Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The animal trilogy: part 1

Title: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The bird with the crystal plumage)
Year: 1970
Composer: Ennio Morricone

The word giallo (lit. yellow) is used in describing the series of Italian thriller books and movies which were most popular in 1960s and 70s. The films centered usually on a faceless killer going around killing women in the most imaginative ways possible. Maestro Ennio Morricone had also his share of giallo film scores which captured perfectly his mastery as a film composer because they allowed him to write both themes of childlike beauty and dissonant terror. Among his most famous works in this genre are the 3 film scores he wrote for Dario Argento’s Animal trilogy. We’re taking a look at the first score L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo today.

Straight from the start we’re introduced to Piume di cristallo, which is the lullaby main theme featuring the voice of either Edda dell’Orso or her fellow choir member Gianna Spagnulo. The peaceful mood is however disturbed by constant glass-like percussion elements that linger in the background adding uneasiness to otherwise innocent sounding composition. During the B section of the tune, the whole choir comes in and tries to lull the listener to a false sense of security. Similar moods continue to the following track Non rimane più nessuno which is a piece of bossa nova source music with soft choral touches. It seems that this score won’t be that harsh after all…

And then BAM! Corsa sui tetti begins. The music underscores a chase sequence in the film and is a callback to Morricone’s work with an avant-garde group Nuova Consonanza. This monster of a piece has a wild jazzy percussion track that is pierced with a rhythmic atonal melody, occasional moaning and la-laing choir members and completely bonkers trumpet solo. And I absolutely love everything about it!

Now the dissonance has been introduced and it dominates the rest of the album after the short source piece Se sei stonato. Svolta drammatica reprises the atonal melodies from Corsa sui tetti but in a slower, more menacing setting. It sounds like a representation of the mind of the murderer. After the planning stage, we get the actual horrific deeds in Frasseggio senza struttura and Silenzio nel caos which are just nightmare-inducing and shouldn’t be listened alone in a dark room. The slow lurking phrases start to develop into intensifying layers of sound as the murderer taunts the victims before the stab. They both work wonders in the film too. The title track L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo isn’t the theme reprise the listener was waiting for but rather a series of sounds of a woman getting strangled (or having an orgasm) over a heartbeat sound. While unique, it might be too out-there for a casual listener and shouldn’t be listened in a public place because you might end up looking like a pervert. Violenza inattesa returns to the warm comfort of the lullaby theme which is a rather bittersweet sendoff. However this version of the album also includes two alternate versions of the previous themes which are both fine additions.

The score for L’uccello dalle piume cristallo is an essential Morricone score but might not be the best place to start if you’re not familiar with Morricone’s more dissonant side. However with repeated listens it crawls under your skin and shows how good a thriller score could be at its best.

Rating: *****

1. Piume di cristallo (05:12) *****
2. Non rimane più nessuno (03:17) *****
3. Corsa sui tetti (04:59) *****
4. Se sei stonato (00:48) ***
5. Svolta drammatica (02:43) *****
6. Frasseggio senza struttura (04:16) *****
7. La città si risveglia (03:09) ****
8. L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo (01:25) **
9. Silenzio nel caos (02:12) *****
10. Violenza inattesa (04:08) *****

Bonus tracks:
11. Frasseggio senza struttura (Alternate version) (02:26) *****
12. Piume di cristallo (Alternate version) (02:08) *****

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