Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2016 August 29 • Monday

Steven Spielberg's first feature film, Duel, a brilliant TV movie (which is not, I'm very sorry to say, presented in its proper aspect ratio on its blu-ray release) based on a Richard Matheson story, is something of a masterpiece. Considering how much talent converged on this picture, perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise.

Adding immeasurably to the tension, suspense, drive and development of the narrative and creating unsettling atmospheres of paranoia, isolation and dread is the Billy Goldenberg's score, our 428th Soundtrack of the Week.

Goldenberg coaxes strange and eerie sounds out of percussion, electric guitar and strings, freely using them in unconventional ways. Listen to "Truck Waiting #1" for a good example.

There's no time wasted, though. Goldenberg starts flexing his ominous and otherworldly mood muscles with the "Universal Emblem", not even waiting for the credits to roll.

"Truck Waiting #5" is clearly indebted to Bernard Herrmann's music for Psycho, one of a few tracks that reveal Herrmann's influence.

The crazy percussion, rolling thunder piano and frantic bad trip electric guitars of "Truck Racing Car" are like a nightmare. When it shifts to some remorseless and claustrophobic string figures, it's a relief.

There's some truck stop country rock instrumental source music which only sounds friendly compared to the rest of the score. There's a strong funereal quality to "Instrumental No. 4", for instance. It's compellingly downbeat. Our hero can't even catch a break from the radio or a jukebox!

Superb music for a fantastic movie. If you haven't seen it, go get it. But avoid the letterboxed blu-ray. In this case "letterboxed" means that the image has been cropped on the top and bottom. Sometimes that's done for good reasons but in this case I'm afraid it was done only because everybody has widescreen TVs now. The older DVD release is okay, I think.