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Sorcerer: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album Review

Written by Richie Corelli

Released by Waxwork Records

sorcerer tangerine dream poster large

Composed by Tangerine Dream
1977, 46 minutes
Released on February 14th, 2020

Review:

Following the career of electronic music icons, Tangerine Dream, is a daunting journey. Their music stretches over fifty years. They’ve released more than a hundred albums. And they’ve gone through so many stylistic changes that it becomes hard to keep track. Going into a Tangerine Dream album blind could be tricky. While they’ve released some absolute masterpieces throughout their discography, they’ve also released quite a few duds. Such is the nature of prolific experimentation; trials sometimes lead to errors.

Sorcerer is not an error. The 1977 album is not the band’s best, but it’s damn good. And with its horror-synth dark energy slithering throughout, it’s a record that should appeal to fans of genre soundtracks. In fact, the keyboard styles at work here would go on to dominate much of the horror music of the next decade.

The opening track, simply called “Main Title”, launches with an alien growl. Over an unnerving hum, layers of churning low-frequencies lick at the base of the track. High-pitched synths briefly hint at melody before the underside of the music gets more ferocious. It’s a menacing build and a loud, frightening climax. Anyone who’s heard any of the soundtracks to Netflix’s Stranger Things series will immediately hear how that music was influenced by this scary Tangerine Dream gem.

After “Main Title” sets the mood, the second track, “Search”, shapes it. This song is more melody focused. The opening synth-line is like the music that made John Carpenter famous; cold, but infectious. The hook of the melody would have been strong enough for an entire song, but Tangerine Dream expands on it, shifting tempos, adding embellishments and keyboard pieces before downshifting back to the original tone.

Instead of leaning on reprisals, as so many other soundtracks do, Tangerine Dream focuses on aesthetic to connect the different songs. Throughout the album, synths curve and dip and fill the space. The guitars don’t sound like traditional guitars. They are manipulated to chirp and groove and speak their own language. The instruments break from melodies and play off one another in ways that feel like impromptu jam sessions. Their creamy textures build a mood that is carried from track to track.

sorcerer tangerine dream 01

The moodiest moment comes from the song “Abyss”. At seven minutes and seven seconds, “Abyss” is the longest track on the album. It plays with an eeriness that is enhanced by the track’s runtime. Its pacing allows it to unravel with a slow fade-in. Different layers of synthesized sound grow and intertwine like weeds, slowing blossoming into a full bed of sonic atmosphere.

The exception is the length of “Abyss”. Most of the other tracks run under three minutes. That’s worth noting because at this point in their careers, Tangerine Dream was using song length to better express themselves. Albums like Phaedra (1974), Rubycon (1975), and Stratosfear (1976) are some of the band’s best. This is partially because these albums featured stretched-out, long-form tracks that allowed space for their sounds to breathe. Sorcerer doesn’t give the band the opportunity to do that, and it suffers for it. Songs like “The Journey” or “The Mountain Road”, ironic to their titles, never really go anywhere. If the tracks were given a little more time to unfold, they would have felt fuller and more fleshed out.

Waxworks’ treatment of Sorcerer is fantastic. Artist Tony Stella did the cover. It looks like something out of a museum. Captured in side profile, a painting of actor Roy Scheider’s face is front and center. Behind him, blended into a gestural field of dark sienna, are the faces of his trio of co-stars. In front of him is a burning, explosive fire, splashed magnificently with reds and oranges. The image is rendered with strong, confident brush-strokes. It tells a story with expression and artistry.

In inner gatefold sees more art by Stella. It’s just as good as the cover. But the real treat inside is the liner notes by director William Friedkin. He opens with stark honesty, pointing out how Sorcerer almost ruined his career. After Friedkin’s previous movie, The Exorcist, expectations for Sorcerer were high. It ended up bombing in the box office. That’s a shame. Sorcerer is an underrated triumph. While it was more of a thriller than a horror, Sorcerer still brings muscle-tightening tension. Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack heightened this sensation and darkened the feel of the movie.

The bulk of Friedkin’s notes, though, aren’t about the film. They’re about the band. He shares his experiences, recalling the time he first discovered Tangerine Dream at a live show. Enthralled by that performance, Friedkin invited the band to score his next film. The band and the filmmaker proved to be a good match. Friedkin closes his liner notes with an obituary. One of Tangerine Dream’s founders, Edgar Froese, died in 2015. Friedkin uses his notes for the Sorcerer soundtrack to honor a lost friend.

Waxworks remastered Sorcerer from their original source audio. It sounds great; clean and full. The music was pressed to a “rainforest green and black swirled vinyl”. The concept works in regard to the film, but it’s nearly impossible to really capture the colors of the rainforest on PVC. The green that splashes through the black looks artificial. But it’s still a good-looking slab of wax.

Despite minor quips about song-length, which is likely a limitation of writing for the screen instead of for a pair of headphones, Sorcerer is a solid experience. Tangerine Dream fans who don’t already own this album will probably want to pick it up. Waxwork’s treatment of this release, from the sound to the cover art to the liner notes, would make it an attractive addition to their collections. Horror music fans, meanwhile, should appreciate the record’s before-its-time, horror-synth vibe.

Grades:

Music: Fourstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Art: Fourstars
Packaging: Fourstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

About The Author
Richie Corelli
Staff Writer
Richie isn’t ignoring you. He just can’t hear you over the music. He’s been plugged in to his headphones for decades, diving into the zine culture of the 90s, blogging relentlessly through the 00s and beyond. He knows more about certain bands than he knows about himself. His love of music is rivaled only by his love of horror. If it’s creepy and spooky, he’s into it.

Horror DNA sutures his two passions together, giving him a platform to analyze and express his feelings on horror scores, soundtracks and live performances. It’s a celebration of all that goes bump in the night.
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