John Carpenter – Lost Themes IV: Noir (Sacred Bones)

The decade-long series in collaboration with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies breaks its trilogical form into a fourth instalment which is subtitled ‘Noir’ – collections of soundtrack pieces that have no place in any context other than the dark recesses of Carpenter’s mind. The release opens on the synth washes and guitar rumblings of main single ‘My Name is Death’; a beating heart of pitched strained guitar and explosions that are telltale reminiscent of the high-speed pursuits from the ‘Halloween’ soundtracks.

Spidery piano takes over in ‘Machine Fear’, caught up in a turbulent storm with the synths; whilst there is too much of an over-enthused trudge on some tracks, the album lightens for ‘The Burning Door’, which takes the piano into the vein of ambient, neoclassicalism, such as that of A Winged Victory for The Sullen’s ‘The Haunted Victorian Pencil’, but is developed into full-scale soundtrack noir; creeping classical piano compositions dualling with quivering string-synths.

The glistening of the graveyard church organs float in second single, ‘He Walks by Night’; the riff, however, does become very repetitive throughout. ‘The Demon’s Shadow’ has a flitting piano introduction that beautifully and gothically dances on the top of the track, however, once again, the record takes a deep plunge into heavy guitars that disrupt this noir feel. Albeit Carpenter’s series is a play on dark and light, loud and quiet juxtapositions, this release contains too much dated, monosyllabic thud that declines in standard from the previous three releases; a future ‘Lost Themes V’ would benefit from a more ambient sound throughout befitting of the explorative emotion of its creator.

‘Lost Themes IV: Noir’ is out now on coloured vinyl, vinyl, CD and digitally.

© Ayisha Khan.

Barry Adamson – Cut to Black (Barry Adamson)

For his tenth studio release, Adamson returns to the film noir of his earlier albums. His main single, ‘The Last Words of Sam Cooke’, opens on the drum bashings of his former band Magazine’s ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’, which he has frequently covered live; a bouncy rhythm containing gospel backing and choral trumpets singing over the bass and a small guitar solo later in the track. In the vein of ‘Jazz Devil’ from his 1999 compilation album, ‘The Murky World of Barry Adamson’, second single ‘Demon Lover’ is testament to his one-man, DIY stripped down performances also using drum machines, with a ribbon of glam guitar sewn in.

A pause in the tracklist comes from the title song and soundtrackesque ‘Cut to Black’, made in a spoken word noir style with a myriad of oriental strings, glockenspiel chimes and gospel backing. The catchy urban rhythm of ‘Manhattan Satin’ is a whirlwind adventure through New York which contains both rap and jazz-funk and should have been a single on this release. It is followed by the reflective lounge ballad of the boogie-woogie ‘These Would be Blues’ with a backing choir and stormy, moody instrumentals with tensive string plucking. ‘Amen White Jesus’ is a comedy tale of a hypocritical religious leader, narrated without a chorus, and Adamson also touches on climate change in the organ-rich, ‘One Last Midnight’.

The musician also channels Manchester contemporaries A Certain Ratio with ‘Was it a Dream?’, which sounds like the electronic ethereal fog of their 2020 song, ‘What’s Wrong?’. He ends the release on the more depressing and unsettling ballad of ‘Waiting for the End of Time’, written about the current situation no doubt, but includes some nice flutes.

‘Cut to Black’ is out now on vinyl, CD and digitally.

© Ayisha Khan.