Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2019 January 21 • Monday

For the 553rd Soundtrack of the Week we're listening to Paul Piot & Michel Roy's music for the 1985 French horror movie Devil Story.

Never heard of this movie or these composers, but mid-'80s horror suggested synth score and I was right.

It's not the usual, though. Almost the first half of the eight-minute main theme is a synth and violin duo, with ominous electronic low tones combining effectively with the higher and different textured sound of the violin.

Then at the halfway point the violin is replaced by another synth voice, perhaps some kind of horn setting, with a few other lines thrown in, some percussive, others atmospheric. When the violin returns, it blends with this thicker sound even more successfully, seeming to take on some of the electric character of the synthesizers.

A pounding synth starts out "Normandy Land", which sounds like it might have been influenced by Jan Hammer's music for Miami Vice. It has as simple but haunting melody and the whole thing is very minor key and dreamy.

"The Boat Legend" sounds like it could have come from another movie entirely. Despite the heavy reliance on synth, it's an orchestral cue and a heroic, sweeping one at that. It sounds like another mixture of acoustic violin and electronic keyboard, possibly only the two instruments creating the effect of a much larger ensemble.

"Castle Theme" is that famous Bach organ piece that's been used way too many times to indicate a haunted mansion or some such thing. You've heard it and you know it. This sounds like it was played on a real church organ.

This is followed by "The Chase" which sets up a great electro-groove and takes its time to develop. First menacing low tones come in like mist. Then some synth lines start pulsating over it, setting up polyrhythms or a polyrhythm effect. I was hoping for something more melodic after the introduction, but this is a cool and unusual piece.

Then there are reprises of both the main theme and "Normandy Land", not especially different in any way I noticed.

The rest of the album is a suite of unreleased tracks, called simply "Unreleased Track #1", "Unreleased Track #2" and so on.

The first one is an eerie and stabbing synth feature, effectively creepy and horrific.

The second is a half-minute drone slab of menace, while the third uses the church organ again to pile on layers of thick notes through which the ear can discern shapes of melodic lines.

The fourth one has a musical staircase shape, with notes walking up and down and stomping their metaphorical feet.

"Unreleased Track #5" is another very short one, about half a minute, but is strangely pretty, occupying the high register instead of the lower one, and mysteriously lyrical.

The sixth cue also stays in the high register but brings in what sounds like a "voice" setting on the synthesizer. It's effectively unnerving and atmospheric as well as having a nice melodic shape.

That idea is continued in the seventh and final unreleased cue, synth voices flirting with church music but in an infernal sort of way.