Sunday, 30 October 2016

Oh, the horror: part 4

Title: Drammi gotici (Gothic dramas)
Year: 1977
Composer: Ennio Morricone

Drammi gotici is a rare TV miniseries of 4 episodes that has since faded into obscurity. There’s almost no information found about the series but it includes all the good stuff for Halloween like vampires, witches and madmen, and hence is a great way to end my horror reviews for this year. The series managed to get a high class score by Maestro Morricone that is once again a dissonant and demanding listen with only a few moments of serene beauty that is still shrouded in darkness.

Each new episode opens with a ‘main title’ of sorts, an atonal string and choral cluster chord. It’s a nice little distinguishing feature nevertheless that brings some cohesion to the album. The opening Kaiserstrasse continues with a short moment of a carnival tune that is buried under a dose of strings and giggling choir members. La strada della follia introduces a melody that begins similarly to Morricone’s Ecstasy of gold but is a different piece altogether. It features innocent childlike voices that disappear as the piece progresses and leave only the accompanying harp notes playing in the empty space. The follow-up Follia nella strada is largely built around the same atonal chord style as the main title but this time it’s only performed by the strings. There’s also a moment for distorted church bells that lead to the full version of the carnival tune which is my single favourite moment on the album. By itself it would be extremely moving but considering the surrounding soundscape it becomes creepy. After a moment of dissonance Morricone introduces another beautiful piece Fuori della realtà this time for solo musicbox and occasional choral voices. Pioggia is actually a reused track from Morricone’s 1971 score to Veruschka and it features menacing tinkling instruments that surprisingly are featured also during some of the album’s later cues as well.

The second episode consists of very ‘Italian’ sounding tracks relying heavily on mandolin and guitar. They too have a dark twist to them because the melodies are completely atonal. The style is introduced right after the main title in Ma non è un vampiro with playful woodwinds, solo mandolin and ‘gipsy’ inspired violin solo. Suoni dissociati and E’una vampira develop the style to more dissonant and eerie direction even though the instrumental choices remain the same. Everything comes together in Il vampiro where the melodies get their simplest arrangements for only a few instruments. The odd piece out is Città ferita which begins with atonal acapella voices creating clusters that remind me of classical works of György Ligeti. Slowly instruments are added to the structure but the overall sound still remains otherworldly and alien.

The main title introduces the third episode in La casa delle streghe followed by some unsettling moments for viola solo and strings. The viola playing culminates in track 17 that is dedicated to Morricone’s longtime collaborator Dino Asciolla who performs the viola also in this score. The track is mostly very difficult to listen to and the solo viola and its atonal melodies can get quite irritating after a while and with the duration of 5.5 minutes the cue can be quite unbearable. Viole nella nebbia combines the viola solos to the tinkling material from Pioggia and even the atonal chords from the first episode to distant ghostly voices. Those voices are also included in the best suspense track Tra sospiri e lamenti where they’re accompanied only by the viola and echoing harp notes.

Diario di un pazzo is the title of the last episode ad it’s summed almost entirely into a massive 11-minute track that begins with the main title and continues from there onward with strange sound design that can’t really be considered as music. It consists of the previously heard giggling choir members but this time there are all kinds of different laughter, whispers and moans of madmen and women. Some of the laughing has also been slowed down which is just so discomforting. There are also the’ bubble’ effect heard on many other Morricone horror soundtracks. The track includes also a sample of the following track Phantavox which is like a broken cabaret band complete with whistling and percussion that sounds like kitchen utensils. The ending cue is a passionate little piece for romantic solo violin and piano which is a surprising conclusion and a great sendoff after all the madness.

Drammi gotici is a constantly surprising effort that balances different styles of film music and experiments with atonality in a fresh and original way. However, it’s not a perfect score by any means and if you want to have a more conventional horror score to listen to this Halloween, don’t pick this one up. For the fans of Morricone’s experimental works though it’s a rewarding listen with a lot to discover.

Rating: ***1/2

1. Kaiserstrasse (02:40) ****
2. La strada della follia (03:21) *****
3. Follia nella strada (08:02) ****
4. Fuori dalla realtà (03:54) *****
5. Pioggia (03:40) ***
6. Ma non è un vampiro (02:41) *****
7. Città ferita (06:08) ****
8. Suoni dissociati (02:55) ****
9. E'una vampira (02:24) ****
10. Il vampiro (06:26) ***
11. La casa delle streghe (02:41) ***
12. Viole nella nebbia (05:49) ****
13. Tra sospiri e lamenti (03:12) *****
14. Ricordo di Dino Asciolla (05:29) ***
15. Diario di un pazzo (11:44) **
16. Phantavox (02:54) ****
17. Elegia per violino e pianoforte (02:02) *****

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