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Zombie Zombie – Play John Carpenter


Zombie Zombie Plays John CarpenterGiven a penchant for vintage analogue synthesis, Goblin and motorik drumming, and having named themselves after a Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer game, it is not only appropriate, but almost de rigueur, that Zombie Zombie should find themselves tackling the oeuvre of a key progenitor of electronic cinema soundtracks. John Carpenter‘s themes and incidental music for the groundbreaking low-budget and high-thrills genre movies was pioneering, and hugely influential on a generation of teenagers who probably came into contact with the form for the first time within the sparse soundscapes of the sort he composed to accompany his own distinct brand of muscular action, SF and horror films.

Certainly as far as the mainstream of US horror and science fiction films went in the late seventies and eighties, no-one was really foregrounding synth pulsations (as much as a modernist statement as to set the mood) in the way Carpenter did, and the main theme from Assault on Precinct 13 stands as a classic slice of  accompaniment to the tense scene in which the silent, mysterious assailants break in to steal the weapons with which they then lay violently relentless siege to the abandoned police station which forms the remainder of the plot, such as it is. As interpreted here by Cosmic Neman and Etienne Jaumet, with the aid of producer Joakim, the sinister fat bassline feels augmented rather than replicated; it’s something akin to a remix as much as it is a cover version, the tune expanding out in squelches and even chickawacka guitar, while Neman’s percussion, unwinds, drops out and then fills in spaces which Carpenter would never have needed to in the context of a soundtrack, the whole becoming single-mindedly engaging – even perhaps a little epic – along the way.

Equally recognizable to anyone who spent hours not being scared witless at all (definitely not, no) in front of video tape players or on annual TV viewings late into the night of 31 October is the Halloween theme, which here is beefed up, given a kick of disco groove riding on a steady kick beat and closed-hat trickle, the creepy tick of the keys whorling off into phased space as the drums drop down and funky. The Thing is given a touch of the Klaus Dinger treatment, drums coruscating and interweaving subtly among the vibrant synths this time, and somehow the sense of glacial alien dread becomes replaced by an almost majestic swirling electronic grandeur with which Klaus Schultze might be more than happy.

“The Bank Robbery” comes from the applicable scene in Escape From New York, and once again Carpenter’s prowling analogue modulations come in for the filtered discotheque treatment, shimmering onto the dancefloor as if Giorgio Moroder had recruited Snake Plissken to strut manfully under the strobes instead of  reluctantly serving the governmental conspiracy tropes which underscore that film and its sequel, Escape From LA. The latter’s bright motif sprinkles the throbbing  beats and arpeggiations well, and the low-end keyboard which drives the accellerating groove has all the spluttery liquidity to satisfy VCO fetishists everywhere. As the rhythmic throb motors into the inevitable decline and trailing twirl, it’s apparent that Zombie Zombie have done a cinematic and musical legend proud.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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