Lost Themes cd Carpenter

Forty seconds into “Vortex,” the opening track on John Carpenter’s new album Lost Themes, and you’re already caught up in a 1980s thriller.  You don’t know for certain who is doing the chasing and who is being chased, but you get the feeling you are the one running.  Are you Roddy Piper in They Live?  Stevie Wayne in The Fog?  Jack Crow in Vampires?

Carpenter, known for composing 16 of the soundtracks for major films he directed, has released his first solo album, on the Sacred Bones Records label, full of tracks that could be scores for future–or lost–films, films only Carpenter could make.

You’re dropped into what could only be the aftermath of Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness with the second track, “Obsidian.”  There, behind the old tenement.  Jameson Parker’s Brian Marsh awakens from a dream in the alley.  His girlfriend is back and this time she made her way through the portal of green goo into our time.  Again, it’s time to run.  And then there’s a shift.  In fact, in 8 minutes an entire story plays out.  Carpenter’s trademark pulsating synthesizer rampage and unapologetic steely trumpet solo is cheering on our hero in an honest to goodness rock ‘n’ roll hero anthem.

Prince of Darkness clip

We get some relief in “Fallen.”  Maybe Karen Allen’s Jenny Hayden is helping our lost friend as he returns from afar in a lost soundtrack to Starman?  Maybe it’s the return of The Thing or the theme of the ice cream man in Assault on Precinct 13.  Whichever, Carpenter knows the soundtrack of someone strange amongst us.  Think classic 1950s sci-fi meets the 1980s.

Halloween screencap

You can’t help but get that hollow feeling at the opening of the next track, “Domain.”  Uncertainty?  Maybe.  But it’s a trick, juxtaposed against something.  Someone hopeful, someone optimistic leads the way this time, almost in a Sam Jones Flash Gordon sci-fi/fantasy montage, replacing Eddie Mercury with our eminent director composer.  The themes here are new for Carpenter, no Snake Plissken, no Jack Burton.  This is an entirely new sound and perhaps the unmade movie he makes us want to see the most.

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