Crime and Dissonance
I have heard Morricone's name kicked around the genius game for years, and to be honest, I didn't get it. Sure, the music from the spaghetti westerns was cool, better than the movies in fact, but it still struck me as primarily movie music. Jaws gonna-eat-you, psycho pulling back the shower curtain, Darth Vader's theme and the whistling Clint Eastwood theme - all superbly effective, and cultural icons unto themselves, but not really something I want to listen to unto itself. But when I heard John Zorn's tone poem "The Big Gundown" which was an all-star bug-out tribute to the man, I knew there had to be more, I just didn't know where to look.
Fast forward 10 years and I have my answer. Alan Bishop, in association with Mike Patton's Ipecac label, has sifted through this treasure trove of material to compile one of the most intense psychedelic/jazz/rock/classical compilations this side of Miles Davis' Live/Evil. Bishop combed through countless wig-out explosions from 10,000 Italian movies, whose content I can only wonder about, given the acid damaged funk on this double CD.
There are 30 tracks with Italian names, so I'm just going to touch on a few of them. "Seguita" is a dark magus fusion that takes on a stronger rock aspect than the Miles examples, and it flows directly into a church organ requiem "Postludio Alla Terza Moglie" then bleeding into the simple but ridiculously porn-tastic heartbeat and estrus collage of "L'Uccello Con Le Piume Di Cristallo (Titoli)" then jumping into a swarm of fiddle arpeggios on another track. Its fitting that this be release on Patton's label, because it has that same mad algebra commanding its sequencing.
One would love to have been a fly on the wall for the session that matched cartoon spring noises and a full string section on the insane "Rapimento In Campo Aperto," a piece so awesomely goofus and surreal that it could most reasonably be soundtracking a giraffe attempting to make sexy with a hot air balloon durng an earthquake.
My favorite moments are the psychedelic jazz-rock combo jams of the damned like "Tralelato" and especially "Gli Intoccabili" on the second CD. ITs like if you took the hipster music of "Peter Gunn" era Henry Mancini and pushed it screaming through some nightmare filter, transforming it into a demented bastard son of the former. The most delicious moment on the record is the funhouse mirror swinging bachelor pad atonal romp "Paura E Aggressione (short version)" where again, more panting and seesaw string wails careen over a groovy walking bass shuffle.
This collection is definitely more weird than it is hip - this is not the perfect soundtrack to your next party like you might assume it to be, unless its one of Crispin Glover's parties and there are midgets driving you there in a stolen fire truck. But if that's your bag (and it is definitely mine) then you are in for a treat. Excellent stuff.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com