John Carpenter – Anthology (Movie Themes 1974-1998)
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The mid-2010s found undisputed master of horror John Carpenter far busier as a musician than as a filmmaker. After releasing two volumes of original, non-soundtrack compositions (Lost Themes I and II) and touring for the first time, he revisited the themes to a baker's dozen of his most well-known movies from the '70s, '80s, and '90s. As with the Lost Themes albums and his concerts, he's joined by his son, Cody Carpenter, and his godson, guitarist Daniel Davies. The re-recordings are played straight through, with no attempts to update the sound or make the arrangements more complex, as such adjustments would simply be counterproductive. Carpenter's music had become fully in vogue by the time this album appeared, with numerous styles of rock, electronic music, and hip-hop (particularly trap) echoing his ominous themes and brilliantly minimalist arrangements. As such, the trio sounds completely au courant just by plugging in and playing. The selections aren't sequenced chronologically, which means that it starts off with the Metallica-influenced hard rock blowout "In the Mouth of Madness" (1995) before the immortal "Assault on Precinct 13" (1976). Like many early Carpenter scores, this one was composed and performed by the director himself on a minimal keyboard setup because he had no budget to hire anyone else to do the music, yet the simplicity contributed greatly to the suspense of the films, and the music became highly influential even outside of the context of the movies. The album also includes recordings of two themes to Carpenter films that he didn't compose himself (or with frequent collaborator Alan Howarth), such as Ennio Morricone's stark, pulsating "The Thing" and Jack Nitzsche's lush, romantic "Starman." Anthology won't offer any surprises to Carpenter devotees, but the music is undeniably authentic and faithful to his vision, and it sounds fantastic in any case. For anyone who isn't already familiar with Carpenter's films or music, this is a handy way to become acquainted.