25 Aug 2016

Oscillotron – Cataclysm / Orgasmo Sonore – Themes International

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

If the Death Waltz Recording Company are the undisputed kings of the horror soundtrack reissue biz, then Austria’s Cineploit must be their sister company in terms of contemporary artists producing new music in this field.

Two of the labels biggest hitters have new releases out to drive this point home, and for anyone new to the label, there are many fantastic places to delve in, with no better starting point than here.

First up is the second album from Sweden’s Oscillotron, AKA David Johansson (Kongh, Cult of Luna, Switchblade). You'd be right in thinking that they’re not names you’d normally see mentioned in these pages, but Oscillotron’s output is far from what you’d expect given Johansson’s day job as doom-metaller. Carrying over from Johansson’s other musical output is an oppressive doom-laden atmosphere which permeates everything here, as you’d only reasonably expect on an album called “Cataclysm”, especially one featuring an ominous image of a disintegrating planet on the sleeve.

And that sleeve couldn’t be more perfect to encapsulate the sound of this record, which is one brooding, terrifying album, but one with impeccable tunes that only very occasionally become a case of atmosphere over content. While the debut had a real Fabio Frizzi meets John Carpenter vibe, this followup is its even darker twin, showcasing an array of mellotrons and vintage synthesizers to marvellous effect. The end result suggests some sort of lost end-of-the-world soundtrack by the dream team-up of mid to late seventies Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre, although I’d be hard pressed to find anything as hair-raising as “Terminal” in either artist’s formidable repertoires.

This is certainly horror/sci-fi doom-synth at its finest.

Accompanying this release is the newest album from a favourite of ours here at the Active Listener, Orgasmo Sonore. The solo project of Quebec’s François Riendeau, previous Orgasmo Sonore releases have featured interpretations of Riendeau’s favourite giallo, eurohorror and Italian library tunes, but on this release he introduces us to his own compositions.

“Themes International” is the result of a challenge that Riendeau set himself. Riendeau selected 21 different cinematic themes and set himself the challenge of picking one randomly every two weeks. He’d then write and record a piece that evoked that theme within that limited timeframe. Something has obviously rubbed off during all of the time spent studying the masters, as the twelve highlights from this experiment collected on the album are masterful examples of how studious enthusiasm can help create fresh sounds in genres associated with a bygone age.

Aside from showcasing Riendeau’s impressive compositional skills (which I’d like to hear a lot more of on future releases), “Themes International” allows a much greater glimpse into his versatility, featuring everything from exotica to giallo to spaghetti western to krautrock to electro groove, without a misstep anywhere along the way.

Despite the wide array of styles covered here, “Themes International” fits together seamlessly as a listening experience, best taken as a whole rather than scoured for highlights. That being said, I particularly enjoyed the tongue in cheek track “Ennio Morricone” (each track is simply named after the theme being evoked) – fans of Morricone’s “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” will love this affectionate tribute.

Orgasmo Sonore’s releases are all highly recommended, but I’d start here. And the fabulous sleeve is the work of Active Listener contributor Eric Adrian Lee, which gives us some serious proud Dad fuzzies.

Available direct from the label on CD, and don't those vinyl pressings look amazing? "Cataclysm" can also be downloaded digitally or streamed through the Bandcamp link below, while all 21 tracks from the "Themes International" project are streamable through the Soundcloud link.

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