Forbidden Planet - soundtrack (LP Poppy Disc)
Bubbling, frothing, humming with subdued echoes, those familiar eerie sounds instantly bring back memories of a sense of 'otherness' we used to get when watching old science fiction films on TV. Most films retained the heightened drama of an orchestral score but with 'Forbidden Planet' it was different and unique at the time. Here was a tale of another world (albeit based on Shakespeare's The Tempest') with a suitably other worldly soundtrack. What the hell was making those sounds? It wasn't a Theremin, it was something more alien that that.
Composers Louis and Bebe Barron were obsessed with tape recorders and electronics. They were outsiders. The world of music (and particularly the Musicians' Union) took umbrage but they kept at what they loved. They built they're own devices and tinkered with tapes in ways not known of before. They invented the idea of tape loops. As part of the art community of New York in the 1950s they ended up collaborating with John Cage and David Tudor. They had their own studio in Greenwich Village and even their own spoken word label, 'Contemporary Classics', releasing recordings by Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Tennessee Williamd and Aldous Huxley. All on red vinyl of course.
The album is the sound of diodes dying. Small things being pushed. Sounds evolving and crumbling sometimes into self destruction creating unfathomable sounds with their final breath. Like some sort of primitive gloop, A new life form emerges and stumbles into existence then dies away only to try again in another configuration.
Even to today's jaded and cynical ears, when we know hardware and software inside out, there's something about the early recordings that catches our ear. It's not necessarily nostalgia. It's more to do with the fact those early early composers were using a brand new medium for which there were no boundaries because no-one knew where the boundaries could possibly be. Potentially anything was possible. Nothing was refined; no moulds had yet been struck.
A fine example in early electronics, even though John Cage thought it 'disgustingly orchestral and musical.' Your loss, Cagey.
The label has cut no corners in presentation, with the front cover reproducing a picture from the original film poster, and even right down to the extravagantly full-colour labels it's an eye-popping release. Nicely pressed and a pleasure to hear on vinyl. HM