Carpenter loses touch with “Lost Themes”

Courtesy of Sacred Bones Records
Courtesy of Sacred Bones Records

In the ‘80s, icons like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers terrorized theaters but amongst them an even bigger star arose. As one of the biggest names associated with modern horror, American director John Carpenter has directed horror masterpieces such as “The Thing,” “Halloween” and “In the Mouth of Madness.” He is known for his minimalist lighting, static camera and use of the steadicam. However, his special trademark, which most may not know of, is his self-composed scores. With the exceptions of the “The Thing,” “Starman,” “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” and his most recent film “The Ward,” Carpenter has scored all of his films. He has created famous themes like that of “Halloween” and “Assault on Precinct 13.” And with his time behind the camera at an end, Carpenter has returned to the keyboard once more.

“Lost Themes” is the debut solo album from the legendary director, a collection of scores that emulates Carpenter’s visual style. These songs are those one would hear in any classic horror film. Clad in synthesizers, the album is a time machine back to the ‘80s. Carpenter manages to revisit his style; however, to those who aren’t too fond of horror films, movie scores or the ‘80s, the album is as lost as its title suggests.

There isn’t much variety in this album — the entire album is mysterious, dark and unnerving. Carpenter uses instruments to accompany the atmosphere. The first song of the album, “Vortex,” exemplifies the album’s general scheme. In this particular song Carpenter opens with a soundscape reminiscent of a horror scene in which a character is in complete darkness while an unseen threat lurks, slowly approaching to strike. The song then breaks into a piano chord melody, accompanied by rhythmic synths and guitar chords.

This is the formula Carpenter uses throughout the entire album. Just mix and match the components, change the pitch on the synths and you get a new song. The only song on the album to break the mold is “Purgatory.” Carpenter is known for his use of synths and his lack of percussion. In “Purgatory,” Carpenter does the opposite, going heavy on the drums and un-synthing the piano. This is a breath of fresh air for the album, and should have been done more frequently.

Surprisingly, the album sounds like it could be the soundtrack of American neo-noir films like “Drive” or “Nightcrawler.” Listeners will hear the inspiration felt by many modern electro artists like Kavinsky, Fantastisizer, Trevor Something and Scratch Massive. In their own songs, these artists manage to take the best parts of songs like those on “Lost Themes” and mix them with modernity, which is something most of the album fails to do. Carpenter sticks to what he knows, which is both out of touch with current times and shows a lack of growth and experimentation as a composer.

Carpenter’s album epitomizes what horror movies sounded like in the ‘80s, but the style altogether is boring and repetitive. The days of catchy theme songs and soundtracks are long gone. Nowadays, the style is a relic of what it is like to take regular music and shove it into a synthesizer.

Rating: 2 stars

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