Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2016 October 31 • Monday

For Halloween and our 437th Soundtrack of the Week we turn to a favorite movie, one very appropriate for the season: The Brain from Planet Arous, with music by Walter Greene.

This is something of a masterpiece of small ensemble scoring. Parts of it might remind you of some of the music from Star Trek and other television shows from that time.

Greene creates powerful moods of tension and dread, as well as violence, and throws in jazzy flourishes here and there as well as ethereal and atmospheric touches.

The music for the barbecue scene is very reminiscent of Japanese gangster film music from the 1960s.

This movie is a classic and one of the reasons it works so well is its urgent and powerfully effective score. It's great to have the opportunity to consider the music on its own.
2016 October 28 • Friday

2016 October 26 • Wednesday

When we take inventory of the negative consequences of mobile phone domination, reserve a spot near the top of the list for the disappearance of this kind of phone.

It's amost impossible to imagine life without smart phones now.

It's also almost impossible to imagine life with phones of such beauty and style as this one, seen here in the movie Le Samourai (1967).
2016 October 24 • Monday

The 436th Soundtrack of the Week brings us back to our favorite composer, Bernard Herrmann, and his score for the film Twisted Nerve.

This isn't one of Herrmann's best efforts and it's a not much of a movie either. Still, Herrmann is Herrmann and there are points of interest.

It's monothematic, like several soundtracks, but the "theme" here is little more than a riff, a childlike repetitive melody.

It achieved some measure of fame when Daryl Hannah whistled it in Kill Bill. And what was the point of her whistling it? Beats me.

But Herrmann's original score includes whistling, too, which made me wonder if Herrmann had noticed Ennio Morricone's scores for Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns.

After the first two Dollars (1964 and 1965) movies, which employ whistling as a lead instrument, Herrmann comes up with his whistling-driven Twisted Nerve (1968) theme.

And after Morricone makes the harmonica the voice of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Herrmann uses harmonica as the lead instrument in his score for The Night Digger (1971).

And I believe that Herrmann's uses of whistling and harmonica are unique to those two movies.

Also of interest is the similarity between the Twisted Nerve theme and the repeated figure that dominates much of Roy Webb's score for Cat People (1942).

This is not an insinuation of plagiarism or anything like it. It's simply musing about influence and awareness.
2016 October 17 • Monday

The 435th Soundtrack of the Week is Shunsuke Kikuchi's score for War of the Insects.

I, uh, accidentally deleted everything I had written about this and don't feel like going through the whole process of trying to reconstruct it.

Many of the cues are short, often less than a minute long, and create miniature atmopsheres of tension, suspense and mystery with occasional startling moments. Electric guitar, organ and percussion are used effectively, as are insect sounds in some places.

There's some island music with lullaby-ish string melodies and saxophone playing, softly supported by electric guitar.

In some cues arpeggiated strings are used to create a pensive mood with electric guitar, piano, horns and reeds adding punctuation.

There's some source music for an on-screen radio. Some of it is like acid surf and some of it reminded me of Takeshi Terauchi's surf rock interpretations of Japanese folk songs.

One of the themes is poignant and touching, a bit similar to Akira Ifukube's melancholy cues.
2016 October 10 • Monday

Halloween is coming. Let's watch horror movies! Vince Tempera's music for Paganini Horror is the 434th Soundtrack of the Week.

Many of these cues are synth-generated atmospheres of tension and suspense. They're actually kind of pleasant to listen to, when you're in the right mood.

There are also some more aggressive pieces, similar to some of the cues in the soundtrack for The Terminator.

The movie itself is about a rock band so of course we get a couple of songs from them. "Stay the Night" is a pretty blatant rip off of "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi.

"The Winds of Time" is probably equally derivative of something, or many things. One part of it reminded me of ABBA's "Waterloo". But I kind of like it.
2016 October 05 • Wednesday

Winsor McCay was the undisputed genius of surreality during the golden age of newspaper comics. But dream-like narratives and images, as well as consciousness-expanding uses of the medium's form were common enough. The artists and writers of the day had to produce a large quantity of material and it had to be good. Really good and eye-catching and worth the ink and the paper.

It's a different story today. But there are always glimmers, always artists who carry the torch.

In the late 1970s and early '80s, for example, there was Paul Kirchner.

Kirchner continues to work as a professional illustrator, freelance and mostly in advertising. But during the time period mentioned above, he created a comic strip called The Bus, which ran in Heavy Metal magazine.

I wasn't aware of him until my last visit to Desert Island, where I came across these two reprints of his work.

The covers are great but they only hint at the brilliance and imagination inside.

You can see a lot more by searching Google Images but what you should really do is buy these books.

2016 October 03 • Monday

The 433rd Soundtrack of the Week is Stu Phillips's music for Follow Me.

First is "Thru Spray Colored Glasses", a sunny pop song of a style that's very much of the late 1960s. This plays for the prologue and is reprised at the end for a Hawaii segment. "Thru spray colored glasses / The world seems so beautiful and I know / that you will just free your mind / and soon you'll be on your way with us / won't you stay with us?"

Then we're off to Portugal. In "Qual E O Caminho Da Praia" the "Thru Spray Colored Glasses" is played in a different, instrumental arrangement with a couple of new sections added. Then something more dramatic and suspenseful sounds like it's happening in "Guincho", which also uses the "Glasses" melody and changes meters and feels.

"Nazarae" alternates between 3/4 and 6/8 and features some great guitar and harpsichord playing as well as some excellent writing for strings and wordless vocals. Things get dreamy and sprightly with the 7/4 piece "Cascais", another one with great acoustic guitar soloing.

From there we go to Morocco for "Camel Farm", which combines traditional sounding Middle Eastern modes and instruments with a more acid rock backbeat and mild freak out, as well as a restatement of the "Glasses" theme.

Next up is "Goyapana" for the Ceylon segment. It begins with percussion and an elephant cry. That ethereal wordless chorus is back and creates an otherworldly atmosphere with subtle use of thumb piano and other percussion. There's a cross fade into another sunshiney sort of trippy jazz waltz pop number.

"Interlude: Like the Wind and Sea" is that song again, this time with lyrics, cool electric piano solo and a surf guitar riff. "When you're flying high / When you're flying high / See the world go by / See the world go by / When you're flying high."

Then we're off to India on the "Ranee Express", which begins with train sounds and brings in the expected instruments, tabla, tambura, sitar etc., accompanied by string section. This is followed by "Mahahbalipuram" which starts with an Indian-sounding section with interesting rhythms and phrasing before relaxing into a funky back beat with percolating pizzicato strings.

For "Big Wave Bay" Hong Kong comes blasting in with a rocking 4/4 arrangement of "Like the Wind and Sea" with a couple obvious "Chinese" touches and really nice electric piano solo (sounds like Fender Rhodes to me). There's a surprising touch of intentional dissonance in the vocals at one point.

And we end with Hawaii. The first cue, "Incinerator", has layers of percussion and repeated figures on top, creating an intricate platform for Phillips's lyrical writing to float over.

Then we get another sunny groovy pop song, "Just Lookin' for Someone". "Any day is a day for me / Any way is a way to be / Checkin' out all the good locations / I'm pickin' up on the love vibrations."

"Waimea" ends the Hawaii section and is mostly eerily droning organ and some spacy echoing percussion. It builds until it shifts into more conventional underscore.