Sometime between the 1960s and 1990s the so-called “death of vinyl” was supposed to have occurred. With the 8-track, Compact-Cassette, and the CD all being introduced as cheaper and more accessible alternatives to the large and expensive vinyl record, sales were suspected to halt; factories to shut down. But, here we are post-2000s and vinyl sales are still strong (relatively speaking). In fact, new plants specializing in vinyl production are opening and sales are up 900%. Record Store Day, an annual event used to promote the production and sale of vinyl, is stronger than ever. And, now with the introduction of numerous labels focusing on vinyl soundtrack releases (both reissuing classics and releases modern scores), vinyl soundtrack records seem to be as popular as ever. As horror fans, genre fans, film fans we have an affinity for nostalgia, for the “good old days” of analog, and that is what this column is about. This column is a dedication to those days; it’s a celebration of the vinyl soundtrack (both old and new) and the companies that keep putting them out; and, if for nothing else, this column exists because artwork just looks better bigger.
If you are a reader of Diabolique, chances are you are already very familiar with Bruno Forzani and Héléne Catet, in particular, their latest arthouse take on Gialli, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. So, you may be thinking to yourself, wasn’t there no original music made for that film, where does it fit in here? Well, you’d be right, but also — in a roundabout way — you’d also be wrong. In July, the film had a special screening at the East End Film Festival and, in order to pay the film special praise, East End collaborated with Death Waltz and Blanck Mass to commission a new score for the film. Blanck Mass’ Ben Power organized groups from around the world (Roll the Dice, Helm, Moon Gangs, C Spencer Yeh, Phil Julian, Konx Om Pax, and, of course, Blanck Mass — who contributes 5 of the 19 tracks), and the result is a compilation of work as psychologically testing but equally fulfilling as the film itself.
Much like The Strange Colour, this score is not going to be for everyone. It’s very experimental but, to its credit, it is also an extremely diverse collection of music. As stated on Mondo’s website, “each artist was given a scene to work with and was given complete free reign to restore the scene how they wanted to, without any knowledge of what was planned for the film by other musicians.” So, beyond the images of the film, none of the artists had any sort of platform to work collectively from. What is fascinating, as a result, is that while each artist has a distinct style and method, the record flows extremely well in tandem. It doesn’t feel, like some may fear, like an eruption of divorced pieces. Despite the fact that the source music is derived primarily from Italian composers such as Ennio Morricone, Guiseppe De Luca and Nico Fidenco, the artists, here, do not emulate the Belgian filmmakers’ tendencies towards pastiche. Rather, the work is completely unique and adds another level to the film.
Starting with the electronic droning of Roll the Dice and Helm, the album picks up in the middle with tracks from C Spencer Yeh and Blanck Mass, before Phil Julian brings things down a notch once again to finish out the record at more of a whisper than a scream. Even at its most erratic, the album could still be criticized for being a bit too minimalistic and/or droning, but while these may be faults to some, they will be the source of praise for others. Mileage will vary a bit more than the typical Death Waltz/Mondo release because the record doesn’t sit neatly within the sort of Goblin or Carpenter-esque craze that has been forming stronger in recent years but that doesn’t make it any less important. To my knowledge, there has not been a re-edit of the film utilizing this compilation of tracks, but it’d be great to see how the music works in the scope of the film [and if I am wrong and have overlooked it, please email me about it as I’d love to see it]. Divorced from the images, the artists do an outstanding job of evoking the sort of esoteric psychological anxiety and terror of the film.
Rather than commission brand new art to brandish the cover of the album, the record comes with a cropped version of the film’s original poster. Normally this would be a slight disappointment, as DW/Mondo have procured some fantastic reimaginings in the past (such as the recent Zombie Holocaust and The Big Gundown scores (reviews to come), but there is something so beautiful about Gilles Vranckx’s artwork that makes their choice feel right. Vranckx’s clean, colorful style blends elements of stark realism with a comic book aesthetic, a meshing which matches Forzani and Catet’s style in perfect form.
Death Waltz and Mondo have been nice enough to offer a free, full stream of the record, so I’d advise readers to head over to their Soundcloud and check it out. If you like what you hear, act fast as the record is limited to just 500 copies worldwide.
There are limited copies of the record still available via Mondo