Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Jackie Brown OST – Various Artists [#645]

Jackie_Brown_album.jpgIn 1994, I went to the Liverpool ABC cinema in Lime Street to kill a couple of hours I had spare. As I took my seat in the empty theatre, little did I know that I was about to be subjected to an amazing rollercoaster of a film. Pulp Fiction hit me like a train. To me, this was a new style of film, a new director to follow and a soundtrack that would fill that period of my life with music. So when Tarantino’s followup was the 1997 film, Jackie Brown, I was hoping that it too would renew the tarnished soundscape of my life.

By this time I was working long hours in Bootle so trips to the cinema seemed like a luxury reserved for films that had to be seen on the big screen like Star Wars. All other films, especially those which we were uncertain about, were relegated to the cheaper hire from the video shop. Despite being a video rental, Jackie Brown didn’t disappoint.

Quite often with music, it’s easy to hope that the blow away of the previous success will continue to fill one’s sails with uplifting wind and it’s sometimes the case that we disregard those works that follow as “not as good as the previous”. Take Air’s Moon Safari or Portishead’s Dummy for example, both are much more successful than their later releases because perhaps, they were seen as groundbreaking.  I think the same is true of film and that a person’s personal perception and appreciation will change depending on their tastes.

That said, the soundtrack to Jackie Brown is as vastly different to Pulp Fiction as a cake is to bread but still holds its own. A lot more soul and country compared to Pulp Fiction‘s surf guitar filled selection but still a really good selection of tracks and, like the film, at a totally different pace.

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Ipcress File – John Barry [#642]

If you’re one of those people who only engage with media that is no older than twenty years old, then not only are you deluding yourself, but you are missing out on a whole trove of cinema, music and literature. One such diamond in this trove is the 1965 film Ipcress File the soundtrack for which is today’s entry in the project.

The Ipcress File is pretty much how James Bond would be if he was real. Lots of form filling, shit salary and offices that have seen better days. The film follows the adventure of Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer character who is caught up in a bit of cold war era espionage involving the reprogramming of prominent scientists through sinister mind washing techniques employed by Soviet-era bad guys. There are more twists, turns and double-crosses in this film than a box of headphone cables.

The iconic music, also a diamond musically, has been sampled to death over the years by bands like Portishead and makes heavy and distinctive use of an instrument known as a Cimbalom.

The soundtrack was one of the first albums I bought through the new iTunes store back in the noughties. However, as I didn’t have a portable device capable of playing Apple’s proprietary music files, I could only listen when at my computer. This was, of course, in the time when computers where huge things that sat on your desk and not the candy bar sized multimedia devices of today. But when you see the film and the size of computers in 1965, you’ll be grateful you don’t have to cart one of those around if you want to make a phone call.

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In the Name of the Father (OST) – Various Artists [#628]

 

Unknown-3.jpegThe soundtrack for the 1993 film In the Name of the Father about the Guildford pub bombings of 1974.

While the film is an often harrowing study on injustice, political corruption and false convictions, the soundtrack is nothing that special. Bono, Sinead O Connor, Gavin Friday, The Kinks and Thin Lizzy (naturally with their Whisky in the Jar) give the whole set the geographical soundscape for the period piece, Bono and O’ Connor  for the Irish connection and The Kinks and Thin Lizzy to set the time.

I think around that time in the nineties there was a strong swell in Irish pop and rock surfing on the crest of which was Bono on his U2 surfboard and it seemed like any TV show or film with a vague Irish link would have featured either a song by U2 or Sinead O’ Connor.

Mrs Gnomepants v1.0 was very fond of the film and requested that I obtain the soundtrack during the Great Internet  Free For All of the early to mid noughties.

