Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2022 January 17 • Monday

The 709th Soundtrack of the Week is Shirley Walker and John Carpenter's music from Escape from L.A..

The score is a mix of tracks by Carpenter, tracks by Walker and tracks by both Carpenter and Walker.

First up is a reprise of the Escape from New York "Main Title" by Carpenter and Alan Howarth, sort of a Snake Plissken march.

"History of Los Angeles" is the first Carpenter/Walker cue and demonstrates that this will be a happy collaboration as Carpenter's synth rhythms and long tones merge seamlessly with Walker's orchestral sensibilities. It's not always easy to tell whether you're hearing synths or strings.

Carpenter's "Fire Base Seven" is pure electronic intrigue and suspense and a classic Carpenter atmosphere.

The Walker/Carpenter "Snake Arrives/Deportees" mixes layers of synth with guitar or synth guitar for a feeling of menace.

The next three cues are by Shirley Walker solo.

"Snake Gets Scratched" is a crazy sci-fi cue at first before re-establishing the theme of atmospheric electronic unease.

Delicate and surprisingly pretty electronic percolations define the first half of "Defense Lab" before those long, disquieting synth tones return.

Then it's straight up nightmare territory for "Snake's Flashback", which has Walker using electronic wind noises as well as brass instruments.

"Weapons/Snake's Uniform" is by Walker/Carpenter and ingeniously uses electronic percussion that sounds almost like scratching noises for a foundation upon which there's a pulsating bass line and synth tones. The second half of the cue kicks in with a back beat and rock band instrumentation as electric guitar makes it clear that Snake is a bad-ass. Those strange scratching noises are still in there, as is some subtle harmonica.

Carpenter handles "Snake's Escort", a laidback but groovy piano feature at first but eventually another textural synth showcase.

Then two by Walker: "Submarine Launch", an insistent building up of suspense with some "gearing up for the mission" statements by horns before drums come in to drop some beats, and "Sub Sinks", a short cue of desperation and doom.

"Mulholland Drive-By" and "Acid Rain/Tour Guide Sting/Snake Gets Directions" are both by Carpenter, the former being an unassuming but of underscore that's more feel than focus, and the latter having various slinky grooves and ethereal electronic figures throughout.

Walker is then back up for the next two. "Sunset Boulevard Bazaar" brings some middle East modalities, sonics and grooves while "Motorcycle Chase" is an infectious electronic back beat number with lots of cool noises.

Then it's Carpenter's turn and he channels the spaghetti Western for "Showdown", with harmonica as the main voice with assistance from banjo (I think) and synth.

"Push on Through/Snake Takes a Breather" by Walker/Carpenter starts out with another killer groove before a segue into electronic textures. Then it's a kind of honkytonk blues rock piece but no drums, mostly just guitar and harmonica.

The next piece, also by Walker/Carpenter is a longish one that mixes various grooves with different synth approaches, sometimes textural, sometimes lyrical, sometimes both. A heartbeat sound also gets a spotlight at one point.

Walker's "I Think We're Lost/Taslima" is almost entirely ethereal and atmospheric, a short cue that's different from what's come before.

Walker/Carpenter's "The Future Is Right Now/Fun Gun" starts out in a similar vein but after a loud sting switches to an atmosphere of intrigue.

The next five cues are by Shirley Walker.

"The Black Box/Target L.A." uses the string section of the orchestra to build an ascending harmonic line, which eventually includes horns. Then there's another really cool synth groove and compelling electronic sounds adding their voices.

In "The Broadcast/The Coliseum" we start with strings and winds, only acoustic instruments, building a sonic strucutre of grave anticipation. Then the synth groove comes in, insistent, colorful, driving. The strings and winds join in and bring dramatic shape and tension.

Another very cool and minimalist electronic groove kicks off "Decapitation/Game Time/The Game", soon to be joined by the orchestra and some shrieking strings which are in turn followed by wind sounds and then pizzicato strings, reed instruments and piano creating an exciting sonic landscape. Then another groove with layers of orchestra on top, ending on some long tones.

Another synth/orchestra combination follows for "Escape from Coliseum", a muscular and tense action cue in 6/4 and then there's a storm of drums to begin "Queen Mary/Hang Glider Attack". There's an almost immediate segue to a more mellow atmosphere but then everything explodes again into an off-kilter, hard grooving synth rhythm with orchestral lyricism soaring above it, one of the best parts of the score.

Then there's classic dramatic underscore for "Helicopter Arrival", orchestra and electronics working together seamlessly first for big sound of an important and intense event and then settling into a more contemplative feel before taking off with intense action feels again with fast arpeggios from the string section enhancing the electronic back beat pulse.

Walker/Carpenter come up with another heavy back beat synth groove for "Texas Switch/Fire Fight" which also quotes from "Snake's Uniform".

"Escape from Happy Kingdom" and "Crash Landing" are two relatively short pieces by Walker, both half pensive orchestral development and half synth rhythms with orchestra building tension and excitement on top.

Carpenter gets solo crecit for "Out of Time", apparently an unused cue that's ethereal and spacey and could probably have been nudged into becoming a love theme if that's what they wanted.

Then there's the Walker/Carpenter "Presidential Decree", a long suite of cues that's basically a medley of moments from the score.

And finally there's a bit of source music, Carpenter's "J.C.'s Blues", a blues rock electric guitar showcase that's really cool.