Last year, John Carpenter stunned everyone when he announced that he was going to release Lost Themes, an album of all original music. The surprise wasn’t that Carpenter was recording music – after all, the director is also the composer on most of his films, sometimes with the help of Alan Howarth – but rather that he was releasing something. After all, it had been five years since The Ward, his last directorial effort.
Lost Themes received critical acclaim and adoration from fans and casual music listeners alike. After all, it was an album of brand new music that was deeply rooted in the cinematic electronic/synth movement that Carpenter basically created. To say that his work has been an influence on countless artists since is an understatement. The revival of “retrosynth” sees pretty much every artist citing Carpenter as a huge inspiration.
Today sees the release of Carpenters second solo album, which is aptly titled Lost Themes II. What comes from this 11-track collection are a series of songs that are everything you could want from Carpenter. Let your horror movie imagination flow as you listen to these tracks because you might find some gold.
The album opens with the groovy and thick “Distant Dreams”. I’m telling, you when that standard rock beat comes in during the last quarter of the song, it’s exceptionally hard to not feel like a badass. This is what Snake Plissken must listen to when he gets ready for some seemingly impossible mission that he will certainly overcome.
The album follows with “White Pulse”, a track that is almost schizophrenic in nature. The first half sounds like something one would hear in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Then, the second half breaks itself into two pieces, the first of which is an industrial nightmare that sounds like the music Trent Reznor would hear in his dreams. The track ends with a soft lullaby, almost like one has arisen and that the, “…morning sun has vanquished the horrible night”.
“Persia Rising” has a charm that I can’t quite put my finger on but I relish its mystery while “Angel’s Asylum” brings the energy back up, actually upping the “rock” aspect of the album. “Hofner Dawn” provides a simple yet pleasant interlude. There is something almost fantasy-esque about this track, as though one would hear it playing an SNES or PS1 J-RPG.
Meanwhile, “Dark Blues” is quite a mature offering, sounding like something you’d hear in a seedy strip club, one where the women are just as dangerous, if not more so, than the clients. “Bela Lugosi” calls to mind a haunted castle, lightning streaking across the rainy sky. Could this be because the name inspired me? Absolutely. But I’m totally okay with it.
The closing track, “Utopian Facade”, makes me wish Carpenter would return to the world of film and give us one more masterpiece. It’s an epic track that bears all the earmarks of the majesty he’s given us.
To say that Carpenter knows the world of electronica and synth is an understatement. As I mentioned above, the man practically created a genre, cultivating a sound that is undeniably him. All Lost Themes does is confirm this to anyone who might have had a doubt.
The Final Word: Lost Themes II is a delightful album that is as charming as anything the composer/director has released over the course of his career. My only complaint is that some of the songs aren’t memorable – even after spinning the album a few times, I heard some tracks as though it were the first time – and “Virtual Survivor” feels derivative of previous works. But that doesn’t stop this album from being something wonderful. If you’re a fan of John Carpenter, you would do well to add this to your collection.