 

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Go: Music from the Motion Picture – Various Artists [#529]

Go_1999_filmGo is one of those films that tried to capture the zeitgeist of the innovation created by Tarrantino’s Pulp Fiction. Three entwined stories about young people involved in a drugs deal.
While not a fan of the movie as such, I appreciate the stylistic  90’s celluloid portmanteau vibe, but I did like the soundtrack. Not only does Len’s enigmatic Steal My Sunshine feature, but so does Natalie Imbruglia, Fat Boy Slim’s Gangster Tripping  and Air’s Talisman (from their album Moon Safari) which, although mostly used to death in “teen” films of the time, do still get the toes-a-tapping.

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Gladiator: More Music from the Motion Picture – Lisa Gerrard & Hans Zimmer [#525]

Gladiatorsoundtrack2Lisa Gerrard lends her voice to another Zimmer soundtrack. Honestly, if it wasn’t for her work with Dead Can Dance I’d probably have given up on Ms Gerrard’s caterwauling, although maybe that is a little harsh.

In case you’ve been living in a cellar for the past sixteen years, Gladiator is a film about a Roman general (Russell Crowe) reduced into slavery, seeking revenge on the guy  (Joaquin Phoenix) who murdered his father (Richard Harris). I’ve only seen Gladiator once, and to be quite honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by it. I suppose this was because, at the time, my head was buzzing still from the story of Spartacus and I felt that the Spartacus story would have been a better choice to make into a movie (again).

The movie was a box office smash (just check out the rather lengthy Wikipedia page) and the soundtrack won awards and brought Gerrard’s voice to the masses. So much so, the Original Soundtrack spawned today’s entry, which didn’t sell as many copies. Indeed, Gladiator: More Music reeks so much of over-milked cash cow, I’m surprised heaps of unsellable follow up merchandise such as Gladiator cook books and Build your own Forum kits didn’t pollute the shops.

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Ghosts of Oxford Street – Various Artists [#522]

Unknown-5 The soundtrack to Malcolm Maclaren’s Christmas film for Channel 4.

Like with the Kinks’ Return to Waterloo, I have an off-air recording of the film on VHS that I treasure. I’d even go as far to say it is one of the primary reasons that I still have a VHS tape recorder tucked away in the loft. Sure there are probably versions of this on Youtube or Vimeo, but they’ll only last as long as the copyright nazis allow them to stay up.

Home video taping is killing music.

That said, I did buy this (and still have it) on CD.

The film has Maclaren poncing around London’s Oxford Street at Christmas telling tales about the dark history of the world famous street of consumerism with each of the “ghosts” played (sung) by different artists. Tom Jones pulls off a great Gordon Selfridge while the Happy Mondays manage an excellent cover of the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive. While Sinead O’Connor, Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues remind us of the festive season with their  songs with a slightly Christmassy feel.

Because of the Christmas bias, it feels odd listening to the soundtrack out of season but it’s not impossible to do so. Skipping the four Christmas centric songs still allows the listener a good twenty minutes of interesting music. Even Ponchielli’s  Dance of the Hours (performed on the CD by the Academy of St Martin’s in the Field) isn’t too festive in feeling and is a really piece of driving Classical music.

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Ghostbusters OST – Various Artists [#518]

Ghostbusters soundtrack - various artistsThis is the soundtrack to the classic 1980s blockbusting movie Ghostbusters.

As a regular downloader from the alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.soundtrack newsgroup in the late noughties, I would frequently smugly mark for download the soundtracks for movies I’d always wanted but had been unable to obtain from crappy HMV or Virgin Megastores. One such prize was todays album.

I remember my brother taking me to see Ghostbusters in the Lime Street Odeon in Liverpool. I remember queuing up (in the cold) for hours before the doors opened so that we would be some of the first in the theatre and be able to get the best seats. I remember being excited to rent the video when it became available, and I still remember the anticipation and thrill of being able to video record it off the telly when it was eventually shown over Christmas for the first time on network television.

I also remember the disappointment at being unable to find the soundtrack on CD, a dissipating disappointment when I located it on Usenet.

Classic 80s soundtrack for a classic 80s film. Not sure why they feel the need to “reboot” it.

