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by Jason Cook

25 Oct 2010

Save for “Magic and Ecstasy”, “Seduction and Magic” is perhaps the most Goblin-esque of the thirteen tracks on Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to Exorcist II: The Heretic. It is, however, conversely so. Much like the legendary giallo prog-rockers’ “Sighs”  from their 1977 release Suspiria (released the same year as The Heretic), in “Seduction and Magic” there is a thematic cue coupled with voice, sighs and creepy whispers of sorts. Each piece is more functional than it is musical; each track itself is not simply foley, rather each is an ambient process outputted from the composer’s more tuneful efforts. These amalgamate selections seem common to giallo films, always included as if the listener, having never watched the film before listening to its soundtrack, would never be able to perceive its full mood without being given two-minutes or less of what an outside perceiver might consider haunted house music. And I don’t mean witch house.

The second inclusion of this sort of cue comes by way of “Dark Revelation”, the more interesting of the two, including both the soundtrack’s coda and a strange vocal ambiance that could remain at home on the next Burial album. “Dark Revelation” is less post-exotica and more traditional film score, but its a reusable piece that transcends much of the other coda-based pieces in The Heretic. Like a quick rendition of the Jaws theme played in under two minutes and with significant emphasis on mood, tempo, and dynamic control, “Dark Revelation” is simply a taste of more busied soundtrack inclusions like “Great Bird in the Sky” or even “Magic and Ecstasy”.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

21 Oct 2010

Klinger: Aah…there’s nothing like relaxing on a pillowy cloud of soulfulness for a half-hour or so to settle the old nerves, eh Fresh? I feel like a new man.

Mendelsohn: You nailed it, Klinger. I had no idea what I was missing. I mean, I’m familiar with Marvin Gaye—who isn’t? But I never spent any time with his albums and if it weren’t for this little endeavor we’ve embarked on, I don’t think I ever would. And oh what I would have been missing!

I have a very limited knowledge of soul music, but it seems to me that there is something a little bit different about this album compared to the soul albums that had come before it. Shed a little light on this for me.

Klinger: Well, I’d say the main thing is that What’s Going On is one of the few soul albums of its time that was constructed as an album first and foremost. Up until the late 1960s, soul was almost exclusively a singles genre. LPs were generally a few hits scattered among a handful of covers and lesser tracks. But the advent of serious rock writing gave a few artists a new perspective by the end of the decade. After blowing the hippies’ minds at Monterey Pop, Otis Redding was starting to get big picture about his work, but his death seemed to set things back for a couple more years.

Ironically, the big breakthrough happened at Motown, a label that had kept its artists under pretty tight control. Maybe Berry Gordy was preoccupied with the move to L.A., the grooming of the Jackson 5, and the shtupping of Diana Ross, but he seemed unusually willing to cede territory to budding auteurs such as Stevie Wonder and, of course, Marvin Gaye.

But I take it from your response that What’s Going On is to your liking, my funky friend?

by AJ Ramirez

20 Oct 2010

Let me tell you, Adam Ant is awesome. Boasting a natural charisma, cool pirate-themed outfits, and ridiculously-chiseled facial features, at the height of his powers in the early 1980s Ant was a pop star to behold. Certainly his heroic image was striking and well-timed following punk rock’s ascent and sputtering-out, but even Ant’s own force of personality would have been meaningless if he didn’t have songs like the 1981 single “Stand and Deliver” to back up his self-assured posturing.

Adam and the Ants’ string of early ‘80s hits is one of the most unconventional runs of chart busters from any artist. Tunes like “Kings of the Wild Frontier”, “Antmusic”, and especially “Prince Charming” were bizarre tribal calls that mixed world music exotica with messianic self-belief. Of those hits, the group’s first UK chart topper “Stand and Deliver” has one of the more conventional song structures, sticking the tried-and-true verse/chorus/bridge pop outline. The wedding of that structure to the Ants’ trademark sound (defined by clacking Burundi polyrhythms and Marco Pirroni’s twangy guitar lines) is what makes “Stand and Deliver” the group’s most indelible song for me. The Ants always threatened to overtake the pop world, and here they turn out the ultimate pop single of the time.

by Stephen Rowland

19 Oct 2010

According to the definition from the king of genre explanations,, adult alternative is “a smooth, melodic, radio-friendly style that packaged alternative’s mellower side for wider consumption”. Some mainstays of the genre include Jeff Buckley, late-era Goo Goo Dolls, my beloved Crowded House, my personal deity Aimee Mann, and—give me a moment to vomit in my mouth a bit—Dave Matthews Band. I suppose it’s adult contemporary with an edge. The three artists profiled here are undoubtedly part of this movement, and while it seems unfair to pigeonhole them into something for adults, genres exist for a reason and I’m not going to cry over it.

My first experience with bona fide adult alternative was David Gray’s “White Ladder” in 2000, when I was 18 years old. Growing up a punk rocker, and still considering myself one to a certain extent, I felt that my sheer enjoyment of that record was somewhat traitorous. But punk rock, God bless it, can be a limited genre that doesn’t take kindly to other genres, and the older I got, the more I found myself branching out, exploring more and more different types of music, and finding excellence everywhere. I no longer should, and I no longer do, feel any guilt. We should never limit ourselves, because art is subjective, and beauty can be found everywhere.

by Jason Cook

18 Oct 2010

All the while “His Dark Exotica” has run, there have been short analyses of Ennio Morricone and his work on Exorcist II: The Heretic in the various contexts in which the music is played and intended. Now, as the series nears its penultimate piece, there is the question of the film’s actual theme. This theme (a culmination of the various tracks that precede its midway appearance on the film’s soundtrack) is memorable, to say the least. In under three minutes, one hears the coda from “Rite of Magic” and “Great Bird in the Sky”. There’s the strange glossolalia of “Little Afro Flemish Mass”, and frantic chanted tempo of “Magic and Ecstasy”. Strong are the staccato exotica whip cracks, marimba sequences, and African drumming. It’s as if Morricone, in this piece, and to counter the previous film’s minimalist theme by Mike Oldfield, has given us everything, pouring into his simple modulation the weird keys that progress through the even weirder film for which he composed.

“Pazuzu (Theme From Exorcist II)” is about channeling. The track does not play prominently in the film. Rather, it emerges in aural corners and suggests all the witchery, locust-vision, and demonic possession that Regan and crew play out on the screen. It isn’t the theme of a blockbuster or even a considerable hit. It’s the sound of something too far gone for mainstream anything. It’s the certain sound of a demon, Pazuzu, and the way he rides the teeth of the wind.

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