Saturday, 2 November 2013
Fabio Frizzi - Zombi 2
Born in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, he is best known for his film scores. A frequent collaborator with famous horror director Lucio Fulci, his scores have become some of the most widely known in the genre.
Elsewhere Frizzi focuses on evoking the claustrophobic atmosphere of the jungle; sequences 3, 4 and 7 are heavy on the tribal percussion and moody ambient sounds. But it’s the title track (Sequence 8 on the Death Waltz release) that provides Zombi 2 with its signature piece. A dull, insistent thud that sounds like a primitive drum machine but is in fact nothing more than Frizzi tapping a mike carries a strangely beautiful melody that is both haunting and melancholic. Using a mellatron – essentially an early, analogue sampling device – Frizzi creates a melodic bed of disembodied voices, producing one of the key pieces of Italian horror film music.
Whenever the keyboard or drums appear to beat out a tacky calypso, the room starts to spin with oncoming delirium, undercut by a pining whalesong of pleading or melancholy, perhaps while Fulci pans over still corpses or our heroes huddled together for the night while shapes gather in the darkness under the canopy.
Eighties horror is generally parodied for its over-indulgence of menacing synths, and there’s no shortage of tension building mellotron in Frizzi and Cascio’s score, but there’s an off-ripe sickliness to it, and that trademarked keening howl of dead voices. While Romero’s world was one of sterile urbanity and silence, prowled by desiccated husks, Fulci’s Zombi 2 has an off-ripe, diseased look, a constant buzz of flies and splash of water against the dock, a warmer, faded colour palate that echoes its fever dream setting.
A fantastically off-kilter listen, testament to the composers, and of course Lucio Fulci himself, to have created something equal parts derivative and unique, and implacable and fitting. And of course to the grandly titled Death Waltz Recording Company for a treatment that oozes syrupy pus of love and respect, that even the most enthusiastic zombie fan will discover a whole new appreciation for one of the subgenre’s most beloved, and idiosyncratic, video nasties.
Frizzi’s score is no less brazen or energetic, but transcends its filmic context—and in some respects the Italian horror film score tradition itself—by offering a richly arranged and measured composition without sacrificing the film’s violent urgency. By 1979 the synthesizer was beginning to emerge in popular music, most notably in the early synth-pop of British artists like Gary Numan, The Human League, and OMD, where it became synonymous with urban unease and future shock. Frizzi’s score is clearly influenced by the synthesizer’s new austerity measures, as well as drawing from earlier analogue techniques developed by German synthesized space rock, or kosmische music and English prog alike. The most distinctive of the various sounds-of-futures-past dredged up by Frizzi is that of the mellotron, an early electronic keyboard that actually plays pre-recorded tape reels of choral and orchestral sounds. While it was most famously used to grandiose effect in King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, in Frizzi’s hands the mellotron’s oddly compressed choral effects sound more like a choir of the undead muffled by graveyard soil.
Frizzi’s melding of the futuristic with the moribund in his use of electronics is matched by his peculiar melodic lines, which often move uncannily between the lively and the funereal. While the Zombie 2 soundtrack often bears only an oblique reference to the violent and frenetic story line, this merging of the sounds of life and death provides a disturbingly effective aural equivalent to the undead creatures on-screen. Frizzi’s soundtrack sounds both shockingly new in its use of stark synthesizer tones, and uncomfortably old in its use of tonal distortion and decay. Freud famously defined “the uncanny” as the sense of unease we feel when encountering something that seems alive when we know it should be dead. It is an elusive quality that Frizzi manages to evoke melodically and sonically with seeming effortlessness.