Saturday, 11 February 2017

Oh, the horror: part 6

Title: Lady Lucifera
Year: 1979
Composer: Stelvio Cipriani

I’m glad that several record labels still keep releasing scores from the most obscure films imaginable. For instance Lady Lucifera aka Polvos mágicos is the kind of film I’ve never would have imagined looking more into when I started listening to film music. It’s a horror comedy about suitors trying to tempt the devil’s daughter who needs them to gain eternal youth. Usually a score for a film like this might be played for laughs but surprisingly Stelvio Cipriani delivered a dead-serious horror score with only a few lighter moments.

The main theme is a real winner. Usually I say that Cipriani’s melodies tend to run into each other and you really cannot distinguish one from another. This isn’t the case with Lady Lucifera though because the theme has something unexpected about it (even though the same exact melody was used in 1979's another Cipriani score Un'ombra nell'ombra). Maybe it’s the Goblinesque synthesizers and irregular-sounding rhythms (even though it goes in regular 9/8 waltz groove if you listen closely) or the nostalgic feeling you get from the chord progressions which don’t follow regular pop music progressions directly. Even though the theme really doesn’t feature a longlined melody rather than one that appears in between the rhythmical arpeggios, it still is captivating yet eerily sinister. Seq. 5 is the first reprise of the theme but it doesn’t go into the more nostalgic second part of the melody but just plays around the intro for a short while. The third reprise in Seq. 9 is probably the most beautiful one, sounding translucent somehow. The finale cue sounds like an outtake because the intro is repeated a bit amateurishly before the track gets going.

Seq. 2 introduces a minor romantic theme which is more in Cipriani’s regular style and easily hummable though nothing that special. However what I love about this track is that it actually begins with a bassline that reappears later in the horror tracks, and in the middle of the romantic mood we also get disturbing organ clusters which bend the atmosphere into more foreboding direction. A pure and innocent version of the melody for piano and flute appears in Seq. 13 which is a breath of fresh air after the brooding horror tracks. There’s also one other romantic piece, Seq. 11, a classicaly-inspired piano waltz that sounds slightly broken and humorous as it’s interrupted by unnecessary piano runs.

Most of the album’s duration is devoted to straight-up horror music. These tracks have a certain structure to them: they’re usually built around a simple repeating bass phrase which is intensified with added instrumental colours. Similar bass writing has been used in many Italian giallos representing a heartbeat though Cipriani’s is more musical. For instance Seq. 3 has a Chopinesque funeral march feel to it even though the countermelodies provided by the organ don’t go into that direction at all. Seq. 4 repeats the bassline from Seq. 2 and accelerates it like a racing heart of a murder victim. The syncopated rhythms and previously mentioned funeral organ are combined to synthetic strings and a flute that reminds me of 60s agent flicks more than a horror film in both Seq. 6 and Seq. 10. The album’s longest piece Seq. 7 offers a great number of intelligent horror tropes like icy piano notes, a sense of time ticking by and eerie electric organ chords which turn rather comical with their insane sound manipulation. There are some more action-oriented pieces as well like Seq. 8 and Seq. 12 with almost tribal-like quality to them perfectly suitable for the manhunt going on. The best horror track however is the last one, Seq. 14 which manages to give genuine chills with an atmosphere straight from a Goblin album, even featuring the rhythmic tinkling synthesizer heard in the main theme.

If I had to describe the score with two words, those would be dreamlike and hypnotic. There’s something really disturbing about the building atmosphere of the suspenseful moments that are contrasted with the seemingly serene main theme which too has its dark edge. The problem I have is that though the intent is to create atmosphere, there is no resolution and thus the horror falls flat. Even though the duration is just under 40 minutes, the album actually feels longer than it really is which shows the downside of the repetition. So even though I give it a high score, you might want to consider a while first before making your purchase.

Rating: ****

1. Lady Lucifera - Seq.1 (02:13) *****
2. Lady Lucifera - Seq.2 (02:29) *****
3. Lady Lucifera - Seq.3 (02:15) ***
4. Lady Lucifera - Seq.4 (01:40) *****
5. Lady Lucifera - Seq.5 (01:56) ****
6. Lady Lucifera - Seq.6 (03:06) ****
7. Lady Lucifera - Seq.7 (05:14) ****
8. Lady Lucifera - Seq.8 (01:17) ****
9. Lady Lucifera - Seq.9 (02:09) *****
10. Lady Lucifera - Seq.10 (03:25) ****
11. Lady Lucifera - Seq.11 (01:13) ****
12. Lady Lucifera - Seq.12 (03:09) ****
13. Lady Lucifera - Seq.13 (01:52) *****
14. Lady Lucifera - Seq.14 (03:43) *****
15. Lady Lucifera - Seq.15 (03:45) ****

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