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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

John Carpenter - Assault on Precinct 13 (OST) [Death Waltz Recordings - 2013]

For many years this soundtrack was one of the great lost works of John Carpenter's early, edgy & influential synth soundtracks. It got itís first release in 2003 as purely a vinyl edition on French label Record Matters, but then in 2013 it got a full & highly deserved  multi format reissue on ukís Death Waltz Recordings- appearing in two separate vinyl version, a cassette version, and a CD version( this is the one Iím reviewing).

The CD version of the soundtrack comes in fold out matt gloss three card gatefold- with the CD rather neatly attached  to a pop out arm. The inside gatefold takes in a series of grainy & gritty stills from the movie, along with a short write-up from Mr Carpenter about the soundtracks production. Iíve not seen the other editions of the reissue, but according to Death Waltz Recordings site, they come as thus: 1st vinyl edition -180 gm vinyl pressed on vanilla vinyl housed in a heavyweight gatefold casebound tip on Jacket featuring spot UV varnish. Includes an 8 page fold out booklet and poster.  2nd vinyl edition- 180 gm vinyl pressed on bloody red & Vanilla swirl vinyl housed also  in a heavyweight gatefold casebound tip on Jacket featuring spot UV varnish.  Also Including an 8 page fold out booklet and poster. Cassette version- thereís no longer any mention of this on the companies site, so Iím guessing itís now out of print.

Assault on Precinct 13 was John Carpenter's second film,  and it appeared in 1976. The plot revolved around the lone inhabitants of an abandoned LA police station, been under attack by the overwhelming number of a seemingly unstoppable street gang members.  The film was a great example of an edgy 1970ís action thriller, and the mainly stark & minimal synth Ďní stripped beats vibe of the soundtrack helps heighten both the tension & edge of the film.

Carpenter wrote the soundtrack in just three days, and then recorded it with Tommy Lee Wallace. The soundtrackís 16 tracks were mainly created with a mix of several banks of synthesizers & a drum machine- the equipment used to create the soundtrack was borrowed from Dan Wyman(who was an electronic music teacher at USC). As they used old synth & electronics,  it apparently took along time to both change & create sounds, and you can certainly hear the frustration & stark-ness of the equipment through-out the soundtrack, and this adds that nice prominent feeling of urbane tension to the proceedings.  The soundtracks main theme was apparently  influenced by a mixture of Lalo Schifrin's taut & edgy soundtrack for the first Dirty Harry film, and Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song". Itís based around a repetitive pop synthesizer riff that is underfed by a bleak & stark drum machine beat. 

The rest of the soundtrack switchers between varations on the main theme, and more stretched out through still taut synth themes. And we also get a few tracks that dwell in more dusky & moody organ dwells, which give some release to the tension of the whole thing. The whole soundtrack is very simply composed & executed, but that really is part of itís taut & edgy charm.

All told itís great to have this splendid example of Mr Carpenters early sythn sound tracking back in print, and really this is a must have item for anyone who enjoys edgy & atmosphric 70ís to 80ís electronic music.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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