Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2023 April 10 • Monday

The 773rd Soundtrack of the Week is music from Doctor Who: "The Invasion" by Don Harper and Brian Hodgson.

It starts with the 1967 version of the Ron Grainer-composed and Delia Derbyshire-realized main theme, then as now simply a great and powerful piece of music.

Don Harper’s score proper begins with the wobbly electronic piece “The Dark Side of the Moon (Music 2 Variation)”, which pairs a descending electric bass line against an organ drone. The effect is a bit like some of Raymond Scott’s music.

Then for “The Company (Music 7)”, bass clarinet joins electric bass, there’s more organ drone plus timoani and we get an intriguing melodic line that sounds like it’s played on cymbalom.

“Hiding (Music 8)” is a long cue with spacy percussion, call and response bass and chmbalom parts and an eerie melody played on what might be oboe.

Cymbalom takes the spotlight, backed by organ bass, for the short but strong “International Electromatics Headquarters (Music 3)”.

An ethereal electro space-loungey feel kicks off “Muzak”, which combines the otherworldy soundscape with cocktail jazz piano stylings.

A mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments creates a vivid sonic punch for the short and also somewhat Raymond Scott-like “The Cyber Director (Music 5)”, after which “The Cybermen My Allies (Music 7)” brings back cymbalom, piano, bass and organ for a suspenseful half minute or so.

“Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Music 12a)” is a jaunty and cheerful march that’s a bit similar to a piece of the Dawn of the Dead shopping mall music.

Strange percussion and weird sounds create a thick and shadowy feel for “Plans for Invasion (Music 8)” while “Mysteries (Music 12)” is as pretty as it is intriguing, effectively combining the lovely resonances of the cymbalom and vibraphone.

More weird textures combined with organ, bass and percussion generate tension for “Fire Escape (Music 11)”.

Then there are reprises of “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Cybermen My Allies”.

“Music 4 (Trapped in a Gas Chamber - V.1 & 2)” brings together the usual group of electronics, organ, cymbalom and percussion but this time the organ gets to shape the harmonic structure rather than just drone.

Next is kind of a groovy cue just called “Music 9”, easy to imagine for a chase scene or other pocket of brisk activity. The bass clarinet takes the lead here.

Similar but with oboe as the featured instrument and with more of a weird sway than a jazzy rhythm is “Music 10”.

“Music 13” is about a dozen notes in seven seconds. “Music 14” is seventeen seconds of ostinato. “Music 15a” is a six-second cymbalom flourish. “Music 15b” and “Music 15c” are stings, maybe on a zither. “Music 15d” adds piano. “Music 15e” adds percussion. “Music 15f” is an organ sting and “Music 15g” adds bass clarinet.

“Music 15h” is pretty similar to 15b and c. “Music 16a” is practically a mini-suite compared to the others, combining cymbalom, percussion, organ and bass clarinet and giving them all distinct parts at different times despite the cue’s being only six seconds long.

“Music 16b” is a seven-secind burst of panic while “Music 16c” takes the same urgent pulse and adds a woodwind freakout to it. It’s eight seconds long. “Music 16d” then does it in nine seconds. “Music 16e” is four notes in six seconds but still conveys an impressive amount of feeling.

The ten seconds of “Music 16f” feel pretty luxurious now, and combine organ with whatever this other instrument is, cymbalom or zither, for a startlingly unusual sonority. “Music 16g” has the organ in a descending line, some cymbalom strikes and a brief embellishment from bass clarinet in its ten seconds and that’s it from Mr. Harper.

The rest of the disc is dedicated to sound effects that border on music, created here by Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. They’re very difficult to describe. Let’s just say that they’re very striking audio images, mostly used to animate scenes of the Tardis and the Cybermen.

It’s an excellent release as well as something of a revelation. These were electronic music pioneers creating sounds nobody had ever heard before.