Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2013 March 11 • Monday

Escape from New York by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is the 260th Soundtrack of the Week.

The main title music is surprisingly cheery, with a heroic theme and lots of major chords played on keyboard over a slow and steady rhythmic foundation. "The Bank Robbery" starts out with what sound like electronic seagulls and then gets into the slinky, menacing electronic music that Carpenter does so well. It's hard to say what's best about this. The hand claps? The guitar? The strings? The rhythm? The atmosphere? It's all pretty great.

"Over the Wall/Airborne" starts out very sparse and mysterious before the sound of a helicopter takes the piece into its more urgent and driving section, propulsive and percussive with sustained notes floating above.

"He's Still Alive/Romero" is, appropriately enough, dominated by a bass line that sounds like a heart beat. This is something of a motif, heard in many of the cues, underscoring Snake's race against time to save the president and himself.

"Engulfed Cathedral (Debussy)" is an arrangement or derivation of Debussy's "La Cathédrale Engloutie", which John Zorn's Naked City used to cover.

"Across the Roof" combines a gentle piano figure, not entirely dissimilar to Carpenter's famous Halloween riff, with statements from low-pitched synth sounds.

"Descent into New York" has a lot of space with unexpected sounds swooping out of the speakers, suggesting the various dangers that lurk in the shadows. It evolves into a more textural, creepier piece as it goes along. This is one of the best and weirdest tracks.

"Everyone's Coming to New York" is the deranged show tune seen performed in the movie. Apparently this is written by Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers in Halloween and co-wrote Escape from New York with Carpenter.

"The Duke Arrives/Barricade" is like a demented electronica take on the "Hold On, I'm Coming" rhythm mixed with synthesized lines and textures. "President at the Train" is something of a follow-up.

A variation of the main title theme is heard in "Police Action". "Romero and the President" is an almost playful piece for two conversing musical voices, both somewhat percussive. "The President Is Gone" is also surprisingly fun-sounding.

"69th Street Bridge" (not 59th Street Bridge?) has a really compelling bass line and really fast, toe-tapping rhythm.

The last piece on the CD is "Snake Shake", an outright R&Bish dance number, albeit one with strange electronic sounds.

The CD also includes several tracks of short scenes from the film, dialogue and such. This is not a practice I'm fond of.