Zombie Zombie Zombie ZombiePlays John Carpenter
Jamie Lee Curtis in all her young glory. Bell-bottomed jeans blowing in the wind. Layered hair all over the place. The piano surges, hammering, psychotic, obsessive: the melody is perfect in its simplicity. It’s scary just hearing it. And Michael Myers violently enters the scene. He wants blood, intestines, he wants to cut the girl from top to bottom because he’s one of the scariest men in the history of film, he’s the daddy of all slashers and that adolescent chick isn’t going to stop him, ever.
I love John Carpenter. He’s one of my favourite directors. And if that’s not the case for you, you have a problem. There’s not one film by this man that I haven’t liked. “Prince Of Darkness”? Masterpiece. “Halloween”? Masterpiece. “The Thing”? Masterpiece. “Escape From New York”? Masterpiece. “The Fog”? Masterpiece. “Big Trouble In Little China”? Masterpiece. “Assault On Precinct 13”? Masterpiece. “Ghosts Of Mars”? Masterpiece.I admit that we Carpenter fans can awaken as much rage among the cultural elite –we’ll always be the nerds, in case anyone was wondering–as trekkies do, but the thing is, the man’s works are a world of their own, they have a narrative that is unique in the sphere of B-films, with a oily pedigree very close to DIY; they’re more than films, they’re a religion. And the DIY thing isn’t gratuitous: for the newbies, I have to point out that old John would also have a hand in taking care of the soundtracks of almost all of his films, pieces of electro-acoustic gold that could be situated between Can, Goblin and ZZ Top. Something like mixing the most unnerving Krautrock, primitive disco, the synths of Giallo cinema and Kraftwerkian artificiality.
French duo Zombie Zombie already showed off their passion for prog-rock infested electronics on their magnificent “A Land For Renegades” LP. It’s no wonder Etienne Jaumet and Cosmic Neman are crazy for the soundtracks Carpenter made during his golden years. The influence is obvious in their music and this tribute tastes of justice rather than of ironic freakshow. If this five-track record has anything, apart from its unmistakable musical quality, it’s a reverential respect for the alien scores the filmmaker used for some of his best efforts: lo-fi and Kraut-disco electronic compositions with a strong B-movie flavour, soundtracks defined by an insane nose for the iconic loop (like for example the pianos of “Halloween”). In that tessitura, the Zombies keep the essence of the originals intact and set them in the referential frame of steam-punk electronics. The retro synths, the psychotic melodies, the dizzying loops, the Italo-German varnish, it’s all there, certainly. In this chaotic environment of impossibilities the Carpenter footprint is recognisable on all five tracks, and the best thing is that the two Frenchmen are able to fill the empty spaces, typical of an ultra-minimalist soundtrack, of home made style, with a hipster amalgamation of techno, indie, ambient, micro-house, post-rock and electro-rock with 80s spangles.
“The Bank Robbery” –taken from “Escape From New York”– sounds like Justice, Ash Ra Tempel and Carpenter working together: the result is electrifying, sordid and worryingly hypnotic; the final part, in fact, is pure after-hours psychedelia. “Escape From L. A.” is the most Giallo moment. The trotting synthesisers and spectral bass lines are draped over an accelerated beat, creating a state of anxiety that is almost unbearable to the listener, as they maintain the addictive original melody, another unmistakable Carpenter hit. “Assault On Precinct 13” is a small masterpiece. Another mythical loop, played on the bass guitar, and they turn it into a track that could have perfectly fit on the soundtrack that Bomb The Bass made for Amiga’s “Xenon 2”, only satanic (the keys are horrible). “Halloween” follows the same lines. Starting with the widely known piano, Zombie Zombie attack with a piece of electro-minimal sustained on synthesisers with constant nods to Goblin and similar groups. To finish, the most contemplative moment is for “The Thing”, a soundtrack, by the way, by Carpenter and Ennio Morricone. The result is a cross between Boards of Canada, The Cure and Popol Vuh: addictive and intoxicating. This is a strange mini album, yes, a rarity that will not be on the end-of-year lists. But if I had to empty my iPod by dictatorial decree and they would only allow me to keep one, right now it would be this one. Make sure you say it twice to Snake Plissken or you could lose an eye.
Zombie Zombie - Halloween Main Theme