Thursday, 20 October 2016

The animal trilogy: part 2

Title: Il gatto a nove code (Cat o’nine tails)
Year: 1971
Composer: Ennio Morricone

The second film in Dario Argento’s Animal trilogy continues musically from where the previous score left off. Though this time Maestro Morricone delves directly into the subconscious, to the primal fear. The emphasis is even more on the dissonance and crooked sounds which cause feelings of disorientation and dread. This score is clearly the trilogy’s most challenging one and doesn’t let the listener get by easily.

The score however begins with the calm before the storm, namely Ninna nanna in blu. Though I might shoot myself in the foot (because the following sentence might become overused in my following reviews), I still need to say this. This theme has to be one of Morricone’s all-time greatest compositions. First of all it could appear in the dictionary below ‘pure sadness’ since it possesses such beauty. The delicate melody is first heard on a solo flute over strumming guitars. Then it transforms into a duet for harpsichord and solo female voice.  The B section has the piano variating the main melody and dancing over a small, chamber-sized string section. Finally the theme is reprised in its full glory in unison before fading away. No matter how many times I’ve heard this piece, I still get emotional while listening to it. Unfortunately it isn’t heard again until the very last track where it gets a beautiful stripped down treatment, finally performed on a glockenspiel which gives the melody the lullaby-like appearance the title suggests.

1970 is a long, creepy cue which presents how the majority of the score will play out. It is built around a bubbly, rhythmic theme which is surrounded by an assault of suspenseful sounds, including out-of-tune guitars, ghostly voices which sometimes sound even playful, screeching string instruments and wandering woodwinds. I just love that the chamber instrumentation really allows the listener to hear every little detail. Guessing from the title, the cue might be a suite Morricone wrote before the film was made to give the director the sense of the overall sound, as it doesn’t appear in the final film. However the theme appears in the film’s graveyard scene as Passeggiata notturna. In that cue I also love the sound of the whistling choir that creates almost an otherworldly, wind-like pattern.

The intense scoring continues throughout most of the album’s middle tracks and they do make you feel uneasy and make the hairs on your body to stand up. Parabola del paradosso introduces another interesting bass-driven thematic thread that played during the film’s investigation scenes. The two Paranoia tracks, first of which was later used in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, are pieces for ominous woodwinds. Never has a carton of milk received such creepy associations than the ones created with these cues. The previously mentioned bass theme reappears in Dissociazione and also introduces the whistling choir for the first time.

During the score's last half, the pace quickens slightly with Placcaggio where the bass theme gets its most aggressive treatment complete with moaning trumpet sounds and screaming male voice. The 12-minute suite comprises of several shorter cues that reprise many of the moods heard throughout the album slowly making their way towards the explosive climatic cacophony for screaming choral voices.

A trilogy’s middle part should be the darkest and Morricone’s Il gatto a nove code is no exception. However, the whole album is extremely understated and the tracks are developed around repeating bass and percussion patterns which for some listeners may get tiresome after a while. For my taste the score is nevertheless very imaginative in its use of instrumental and vocal colours creating a spooky atmosphere which is quite unique in Morricone’s overall repertoire.

Rating: *****

1. Ninna nanna in blu (titoli) (02:37) *****
2. 1970 (08:38) *****
3. Sottintesi (02:19) *****
4. Parabola del paradosso (02:56) *****
5. Paranoia prima (03:23) ***
6. Paranoia seconda (01:30) ****
7. Dissociazione (02:45) *****
8. Dissociazione seconda (03:02) *****
9. Passeggiata notturna (movie version) (05:39) *****
10. Metafora finale (02:31) ***
11. Placcaggio (02:33) ****
12. Passeggiata notturna (original single version) (03:39) *****

Bonus tracks:
13. Placcaggio (alternate version) (02:32) ****
14. Il gatto a nove code (movie takes suite) (12:36) *****
15. Ninna nanna in blu (movie takes variations) (02:50) *****

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