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John Carpenter tells musical story with ‘Lost Themes’

Despite being both a film nerd and a music nerd, I have never been a particular follower of movie soundtracks. I know the famous and great ones, but besides Prince’s “Purple Rain” album and Daft Punk’s “Tron: Legacy” score, I don’t own any, and I’m not really interested in buying more. It was for this reason that I was excited when I first heard about John Carpenter’s debut album “Lost Themes,” released this week.

Carpenter is a 67-year-old filmmaker, and one of my favorite cult directors. As a director, Carpenter is known for his independently made high-concept horror and science fiction, including the original “Halloween,” the great “They Live” and “Escape From New York.” He isn’t “mainstream” per se, but his influence can be found all over, from “The Purge” to “Kill Bill.”

What many people do not know about Carpenter’s work is that he also did nearly all the music for his best films. The dissonant synthesizers and drum beats that run throughout “Halloween” and others are as much a part of the movies as the stories and imagery. A Carpenter movie just isn’t the same without a Carpenter score, but “Lost Themes” definitely proves that if he wanted to, Carpenter could have a career in music. Like his best scores, the songs on “Lost Themes” are dark and atmospheric, with signature riffs rooted in very ’70s/’80s synths and rhythms.

Beginning with the one-two punch of “Vortex” and “Obsidian,” the album sets its tone and sound immediately: old-school Carpenter instrumentals made by the man himself, just made without a movie to go along with it. The beats are great, the instruments are varied and well looped together, and the songs progress and change as they go along. This is true for all of the album’s nine songs, from the alien-like “Fallen” to the guitar driven “Domain,” to “Mystery,” which sounds left off of the soundtrack to “Halloween.”

But despite the retro nature of Carpenter and the feel of the album, any of his songs can definitely be in a modern movie. I felt like I was walking through a scene from the movie “Drive” listening to “Abyss,” and “Wraith” contains parallels to Daft Punk’s work on “Tron: Legacy,” in a very good way. I recommend listening to “Lost Themes” mixed into some early Daft Punk or a Chromatics album, because Carpenter’s influence is obviously there, yet his current work fits remarkably well with modern interpretations of those influences.

Overall, “Lost Themes” is exactly what I thought it would be: Carpenter flexing his musical chops in a non-visual medium that showcases him as a master of mood. It’s not a movie, obviously, but still, the songs feel like they are telling a story. Beyond that, “Lost Themes” is a really solid electronic album that makes you feel pretty cool when you’re walking around listening to it. My point is, I love John Carpenter’s movies, and I really liked his album. Whether or not you are a fan, I think “Lost Themes” is a good listen for most anybody.

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