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Skeleton (Single)


Composer: John Carpenter
Label: Sacred Bones Records
Release Date: 28 August 2020

Sacred Bones Records releases the single 'Skeleton' b/w 'Unclean Spirit', by John Carpenter. It is available to download or Stream. John Carpenter is a film director who has written and performed the music soundtracks to the vast majority of his movies – including Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape From New York (1981), They Live (1988), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), Halloween (2018), and many more. He has also released two CDs of film-style music: Lost Themes (2015), and Lost Themes II (2016)...

I am a long-time big fan of John Carpenter. He is my favourite film director of all time, by a long way. What he has managed to achieve, mostly on a very restricted budget, is truly remarkable – especially as he has written or co-written the majority of the scripts, and produced the scores. It is tantamount to his skill and proficiency that none of them have ever failed to make a profit at the box office and, furthermore, Halloween was the biggest grossing independent film for many years. Even were he not famous for his filmmaking, he would be notable for his music mood prowess, which enhances his movies further still and make them identifiable purely by their main themes.

I could bore the hind legs off a donkey with what I know and love about John Carpenter (I have all the soundtracks and the films on different formats), but let’s concentrate on the new non-movie theme, 'Skeleton'. Carpenter sticks to what he is best at – and certainly recognised for – electronica and synthesiser music, latterly injected with electric guitar for added impact. A trademark rattling, throbbing is washed over by a warm synth sound. It is joined by a beat, a subtle ringing and electric guitar noise. The second time around it’s slightly different, being led by piano. The whole piece builds and has constant movement. In that respect it has some similarities to the Main Theme from Ghosts of Mars. However, if anything it’s better, and refuses to outstay its welcome with a duration of approximately three minutes.

'Unclean Spirit' is quite different, in that it is low and foreboding but strangely melancholy, too. The groundwork is sprinkled with atmospheric sounds, and is joined by electric piano. The central piece begins reasonably high and emerges much lower, injecting a couple of sequenced "Ah, Ah’s". It’s hard to do significant justice to work like this. There are lots of intrinsic eccentricities which fit perfectly but are difficult to describe. Let me simply opine that the great man has lost none of his prowess in ‘feeling’ a piece – even when there is no film to inspire the mood or direction.

This release is a taster for Carpenter’s next CD, Lost Themes III: Alive After Death, released in February 2021. Do yourself a favour: if you haven’t heard any of his music, try the Anthology album of his film music, or Escape From New York for its diversity (although I prefer The Fog for its creeping malaise). For original non-film music, the first Lost Themes album is particularly good, as it’s original but at different points puts in short teasers for the fans to recognise (“Hey, that little bit is from his Prince of Darkness score!). I have seen John Carpenter and his band live on two separate visits to London, playing his themes to screened montages, as well as promoting the Lost Themes albums. The guy is 72 years old now, but let me tell you he can still rock with the best of them. Can’t wait for the new album.


Ty Power

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