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Vol 1, Issue #10
"Stand By For Mars!"
October 2006
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The Thunder Child Soundtrack Reviews
by Ryan Brennan

A Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) was a science fiction writer whose work often centered on the nature of reality. A Scanner Darkly was one of those stories, written during a difficult time for the author as he struggled with his own drug use. This tale of an undercover drug agent living the life of a druggie while searching for the source of the hallucogenic, paranoia inducing Substance D, was released as a film earlier this year to generally outstanding critical reception but abysmal box office ($5,281,537).

A point conceded even by the film's detractors was its adherence to Dick's story and dialogue, something rarely, if ever, achieved in the numerous previouis film adaptations of his work like Bladerunner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, or Imposter. The rotoscope animation technique utilized by Austin director Richard Linklater, first introduced in his film Waking Life, added a dimension of unreality that buttressed the story's blurring of reality. Linklater's attempt at producing a cohesive druggie experience on film extended to his use of well known film stars with drug problems and to Graham Reynolds' music score.

It is tempting to suggest that Reynolds' music might best be appreciated by those listening in an altered state. That is because the score is so perfectly a hallucinatory musical experience. Eschewing traditional film music themes, Reynolds and The Golden Arm Trio (another drug reference) produce a melange of spacey, free floating tonalities that leave the listener suspended in space. Employing some techno-pop, jazz and industrial techniques, Reynolds' music makes a perfect accompaniment for the movie.

As a listening experience, however, only the most open-minded and experimentally inclined will enjoy the mixture of odd tonalities and instrumentation presented here. Strawberry Pie represents the only sustained theme on the album. It's a dreamy tune with a slight country western twang, its coda something of an homage to an early 1960s instrumental hit. It's highly reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti, composer of similarly dreamy and nightmarish music for David Lynch's cult TV hit Twin Peaks.

Sex, Beer and Pills is the creepy musical equivalent of a nightmare from which you can not wake. Bug-Bit Squared is a highly disconcerting and disturbing musical evocation of an insect critter. The last two cuts on the album are mixes, an attempt, it can be imagined, to provide something that might get radio or club play.

It should be noted that Linklater produced the album and recorded it in his homebase of Austin, Texas, increasingly a center for the discovery of new music.

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