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Jonathan Snipes/William Hutson - Room 237 Soundtrack (2014) review

Jonathan Snipes/William Hutson "Room 237 Soundtrack" (Death Waltz Recording Co., 2014)

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review there’re just a few things that I’d like to point out.  By this point most people are aware of the amazing quality of Death Waltz Recording Companies’ releases; they’re literally the shinning pinnacle of the reissue market for many people, rivaled only in most minds by Mondo, who Death Waltz recently joined in a partnership with actually.  Death Waltz’s immaculately designed LP sleeves weight more than the heavyweight LPs they contain, they’re thick, sturdy, and well designed, plus the music always sounds amazing.  Not only does Death Waltz knock it out of the park with Room 237 with the best packaging I’ve seen in a long time, anyone checked out the pop-up CD version!?!  But they did something that I’m not aware of hardly anyone doing anymore - they released the complete soundtrack to Room 237 on CD along with the 12” LP version!  I am a vinyl lover no doubt, there’s something about those big lovable black slabs that produces an experience that a CD could never rival, but you end up missing out on music with vinyl a lot of the time; it seems like there’s just never enough room for stuff on vinyl.  CDs allowed you to have plenty of room and with both mediums still prevalent as forms of release in the market place, I wish more companies would take the hint and put a CD version of the complete recordings with their selective 12” releases.  At double the tracks from the 12” the CD version of Room 237 is what we’re going to be talking about here.  The LP has a few alternate edits of music with different titles I believe, but the CD contains the complete score so that’s what I’m going to be concentrating on, don’t worry if you’re LP has a couple of songs with alternate titles or anything though, we’re listening to the same thing!  The sprawling ambient soundscape that opens up like the gaping maw of a yawning giant begins “Recourse To Eagles” effectively kicking off Room 237 with a slowly building avant-garde piece of minimalist horror that rivals anything produced by the great ‘Giallo’ masters or American soundtrack composers of the 70s and 80s like John Carpenter, Brad Fiedel, or Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave.  “To Keep From Falling Off” follows up “Recourse To Eagles” with an epic sense of grandeur and wonder, exploding into an all out “Tubular Bells” meets the Phantasm theme clash of bells and sweeping synthesized melodies as a shimmering glitter of fuzzy looped distortion fades into the third track “Escape Pod” with ease.  Sparse percussion crashes into the landscape like meteors hurtled from space, decimating the blistered surface of the battered earth, scorched pits of echo and reverberation carrying the explosions across the barren landscape like shotgun blasts.  The sythns snake about in the background for a while before tearing through the veil of the cosmos to peak their serpentine heads out in the form of shuttering piercing wails, undulating and growing before fading into the recesses of dark matter and sound that epitomize the sounds of Room 237.  “Minotaur” takes the energy up a little bit, tightly programmed intertwining rhythms appear one by one to create a complex arrangement which sounds like it was designed to drive the listener out of their mind minute by minute.  “Minotaur” seriously sounds like the soundtrack of mental illness to me, it’s what I imagine it sounds like as an anxious madman journeys his way through the labyrinths of his own insanity.  There’s something about “Minotaur” that seems like it could have just as easily popped up in a gritty cop film or intense thriller as a horror film, making it a little bit of a standout track for me, illustrating the diverse and varied nature of Hutson and Snipes writing abilities.  “Barry Lyndon Is A Boring Movie” pulls things back again, tightening the sounds to an almost mere whisper to start with, rising choral chants pierced by sting after sting of bells and strings.  The haunting melody that emerges about half way into “Barry Lyndon Is A Boring Movie” is what I love so much about it though; muted moans and cries, a sweet whisper of nothings echoing across a dissonant electronic world, flutes rasping the melody of the wind before being driven back again by the dissonant sci-fi synthesizers that, in the end, join forces and explode in a absolute supernova of sound.  Barry Lyndon may be a boring movie but the song sure as hell isn’t!  It feels like a heavy helping of Fabio Frizzi and I freaking love it.  “Suite 3” is another one of the pieces on Room 237 that just sounds like bottled crazy.  I don’t know how it’s possible to distill the essence of the unnerving nature of horror films like this, how you can boil it down to such a simple base and contain the unfettered madness therein in such a deceptively simply container, but “Suite 3” is a great example of just that.  Brash and atonal “Suite 3” paves the way for “Universal Weak Male” which recalls the tense gritty sounds of “Minotaur” once more bringing an intense energy that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Beginning with slow stabs and building to a full on crescendo, live drums play a large role in “Universal Weak Male” for the first time on Room 237, adding another layer to the sound and creating a seeming evolution and growth to the music.  “Ignorance Of Visual Information” clocks in at only a little over two-minutes, and a good portion of that is spent on a long, expansive fade-in that draws several different elements from the ether and casts them together into the witch’s cauldron of Hutson and Snipes’ composition concoction.  