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Analog Alleyway #3: Death Waltz and Record Store Day

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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.

For record collectors, April sees either one of the most lamented or celebrated days of the year, depending on whom you ask. A day when almost every record label on the planet offer new, rare, and limited edition releases of records exclusively available in brick-and-mortar stores across the world. Most of these releases sell out, so the only chance you have of getting them is to get yourself into a store and buy one. This infamous day is known as Record Store Day. In theory, Record Store Day is a brilliant idea. It promotes local shops and generates a great deal of income for them as well as the labels that provide the products. But, beneath this, there are a number of complicated issues that perhaps we shouldn’t get into here (read more about this). Regardless of where you stand on the matter, it is undeniable that many fantastic releases come of it.

Admittedly, this year’s overall output was a bit underwhelming. Of all the records released there were only a handful that interested me, and only two that I ultimately was able to acquire. It was also a less fertile year for one of our favorite labels Death Waltz Recording Company. Where last year the label released four new LPs, their slate this year featured only two. However, as the old adage says, its quality over quantity; and 2015’s RSD releases by Death Waltz exuded quality in spades. Since teaming with Mondo, Death Waltz have been busy releasing a number of fantastic scores. The two that they offered as limited RSD exclusives, however, are among their most interesting acquisitions as of late.

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First up is Frank Ilfman’s score for the 2013 (or 2014 depending on how you view/which country you reside in) Israeli thriller/black comedy Big Bad Wolves. If you follow Death Waltz closely you would have known that they actually announced that they’d be working on Big Bad Wolves’ score well over a year ago. Since that point, it was mostly a waiting game, as little else has been said and anticipation only grew. The wait, however, was more than worth it. As is their standard, the packaging is exceptional. Artwork by We Buy Your Kids adorns the thick gatefold sleeve. We Buy Your Kids are a bit divisive among fans. Some find their pop art sensibilities a bit ill fitting, while others (myself included) love their unique, miminal, and geometrically driven designs. Of all their pieces, I think that this piece for Big Bad Wolves may be my favorite and one of their best. It manages to perfectly capture the haunting tone of the film’s final shot, while still maintaining their unique style.

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Packaging aside, the score itself is a modern classic. It should be considered a modern classic not only in the qualitative connotations that we associate with the word classical, but also for the ways that Ilfman seamlessly blends aspects of contemporary scoring with elements of classical composition. It’s a rare kind of score, one that is super cinematic but also a bit playful. It is also one of the few resonant scores of late that takes advantage of a full orchestra. The obvious referent would be Herrmann, but there are also traces of Elfman (at his best), and even some of the more contemporary trappings of Hans Zimmer. It does what every great score does best, applying a mood to a film that not only furthers the imagery and themes it actually heightens them. Without Ilfman, it is hard to imagine Big Bad Wolves being nearly as effective as it was. Ilfman provided the cinematic backbone that directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado exploit beautifully. Of all the scores released in 2013, this may be my favorite. For those that missed out on grabbing a copy, a handful of the records are still available through Mondo’s site.

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The second release by Death Waltz is actually not a score at all…well not in the traditional sense. Prior to the announcement of this release, I wasn’t actually familiar with the group Nightsatan, which is unfortunate because they are really outstanding and definitely right up my alley. Hailing from Finland and playing a self-described genre of “Laser Metal,” Nightsatan are an amalgamation of the best qualities of synth-driven soundtrack aesthetics. This score ranges anywhere from synth pop to darker more minimalist horror stylings. What makes Nightsatan unique, however, is the fact that they not only write records but they make short films to go along with the records — or at least have done so with these release. The short film directed by Chrzu, Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom, is a 24-minute post-apocalyptic satirical frenzy. The trio of mutant punks dwell in their wasteland, using their music to fight off an evil cyborg hell bent on loop-driven mind control. What is most refreshing about the film is that it takes the satirical bent only so far. While it is hyper-stylized and relies perhaps a bit too heavily on CGI effects, it doesn’t delve too far into the overt-satirizing grounds that could have proved to be its downfall. Rather, the film plays out like a 24-minute music video set to the tone of post-apocalyptic cycle of Italian exploitation cinema (the short is even intentionally poorly dubbed in Italian for the full effect). The best way to describe it is the fever dream of a metal-infused Daft Punk on acid.

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The packaging for this release is one of Death Waltz’s finest. Housed in one of the thickest gatefolds I’ve seen, the record comes complete with not only the LP and DVD, but also an oversized playing card for each member of Nightsatan: Inhalator 2, Mazathoth and Wolf-Rami. Night Satan and the Loops of Doom is Nightsatan’s second release, so hopefully the future holds even bigger and better things. As of now, the record appears to be completely sold out from Death Waltz, but there is an additional release out in Europe via Svart Records and Solina Records. Other than that, you’ll have to do your best on the after-market search, as no word about a repress have thus far been announced. This record comes highly recommended, especially for fans of Powerglove and Zombi.

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About Joe Yanick

Joe Yanick is a writer, videographer, and film/music critic based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the former Managing Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Noisey.vice.com, and Stagebuddy.com. In addition, he has worked with the Cleveland International Film Festival as a Feature reviewer. He is currently a Cinema Studies MA Candidate at New York University.

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