 

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From the Sea to the Land Beyond – British Sea Power [#502]

Sea-to-the-land-beyondRegular music project visitors, British Sea Power, return today with their 2013 release, From the Sea to the Land Beyond.

The album is actually a soundtrack for Penny Woolcock’s film  From the Sea to the Land Beyond shown originally on BBC 4. The film is a showreel of archive footage from the BFI showing coastal life and activities through the ages accompanied by the unique salt encrusted rusty sound of British Sea Power.

Reworking their own material to provide haunting instrumentals, British Sea Power did an amazing job. I like to play guess the original song when listening to this album. For example Track 2 and the overarching theme throughout the album, Remarkable Diving Feat is a reworking of Waving Flags from Do You Like Rock Music 

This is by far my most favourite album/soundtrack of the decade. You could listen to this album while watching any archive cine or super 8 material and not feel it was out of place. It really works.

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Forrest Gump: OST – Various Artists [#492]

Low_res_cover_Forrest_GumpI was never a fan of Tom Hank’s lumbering buffoon Forrest Gump. The film was a little too whimsical for my liking but I felt that the soundtrack was well researched and included a good few classic popular songs from the period of history in which the film is set.

A nice compilation of tracks featuring classic songs from the sixties by The Byrds, Beach Boys, The Doors and Dylan.

 

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Flash Gordon OST – Queen [#480]

220px-Queen_Flash_GordonIt’s thirty five years old and still a fantastic film. I must have seen the film more times than I can count to such an extent I often find myself finishing people’s lines and quoting bits for ages.

So it’s no surprise that I have the soundtrack in my music collection. However, I’m not a Queen fan. Freddie Mercury et al did nothing for me musically with perhaps the exception of Love Kills in Moroder’s Metropolis and though Bohemian Rhapsody has its place in music history, Queen’s other output just does not feature in my collection. At school it was the rougher types that liked Queen, the Paul Midgleys and Nick Gosneys of the world who’s fathers subjected them to Queen’s greatest hits on every car journey in their Ford Sierras.  My dad played Glen Miller while my elder brothers force fed me prog and new romance from a very early age but never Queen.

Flash Gordon is a piece of its time. It should remain so and deserves no remakes or reimagining. Whedon and Abrams had better keep their mits off it. The soundtrack, like the film, remains firmly stuck in the eighties psyche like a can of Quattro and tub of Lyons Maid ice cream.

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Dune – OST [#401]

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 20.20.28The beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year 2015, and I’m still only a hundred albums shy of being a third of the way through this music project.

Dune is a very special film and soundtrack for me. My oldest brother used to scoff that I couldn’t possibly have understood the concepts dealt with by the film, especially as Lynch’s version was edited to bits. The weird thing is, I got Lynch from a very early age. In fact, I got Dune on a deeper level through the film than I ever did with the novel. I think Lynch did a bloody good job making a sci-fi snob’s book accessible to many people.

My oldest brother repeatedly tried to “explain” his interpretation of the novel to me, but he had no need as I already understood what the author was trying to say. I understood the hidden depths, the concept of the Kwisatz Haderach, the Fremen and what the spice really was. Even the trope of the sandworms.

The film is also important to me because of how the music actually makes a good accompaniment in the way that Queen’s soundtrack to Flash Gordon makes Flash Gordon what it is. Toto do an outstanding job of the soundtrack especially considering their only other significant contribution to the soundtrack of my life is their hit song Africa and Brian Eno’s atmospherics also add to the whole parcel of the film.

Soundtracks for Lynch’s films appear several times in this music project but if asked to save one from deletion it would definitely be the soundtrack for Dune. A film that still sends shivers down my spine and, in some respects, seen by many as a premonition/allegory/parable for the events in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East as we live right now and, I believe, has been since it was written.

