Sunday, 23 October 2016

Giallo fever: part 3

Title: Uccidete il vitello grasso e arrostitelo (Kill the fatted calf and roast it)
Year: 1970
Composer: Ennio Morricone

With a title like Kill the fatted calf and roast it, my first instinct is that the film has to be a giallo. However after reading the synopsis, I’m not really that sure. It’s about a man who starts to develop an obsession towards his own sister. The score by Ennio Morricone is released as a part of Digitmovies record label’s original giallo series so that’s why I’m reviewing it as a giallo score.

The film’s title will probably cause associations of different kinds of what the music will sound like. Surprisingly the easiest way I could describe the music for this film is ‘Baroque pop’. The instrumental choices including flutes, recorders and an organ, and how they’re used bring to mind certain Bach compositions. The pop side on the other hand is enforced by the constant appearance of a drum kit and bouncy basslines. The combination sounds weird on paper but once more Morricone’s sense of style and attention to detail make it shine.

A case in point is the opening track Lungo la stradina which surprisingly isn’t the track used during the opening titles. Nevertheless it introduces all the previously mentioned elements and adds even a very classical sounding trumpet solo to the mix. Some listeners might found the track’s cheerful nature irritating but I think it’s a perfect start to the weird and varied album. The flute melody receives another version in Echi del ‘700 where a solo flute is joined by a ticking metronome which gives the cue a rehearsal-like feel.

Where the opening created a thick pattern of different instrumental colours, they are stripped off almost to bare minimum in the following piece Ai confini della follia. It’s a very simple, melancholic composition for solo piano that repeats slightly variating phrases that are interrupted by a single recorder phrase and strumming harpsichord chords. That recorder phrase is transformed into a Baroque pop piece in Ricordi tanti fiori where it is joined by a second flute that continues the melody creating a short moment of fugal development. Though both of these pieces are very simple and repeat their melodic core over and over, there is still something fascinating about the small added details that appear on each repeat.

The main title track Uccidete il vitello grasso consists of short, seemingly random rhythmic stabs over a religious organ line that is interrupted by an unexpected harpsichord before repeating the loop. La fredda lama del coltello is built much in the same vain though it’s much more aggressive and the harmonies get more unconventional. This time the interruptions are made with the organ and piano which feel much more threatening. Also the recorder melody receives an aggressive variation in Scivolando nel buio with a childlike solo vocal performance by Edda dell’Orso. The track is just one chord repeated endlessly on top of which the organ is improvising rather menacingly and occasionally twanging electric guitar makes an appearance. Unfortunately in this track the repetition gets a bit too tiresome and the track is the album’s most challenging part to enjoy.

But what saves the album besides the opening track for me is absolutely Ai confini della follia (versione 2) which is nothing like the first version. It’s another one of Morricone’s long suspense tracks that some might pass because it’s maybe too difficult a listen. However this time Morricone has outdone himself with style. The instruments featured heavily are solo clarinet and flute that are played in a fashion that reminds me of nocturnal animal noises. After 5-minute mark piano, harpsichord, harp and vibraphone come in with the eerie solo organ that sometimes doesn’t even sound like an organ but an electronic effect of some sort. The whole track is extremely creepy and I’m anxiously waiting for some kind of resolution to happen at any moment but it never comes until… BRAAAWWW!!! This has to be the precursor to The Horn of Doom which composer Hans Zimmer launched with his score to Inception. However Maestro Morricone beat him with 40 years. And after that genuine moment of shock we just return back to the uneasiness of the previous 7 minutes. Brilliant stuff!

What may be the problem for many listeners of this score is that every track is assembled as a loop. I personally don’t mind the repetition except for track number 8. This score is once again highly unique and I really can’t name any other score in my collection that sounds like it. However you might want to get familiar with some other Morricone scores before giving this one a spin.

Rating: ****

1. Lungo la stradina (03:03) *****
2. Ai confini della follia (04:41) ****
3. Uccidete il vitello grasso (Titoli) (02:21) ***
4. Ricordi tanti fiori (03:30) ****
5. Ai confini della follia (versione 2) (10:26) *****
6. La fredda lama del coltello (02:12) *****
7. Echi del '700 (01:33) ****
8. Scivolando nel buio (05:20) ***
9. Lungo la stradina (versione 2) (02:46) *****
10. Ricordi tanti fiori (versione 2) (03:25) ****

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