Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2020 September 21 • Monday

Jerry Fielding's music for Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite is the 640th Soundtrack of the Week.

"Try a Little Softer (Love Theme from The Killer Elite)" is a plaintive trumpet-led ballad with gentle orchestral backing and soft brushes on snare and cymbals. It's similar in mood and feel to Jerry Goldsmith's theme from Chinatown but not as urgent or muscular.

Then there's an alternate version of the main title theme, a stolidly paced and martial sounding 9/4 piece that’s brimming with tension and suspense.

Subtle and spare percussion until the strings come bleeding in, sounding almost otherworldly, set the scene for "Locken Shot".

"Buddy Cat" is another spare and minimalist piece with gently pulsating low tones and light crystalline statements manifesting above it.

This is followed by "On the Stairs", a reprise of the opening love theme but with saxophone and flute starting and trumpet coming in later. The orchestral accompaniment is more assertive here.

"In the Limo" is similar to “Buddy Cat” but with less of the ethereal element.

After a flute intro, "You're Back In" has different string voices weave in and out, eventually joined by the rest of the orchestra to create a lush yet unsettling atmosphere.

Then there's "Bye Bye", a short reprise of the love theme.

Two pieces of source music are next.

"Mack's Garage" is country rock lounge pop with twangy lead guitar as well as pedal steel, piano and organ, while "Club Source" is a Hammond-driven 6/8 soul groove rocker with horn section and excellent drumming.

The Chinatown sequence might be the best scene in the movie. It gets started with "Garbage Truck", in which strings create a feeling tension while flutes spit out occasional stings. This continues in the next cue, "Let's Go".

"Hot Waltz on Thin Ice in Two Movements Without Pause" is a sprightly jazz waltz featuring piano with support from vibes and horns in addition to the rhythm section.

Long tones on the strings are again creating suspense while this time the vibes add statements here and there for "Hansen at Steel Yard".

There are similar strings in Crane Stance/Salmon Up the River" but with some divebombing low notes on bowed upright bass and more subdued contributions from woodwinds.

"Mack Shoots Hank" is another quiet exercise in tension and restraint, this time with some eerie sounds coming, I think, from the percussion section.

The strings get choppier and more desperate in "Hansen Gets Tokyo Tose/Hansen Gets His" and the bursts of music from other parts of the orchestra also seem more anxious and more on edge. The second half brings the energy level down a bit and is a bit more melodic.

Then there's a very short, about half a minute, ostinato with a flourish of percussion and strings and winds for "Listen Carefully".

"Sailing to Suisun Bay" conjures up motifs subtly suggestive of wind and waves while keeping the elements of danger and uncertainty very much present and "Collis Gets His" explodes with bursts of sound from piano and percussion before lightening up and then exploding again.

Strings and winds circle and weave and fly around in "Mothball Karate" while the percussionists create a pugnacious and unsettling mood. It also quotes alternate main title.

"Swords" has lots of percussion and strings and the most obvious attempts to create “Asian”-sounding music, with something that sounds like an electric shamisen or a keyboard trying to emulate it.

And then we arrive at the "End Credits", which starts in a tense and percussive mode before a segue into a robust and charging piece that might be in 9/8.

As a bonus track, there's the "Main Title", which is very similar to the previously heard alternate main title music.