 

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Donnie Darko – OST [#384]

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 14.28.54I missed Donnie Darko on the cinema. First time I knew of its existence was when I saw it on the shelf in the Rialto News video library on Upper Parliament Street looking unloved.

Watching the film had me transfixed in a way a film hadn’t had me transfixed since Lost Highway. Here was a film that was so intricate that one viewing would not suffice. Several viewings would be needed and so, as it should be, I nipped into HMV and treated myself to a copy of the film on DVD. I went round telling people that this film was one they should watch and digest, a suggestion that was met with the usual dismissive shrug.

Since then, the film had an almost viral spread. Months would pass and the people I suggested the film to would say to me “Hey, have you ever seen Donnie Darko?” excited by the prospect that they may have seen something enlightening that would appeal to me before me. Then people started talking about it in the mainstream press, on the mainstream television, even a song from the soundtrack, the Michael Andrews version of Tears for Fears’ Mad World reached number 1 in the UK.

The film, previously a slightly unknown cult movie, was rereleased to capitalise on its growing success with a Director’s cut. Unfortunately, the directors cut didn’t add anything to the original apart from time. In fact it watered the content down if anything. Made it easier to digest and over explained bits that didn’t need explaining. Then there was the sequel,  S.Darko but we don’t talk about that. In fact, let’s not even admit to it existing…

Still, like all good capitalists the owners of the film rights released an extended version of the soundtrack too and today’s album is that very same. The soundtrack features a number of popular contemporary songs from the time in which the film is set interwoven with nice hauntological piano led intermissions. The original soundtrack release featured less of the plinky plonky and focussed more on the atmospherics and contemporary sounds than this version. Still good though.

 

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Dirty Dancing – OST [#372]

DIRTY+DANCINGDirty Dancing – OST

Hello again. It’s Steelrattus here with the first of seven consecutive guest posts. This time around I am helping Stegzy out for a whole week, so I have essentially got whatever seven albums are scheduled for this week. So this is why I’m utterly blameless for the first of these posts.

The Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I’m not sure I have ever seen the film. In fact my only real memory of the film is my sister being a huge fan back when it must have been at the cinema in 1987, and subsequently home cinema. But in the interests of… science (and blogging) I have forced myself to listen to the soundtrack. For review purposes I appear to have the 20th Anniversary Edition of the soundtrack, which is twenty seven tracks versus the 1987 original edition’s twelve, to add insult to injury. So the beers that Stegzy owes me have just increased I feel. By an order of magnitude.

The soundtrack itself appears to be a mix of 1950/60s rock and roll, reflecting the 60s setting of the film, and 80s power ballads. I don’t mind the 1950/60s tracks so much, but the 80s stuff doesn’t do so much for me. Listening to the album it all tends to bleed together. And that’s about all I’ve got to say about the music.

For fact fans, apparently the original 1987 soundtrack was a huge success, sold 32 million copies worldwide, and is one of the best-selling albums of all time, proving there is no God. Apparently it spent 18 weeks at number one in the US Billboard chart. Its performance spawned a follow-up called More Dirty Dancing in 1988. Ultimate Dirty Dancing was released in and contains every song in the order played in the film (great for OCD nuts like me… well it would be if I would ever listen to it. Which I won’t. Ever). It transpires that the version I’ve listened to, the 20th Anniversary Edition (unsurprisingly released in 2007), contains remastered and additional tracks in a different order. *shrugs*

Anywhere, here’s the obligatory YouTube video, of what is presumably the most popular track.

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Darkman: OST – Danny Elfman [#339]

440px-DarkmansoundtrackBack in the 1990s movie studios saw, from the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, that superhero movies worked and were popular. The race was on to find the next big thing. Would it be Tank Girl? Would it be Phantom? Would it be Swamp Thing? Or would it be Darkman?

