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Baker's Dozen

Parallel Worlds: Peter Strickland's Favourite Albums
Colm McAuliffe , June 3rd, 2014 13:03

On the occasion of the Berberian Sound Studio and Katalin Varga director releasing Wasp Boutique, a collaboration between Art-Errorist and Zsolt Sőrés, on his record label, and with a new feature film on the way, he sits down with Colm McAuliffe to talk 13 formative favourites


Bruno Nicolai - A Virgin Among The Living Dead soundtrack
Listing one soundtrack will only open a can of worms. I'd have to do a Baker's Triple Dozen to adequately go through my favourite soundtracks. It goes without saying that I'd want to talk about (amongst many others) John Barry, Curtis Mayfield, Luboš Fišer, Zdeněk Liška and especially Ennio Morricone, but Bruno Nicolai's A Virgin Among The Living Dead deserves special mention not only because it's brilliant, but because both the soundtrack and Nicolai himself should be more well known. Nicolai is mostly known for conducting Morricone's soundtracks, which explains why his sound is so similar. On A Virgin Among The Living Dead he also enlists the help of the divine Edda Dell'Orso, whose vocals are almost synonymous with a large chunk of Morricone's work.

I only came across A Virgin Among the Living Dead in the last few years when looking for disreputable 70s Euro films in one of those 'eclectic' bookshops on the Charing Cross Road. This was round about the same time as reading the phenomenal book, Immoral Tales by Pete Tombs and Cathal Tohill, which I should have read years ago. I was familiar with Borowczyk and Rollin, but overlooked Franco. Maybe because of Vampyros Lesbos, I never took Jess Franco seriously, which is much to my regret. I've been trying to catch up over the last few years, but to get through the 200+ films he made seems more daunting than learning a language from scratch. For now, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is my favourite Franco film and in no part due to Nicolai's strange, discordant soundtrack. I'm not sure if it's a dulcimer, cimbalom or some other instrument being fragmented through tape delay at the beginning, but it's wonderfully other-worldly and evocative. There's a whole range of stuff from treated electronics to more romantic, yearning melodies with those Dell'Orso wordless sighs and vocals. It's as good as anything by Morricone, but sadly it still remains in the shadows.

In general, I can't quite comprehend how Italy produced so many consistently great composers. I can't think of any other country in recent memory that comes close. Morricone is the king, at least until he discovered panpipes in The Mission. But there are so many other great composers - Stelvio Cipriani, Claudio Gizzi, Nino Rota, Franco Battiato, Nicola Piovani, Riz Ortolani, Alessandro Alessandroni, Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Frizzi, Walter Rizzati. That's not even counting the avant-garde composers such as Luigi Nono. I started listening to Italian soundtracks in 1997 and still, there is so much more to discover. The really good soundtracks are completely anarchic, yet no matter how much avant-garde trickery is thrown into the mix, the music still maintains enough sensuality and mystery to work on a very instant level. Many of these soundtracks are still yet to be commercially available and I've ended up with quite a few overpriced and ropey bootlegs of Italian soundtracks recorded off the television, which I could've done myself if I'd known in advance.