Sunday, 26 October 2014

Music Review: Craig Safan - Warning Sign

(Invada Records)

Safan is an American soundtrack composer with a long filmography that includes things such as 'A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master', 'The Last Starfighter' and the TV series 'Cheers' for which he provided all the original music except the theme.  Here though it's his electronic score for the ultra-obscure 1985 zombie movie 'Warning Sign' that concerns us.

I'm pretty sure you can take a fairly accurate guess from that date what this is going to sound like.  Recorded on the Synclavier synthesizer - the synth of choice for many 80s pop music stalwarts such as Sting, Genesis and Michael Jackson - 'Warning Sign' is awash with sounds that have been rendered utterly passé by overuse.  The polyphonic tones of the Synclavier though are rich and endearing and weighted with nostalgia and Safan manages for large parts of this soundtrack to conjure up and maintain some heavy, dramatic and occasionally melodramatic ambiences.  Sometimes they all come crashing down to earth with a (now) clichéd 'du du dum' noise but, as I said earlier, he's got a pedigree for this stuff and knows how to build and hold a mood.

I've had a copy of this sitting around for a little while now and, as is my way, I've tried it in different environments.  Of them all it proved to be most at home in my car.  The cinematic scale of the compositions and the depth of the Synclavier's tones means it's perfectly suited to motorway driving; particularly at night as it decorates the journey with cyberpunk textures. 

It is dated sounding and is lacking that certain spark that similar, and classic, soundtrack work of the same era such as 'Blade Runner' or some of John Carpenter's work has and as such I can't see it ever being more that a reasonably well thought of piece of cult ephemera but that's no bad thing.


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