Whether or not it was the intention, John Carpenter’s Lost Themes is petrifying. Whilst an initial assessment of the LP’s backstory—Carpenter creating songs with his son and godson without any pre-requisite film to score—may sound a little redundant, the result—his music without images—is far more haunting than any of his previous visual creations. Part of that terror comes from the fact that now the fear is real. The listener no longer has the fantastical, already-created realms of the director’s twisted imagination as a degree of separation. The listener’s life—all surroundings, feelings, and actions—is soundtracked by nerve-shredding synths and electric guitar howls.
As “Vortex” opens, it is (as with so many Carpenter compositions) both quite beautiful and taut with tension at the same time. Now it’s no longer the prospect of an animal in the ice, but your living room, car, or office that tremors with a sense of the unknown, the menacing. There are wonderful flourishes throughout Lost Themes: the bass and flutes in “Obsidian” have a demonic funk, and “Mystery” wraps rapid synth lines, a strong backbeat, and ominous guitar riffs together…and stuffs it all together into a music box. It’s a musical nightmare, and now it belongs to us.