, but Morricone's influence seems to show here.

"Arrival at Bastarda" had me wondering who else does such magic with percussion as Waldo De Los Rios. Toru Takemitsu, perhaps. There are many similarly impressive percussion-dominated cues in this score.

"The Priest" is a pretty but apprehensive piece that features the guitar at first and then goes into a suspense mood for orchestra.

The guitar part is reprised for "The Recurrent Nightmare" and the same theme is heard again, played by different instruments, in "The Tomb/The Photographs".

"Don Carlos" sounds a bit like what you might get if Charles Ives had scored an episode of The Avengers.

It ends with "El Aguila", a rousing Spanish-language song with martial snare playing.

Savage Pampas begins with an infectiously rhythmic "Overture and Main Titles" as hand percussion and a feedback-like string section lead us into a swinging 12/8 melody.

At first you hear percussion and strings but eventually a chorus and wind instruments join in. Then it takes a turn for the ethereal as Spanish guitar, harp and an airy-sounding string section change the mood.

It gets spooky after that, then returns to a more sober version of the main theme. It ends as it begins, with the 12/8 percussion frenzy supporting the aggressive main theme.

"The Militia"starts out with trumpet and snare but returns to the lush arrangement of the main theme for a while. The tension between the two moods is explored throughout this long piece as the percussion and the trumpets compete for the listeners' attention.

The sky and wind are suggested by "The Landscape", which features the flute and the guitar.

A pretty heavy groove kicks off the "The Ranqueles Indians". Flutes take up a melody but everything is swamped by orchestral bombast, which in turn gives way to a percussion-dominated atmosphere of suspense. A tribal-sounding chorus takes it out.

No surprise to hear the solo acoustic guitar introduce "The Love", a tender variation on the main theme. Some really interesting percussion on this one. Sounds like the inside of an detuned harpsichord. There's another passage of suspense or menace, then a song version of the theme for voice and guitar.

At more than eleven and a half minutes, "The Violence and Finale" is the longest cue in this score. The violence part is brought to life with stabbing orchestral figures. This gives way to another cool percussion groove and a surprisingly breezy melody that nonetheless has some harmonic tension. The finale is a reprise of the overture/main title.

I suppose those tracks were the album release. They're followed on the CD by the original film versions of "Overture" and "The Landscape", as well as two demo versions of the theme.