Sam Raimi, unable to secure the rights to make his own version of Batman or The Shadow, went off and did what anyone else would do and created his own superhero. The Darkman tells the tale of a talented scientist who, while working on a synthetic polymer skin, is attacked by thugs, burnt, disfigured and left for dead forcing the scientist to go forth and seek revenge and administer justice.  The film was released in 1990 and stars Liam Neeson as the scientist Peyton Westlake alongside Frances McDormand and Larry Drake. I loved the film. It was one of the last films I went to see at the Liverpool Lime Street Canon Cinema.

Composer of the moment, Danny Elfman, who seems to have spent most of the 1990s writing soundtracks for films about superheroes or people with scissors for hands,  works wonders with his talents. It’s not quite Batman but has essences of Batman tonally. It probably influenced Elfman’s other works such as Spiderman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but this is not a bad thing. Instead it shows us how composers have themes that reemerge throughout their work kind of like a signature and if you can detect it you can have a cookie.

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Continental Circus – Gong [#307]

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 14.59.40This album is the soundtrack to a film about a motorcycle racer. The greatest private rider in the world.

The film Continental Circus (1972) is a kind of documentary about motorcycle racing across Europe at a time before sponsorship money and safety took hold. It’s a bit like the motorcycling version of Rush with real life sports people rather than actors and motorbikes over F1 cars.  Jack Findlay talks about the sport, how it affects the mind and body.

The soundtrack is by French progsters and previous entrants in the music project, Gong, whose founder, Daevid Allen, died last month. This is possibly my most favourite of all Gong albums. It’s a proper driving album for driving long journey’s on wet late nights when there’s nothing good on Radio 4.

The film is difficult to get hold of though I have a copy if anyone wants one. Alternatively, there are versions on Youtube and via Amazon for those wanting a quicker access to it.

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Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy Soundtracks – John Powell (#213 & #214)

Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy Soundtracks by John Powell

Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy SoundtracksGripping drama needs a gripping soundtrack. From what was a promising start to a trilogy (that now seems to be developing into a larger multifilm series) comes John Powell’s tense soundtrack.

I think the composer did very well to capture the various nuances of the film with these soundtracks and it often drowns out the dialogue in the film. However, this is forgivable for without the soundtrack the excitement wouldn’t build as well as it did. Take track 3 of the first album, Treadstone Assassins; it definitely builds the tension, adds a little bit of “here comes a film that can even have it’s own spin-off TV series” and tickles the auditory senses with “wow, bet you didn’t expect that”.

Furthermore, the cold wet European locations used in the film are also depicted aurally in these soundtracks. Powell is definitely a composer to look out for.  Maybe not akin to John Williams or Danny Elfman, but certainly on the same bus….

Here I’d usually include a youtube video relating to the albums but it appears that the Youtube Copyright Nazis have been blocking access to most of the best ones. I really don’t know why copyright holders (like SONY) are such blanket fascists when it comes to digital media. I guess you’ll just have to watch the film….

 

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Black Hole – Original Soundtrack (#194)

Black Hole - SoundtrackBlack Hole – Original Soundtrack

The soundtrack to my  favourite childhood film as composed and performed by John Barry.

This is a strange piece of work. It’s very militaristic in many respects. All trumpets and snare drums. But it works well alone or with the film in its original setting.

The first track, the overture, is a bit cringe making but once that’s out of the way you’ve got the music from the film in its orchestral splendour.

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Album #82 – Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks – Brian Eno

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 16.28.45 Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks – Brian Eno

Ah coffee table albums. Bit like coffee table books. The kind of music brought out at middle class dinner parties to wow and seem hip and in touch with culture.

It’s mostly bollocks.

Like me ,you’ve probably got several coffee table albums in your own personal collections. Such as David Grey, Buena Vista Social Club, War of the Worlds and anything by Adele. Brian Eno is the reigning emperor of coffee table music.

This album consists of music and soundscapes that wouldn’t be out of place in a chapel of eternal rest or that place they send off Edward G Robinson in Soylent Green. 

Not for me. It’s a little too hip for my liking and pigeon holes the listener into the 30+ bracket. Kind of like how your grandparents were probably listening to James Last around the gramophone.

