Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2020 October 19 • Monday

For our 644th Soundtrack of the Week we chilled out with the recently remastered release of Ennio Morricone's music for sci-fi/horror classic The Thing.

It begins with a long, eerie and brooding piece called "Humanity", which has an almost minimalist feel to it, drawing out the possiblities of a few notes but exploring different durations and dynamics as well as combinations of and contrasts with other instruments, with the strings being the heart of this particular sonic world.

"Space" takes the listener into a more modern and dissonant zone. Perhaps this is twelve-tone music or atonal or something like that? Ask somebody who went to music school. It's deadly effective, though.

Upright bass kicks off "Contamination", suggesting at first something in the jazz realm but quickly revealing a much more skittery, frenetic intention, as pizzicato strings swarm all over the place, creating a horrifying suggestion of millions of tiny bugs.

"Bestiality" also begins with the upright bass, this time bowed. It introduces a motif on its own but is soon joined by other strings and piano for a maniacal ostinato.

After that intense statement it's a relief to get to the relatively gentle "Solitude". It's not a cheerful piece. There's a lot of brooding and dread in it but it's somewhat closer to the relaxing end of the spectrum. There's a lot of space in it and the piano is subtly obsessive underneath the strings.

Some very delicate high-pitched notes start off "Eternity", reminiscent of some of Bernard Herrmann's outer space music. Then what sounds like a cathedral organ comes in, accompanied by pulsating percussion, and changes the whole feel to something much heavier.

Then it's time for more dread with "Wait", another brooding piece of long, drawn-out tones and Morricone doing a lot with just a very few notes at a time.

Then there's a reprise of "Humanity" but this time with synthesizers and a more electric sound in general. This is the music that's most often associated with the film, I believe, and the most Carpenter-sounding track on the CD.

More synthesizers and keyboards and perhaps that cathedral organ again combine for the richly textured "Contamination", a piece that sounds like a classic Morricone inspiration tailored for a John Carpenter film.

Finally we end with "Despair". Again we have the long tones, heavy on the strings, lines slowly ascending and descending, increasing and decreasing in weight. The variations between surprising gravity and equally unexpected lightness are very impressive.