Dying with a mellow almost Fairlight sound that finally completely emerges before retreating once more into nothingness “Ignorance Of Visual Information” comes to a fitting close giving way to “They Didn’t Need To Do That” which builds from a single piercing sting of chords, the drums slowly growing beneath the calm glassy surface of sound until the erupt like a lycanthrope in transformation, fingers becoming claws, a twisted smile warping to a predatory smile of razor blades and hate.  “They Didn’t Need To Do That” is definitely one of my favorite tracks on Room 237, long enough to build and grow like a mad scientist’s creation, but also contained in a completely approachable package good for listening in the car or the house of those cold, dark lonely midnights while burying those pesky bodies beneath the floorboards.  “Moon Landing” is distinctly less sci-fi sounding than the name would imply and instead recalls the soft moaning aesthetic and samples that helped to craft “Barry Lyndon Is A Boring Movie”.  The flutes are darker this time, the whir and whine of electronics sparser and more erratic somehow, the choral melodies are now emphatic and needy, infected and twisted by the sinister sounds of “Moon Landing”.  The power with which the guitars erupt on “Moon Landing” is hard to describe, but by the time the song moves towards it’s inevitable conclusion I can honestly say that you feel like you’re in zero gravity, floating almost completely weightless in the abyss of your own mind; I think this is what Gravity was supposed to be like…  My preoccupation and growing obsession for synthesizers at this point started when I saw Phantasm in high school with the team of Myrow/Seagrave, so when I hear people like William Hutson or Jonathan Snipes so effortlessly recall the devastatingly effective sparse and haunting sounds of that score it seriously pulls me in.  But to hear someone team that influence with their own prowess and interests is almost unheard of in my eyes and ears!  “Everything In Focus” sounds like it could have easily been left off of the original Phantasm soundtrack, a lost theme for Jody, Mike, or Reggie.  It’s absolutely the best track on Room 237, showcasing not only the mesmerizing themes of the soundtrack, but also some of the best distortion loops I’ve heard in a long time, not to mention Snipes’ penchant for offhandedly quoting the aesthetic and emotion of both the American and Euro soundtrack scenes in a single breath.  As much for fans of Morricone, Frizzi, or Cipriani as for Carpenter, Fiedel and Seagrave junkies Room 237 earns its place on the shelf of just about any soundtrack/ambient/avant-garde music lover’s shelf and “Everything In Focus” boils down to a three minute gut punch of why, simply put “Everything In Focus” is a perfect example of why Room 237 will decimate your mind if you’ve not heard it before.  “People Look Like Giants” is a timeless song, it doesn’t sound so much like it was pulled from the 80s as it was pulled from the ages.  The playful jibe and skip of the song teamed with the waves of distortion that sound like the tide coming in on an isolated beach, the sun gently setting in the distance.  It somehow recalls the sense of naïve joy and wonder of childhood for me.  I can see tranquil warm tendrils of light peaking through amber hued pines as they touch my face, dancing like a newborn across excited skin, I can smell the earthen terra beneath my feet, taste the warm breeze as it brushes past my body, disappearing like an ethereal specter into the woods, until finally, you can see something out of the corner of your eye, something dark and ominous, something indefinably horrible and nightmarish…  Something “This Deeper Story” way comes!  The despotic harsh clamor of noise that is “This Deeper Story” bubbles and boils, spitting bits and pieces of unutterably foul smelling meat and flesh into your face, sinister noise dripping like gore from your face before giving way to “Dies Irae” the final track on Room 237.  I have to admit I’m not a big fan of vocoders and when I first heard “Dies Irae” I wasn’t sure what to make of it until a few minutes in it completely Goblin-ed out.  After about a minute and a half there’s a level of insane funk that just explodes from the foreboding sounds that open “Dies Irae” and it’s as good as primetime Goblin or Can for me, which is something I can’t say that about a lot of bands.  The understated guitars seamlessly blend and melt into the synths and drums, the beat doesn’t let up for a second and you can’t help but bop your head up and down as “Dies Irae” builds and grows.  It’s a perfect way to end a soundtrack with such a varied and epic scope which still somehow manages to remain firmly planted in the musical ideals of a genre without falling victim to the clichés or the trappings of the genre.  Released in 2013, just before the recent horror soundtrack boom, I feel like Room 237 has kind of gotten the raw end of the deal and gets unjustly ignored as the soundtrack to a documentary and not a horror movie after all.  And while I may not be as nuts about the film Room 237 as I am about Halloween or anything, any fan of the industrial, Giallo, minimalist horror synth music of the 70s and 80s should be picking this up, like yesterday.  With another release on the way from Snipes, the soundtrack to acclaimed horror film Starry Eyes on the way in 2015 from Waxwork you really should be listening to Room 237 as a way to get primed on Snipes work, because we’re going to be seeing a lot of this dude – take my word for it.  Mind you it’s just a gut feeling, but after you finish Room 237 I feel like you’ll agree…

Review made by Roman Rathert/2015
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