Film

Fave Five: Sinoia Caves' Favorite Film Scores

Sinoia Caves (Black Mountain's Jeremy Schmidt) did the iconic score for 2010's Beyond the Black Rainbow, the demand for it leading to a 2014 release for the first time. Now, Schmidt walks us through his Fave Five Film Scores, and it is a trip in and of itself.


Sinoia Caves

Beyond the Black Rainbow

Label: Jagjaguwar
US Release Date: 2014-09-02
UK Release Date: Import
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Isn't it kind of great when your day job (playing in a celebrated modern psych-rock outfit known as Black Mountain) and your favorite hobby (making film scores) eventually merge to become the same thing?

You see, back in 2010, Jeremy Schmidt -- best known as Black Mountain's highly-regarded synth player -- flexed his muscles under his Sinoia Caves moniker to create the brooding, throbbing, psychedelic-yet-intensely-dark score for Panos Cosmatos' 2010 feature Beyond the Black Rainbow. The visually intense homage to '80s horror/sci-fi never got much in terms of a major release, but as the years have gone by, its reputation as a DVD cult favorite has grown and grown. The score, it turned out, proved to be a major part of it, and even with Black Mountain cheekily subtitling their Year Zero best-of compilation "Original Soundtrack By", it's the demand for Schmidt's work as Sinoia Caves which has grown and grown, up to the point where his longtime record label, Jagjaguwar, finally put out his epic score for BtBR in Fall of 2014.

To celebrate this event, much less one of those magnificent occasions where a score can completely stand on its own even for people who haven't seen the film, PopMatters asked Schmidt to name his "Fave Five" film scores. It was a fascinating insight into Schmidt's cinematic influences, but, does so also with a qualifier:

"It's hard to narrow down such a broad category into 'five faves' without at least a few glaring omissions, ie; Aguirre, Wrath of God, Suspiria, Zabriskie Point, and no John Carpenter -- because I couldn't pick one! So this, as a result, is far from being any kind of comprehensive list. I decided to stick with those film scores that, at least to a larger extent, harken back to a certain "golden age" of the analogue synthesizer -- which heavily invaded the soundtrack vernacular of the late 70s and early 80s. Listed here in no particular order ..."

Risky Business -- Tangerine Dream

So, just to clarify at the outset -- we're talking about the film "score" here, as distinct from the "soundtrack" -- and by that I mean to say that I could happily go along not hearing Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll" again. Yet, conversely, I could go on forever listening to Tangerine Dream's soft focus synthesized approximation of an unlikely Steve Reich in this hyper-sexualized coming of age tale set in the affluent Chicago suburbs, where I can, uh, "reminisce about the days of old"

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Sorcerer -- Tangerine Dream

Although it seems somewhat bloody-minded within a list of merely five to include two selections by the same artist, I think this pairing illustrates a kind of dichotomy that exists quite expertly within the Tangerine Dream oeuvre. Their music here, in contrast with the above mentioned, reflects a tense, dystopian mood with a sense of primordial dread that pulses uneasily throughout this murky thriller.

Director William Friedkin went on to say that if he'd known the music of TD prior, he'd have optioned them earlier on for his previous film – The Exorcist. Had this been the case, it may have arguably resulted in a much lesser known "Tubular Bells" by one Mike Oldfield.

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Koyaanisqatsi -- Philip Glass

Eschewing linear narrative altogether (with the exception of a conceptual meta-narrative I suppose?) Koyaanisqatsi exists as a kind of distilled perfection in the merging of music and motion picture. Although the music evokes a kind of uncanny, mechanized precision, it is primarily acoustic instruments and voices that dominate here. Time lapse photography of conveyer belts, corporate foyers, crowded expressway mazes, and clouds racing across glass buildings against Philip Glass' rapid arpeggiating score are so iconic that you could almost use the term "Koyaanisqatsi" as an adjective to describe a certain aestheticized apocalyptic sensibility. And who knew the modern industrial decline of civilization could be so beautiful to look at and listen to.

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Bladerunner -- Vangelis

There are atmospheric synthesized string pads, lush polyphonic glissandi, etc... and then there's the guy that seemed to do it with more grandiose finesse than anyone -- Vangelis. This paired with the equally opulent and maniacally laboured over visual masterpiece that is Ridley Scott's Bladerunner and you've got yet another perfected symbiosis of sound and vision.

I read something once wherein a reviewer stated something along the lines of how looking back at the film, the one thing that had 'dated' was Vangelis' score. With it's luminous technological glow, epic industrial light and magic cityscapes, steam-drenched Chinatown alleyways, and cyberpunk arcades etc -- I'm not sure what part of Blade Runner, aesthetically, doesn't "date" from a class of '82 vision of a dystopian future in all the best ways possible.

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The Shining -- Various Composers

It's strange to think that music that was originally composed with the idea of evoking religious rapture or other out-of-body profundities, has more or less been co-opted in motion picture-making to evoke peril and literally stabbing knives etc. The Shining seems to artfully exploit this odd duality by using the music of Bartok, Penderecki, and Ligeti throughout.

The electronic compositions are those by Wendy Carlos with Rachel Elkind, which we first hear in the opening titles scene -- ominous, synthesized pitch dives fearfully bend, careen and build as we observe from an omniscient vantage point a dwarfed automobile weaving through the Rocky Mountain landscape, that sets the agoraphobic tone of Kubrick's "Masterpiece of Modern Horror" -- as it is writ on the LP sleeve.

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