John Carpenter’s film scores, like his Italian contemporaries in Goblin, have always suggested an extra-textural “rockist” sensibility that transcend the movies they were written for. As such, fans have long dreamed the possibility of a standalone music project divorced from any assigned context, particularly in the 1980s when Carpenter’s minimalist synth soundtracks seemed like a harder edged version of Tangerine Dream, the German band who had progressed through Krautrock, ambient and borderline new age sounds in the 1970s before becoming primarily associated with their signature film soundtracks by the early 1980s.
The problem was that Carpenter always stayed busy, and unlike Goblin and Tangerine Dream he actually had to make the damn movie. It’s only in the last decade or so that Carpenter has started to cool his heels a bit, notching only one director credit (2010’s underwhelming The Ward) under his belt since his last real success, the 2001 cult favorite Vampires (during that interim he also has a couple producing credits: a Vampires sequel and the regrettable 2005 remake of The Fog, plus a co-composer credit on this year’s controversial Love).
And so, finally, in early 2015 the world was gifted a full album of Carpenter originals puzzlingly titled Lost Themes. Its nine tracks were co-written with Daniel Davies and Carpenter’s son, Cody, and not actually intended for any film — unreleased or otherwise — but the title reflected the fact that these compositions were in line with his previous film scores, even if it implied misleading background context. That album was previously reviewed by PopMatters last year, but it has recently seen a companion album released with the functional title Lost Themes Remixed, with which we concern ourselves now.
Lost Themes Remixed often highlights the talents of the remixer more than Carpenter’s original blueprint, but in most cases this is not necessarily a bad thing. In particular, the addition of Zola Jesus’ vocals and Dean Hurley’s pulsing, dreamlike production to “Night” find the duo retaining the skeleton of the original but otherwise resembling something like Lana Del Ray produced by Dean Blunt. OhGr predictably mutates “Wraith” into a Download outtake, though his interpretation meanders a bit too aimlessly for comfort (much like Download themselves, actually). The biggest surprise here is Blanck Mass’ remix of “Fallen”, which subsumes the album version within a cohesive build up of skittering dance beats and distant guitar drones.
Truthfully, as a value proposition this standalone release of Lost Themes Remixed is largely dependent on whether you already own the previously released deluxe edition of its parent album, from which six out of these eight remixes were culled. However, the pair of stragglers are not all that expendable either. The Prurient remix of “Purgatory”, in particular, buries Carpenter’s original beneath an industrial caterwaul that renders it more akin to Godflesh or Author & Punisher. The other, Uniform’s take on “Vortex”, isn’t quite as essential but offers a more faithful contrast to the Silent Servant remix of the same song directly preceding it.
Hackles would have no doubt been raised if Carpenter handed over one of his revered soundtrack works for remix consumption, but I don’t see a lot of handwringing going down over this fairly recent – so ahistoric, relatively speaking – batch of material getting the reinterpretation treatment. And with indie label Sacred Bones behind the project, fans are ensured of top notch talent, even if it turns out to be the more unheralded ones that make the biggest splash.