Tired overplayed coffee table tosh.

 

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Music Project – Album #50 – Absolute Beginners (Soundtrack)

Absolute Beginners (Soundtrack)

Absolute Beginners is one of those films you’ve either seen or not. But nearly everyone knows the title tune as performed by David Bowie.

I saw the film many years ago, some time in the mid-nineties when it was already old. The young plastic surgery free Patsy Kensit looking very tasty, the fresh faced Eddie O’Connell acting his socks off and even a bit part for good old Lionel “Give us a Clue” Blair. All mixed together by jazz and soul with a light dressing of British humour. It was no wonder it was a flop.

With artists such as Sade, The Style Council and even British stalwald Ray Davies popping up, the soundtrack is a rather good old toe tapper.

Whenever I listen to it I’m immediately transported back to my vane efforts to restylise myself as an independent batchelor in my crumby bedsit in the Wavertree suburbs of Liverpool.

I didn’t grow a soul patch. Nor did I start poncing around in berets and lounge about looking moody. So I guess I got off lightly.

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Music Project–Album #44–A Thousand Roads–Lisa Gerrard & Jeff Rona

imageA Thousand Roads by Lisa Gerrard & Jeff Rona

A Thousand Roads is a film by Chris Eyre released in 2005. This is the soundtrack for it.

I’m very fond of soundtracks and there are many in my collection. Mostly they are of films that I have seen but this is one of 2 film soundtracks of films I’ve not seen.

I’m also very fond of Lisa Gerrard’s music including Dead Can Dance (but more about them in a later post).

So there’s two things: Lisa Gerrard and Soundtracks. What more could I want? Well there is a third thing. World music. I first got into World Music as a teenager when I was taken on a school trip to see the Gamelan at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. Initially I was resistant but an hour into the performance I began to recognise repetitions, subtleties and changes in rhythm which none of my classmates seemed to appreciate. On the back of that experience I embraced World Music and, over the years, have collected some interesting music (again, more of that in a later post).

A Thousand Roads is a lovely mix of etherical wailing, tribal chants and haunting synths. A rare treat for travellers and explorers of the musical soundscape.

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Music Project – Album #19 – 2001: A Space Odyssey – Original Soundtrack

2001: A Space Odyssey – Various Artists (Original Soundtrack)

As a child I thought 2001 was boring. Too much talk. Not enough lasers or explosions. And what was that thing about the huge slabs of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk in space about? And why was Rigsby talking with a Russian accent? But hey! Look at all that cool stuff we’ll have in 2001! Holidays in space, floaty pens and Commodore 64s will have huge red lights and be able to kill you. Wow.

As a twenty something, 2001 became the wall paper for mind experiments. Mostly to do with the weird bits at the end. A chap I knew edited the weird trippy hyperspace sequence at the end into a 3 hour stoner flick complete with far out music. Suffice to say, his place was popular with hippies and tourists of the ether on a Friday night after the pubs had closed.

The soundtrack for 2001 is a mix of familiar classical Strauss waltzes interspersed with more unusual Modernist works by Gyorgy Ligeti. Ligeti, you might recall, is a progenitor of the atmospheric style of music. Eerie chanting choirs (they chant “Eeee” and nothing more) are part of the course with Ligeti and sections of his Requiem provide further feelings of unease and suspense. It’s amazing what music can do isn’t it? Some might think of six minutes of people going “eeeeee” discordantly would be torture, while others listen through the surface and deep below feeling the pulses and rhythms on an almost synesthesic level.

On reflection I seem to recall one of my brothers having the 2001 soundtrack when I was a child. I’m certain my mum insisted that he did not play the album when I was around as it might be too scary. It probably was, but I’m sure the continuous playing during my early years, altered my mind on some level, meaning I can appreciate atmospheric, true industrial, noise and rhythmic genres on a significantly different level.

Or perhaps has given me the ability to spout shite.

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