Crash is by far the most difficult listen of the bunch. A precursor to soundtracks by the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Crash is one of Shore’s most adventurous pieces but its tendency towards repetition and away from a traditional melodic structure makes it, admittedly, a more taxing listen. It is realistic to say that not many will find themselves always listening to this record from start to finish, but it does reward those that choose to stick around. Difficult as it may be at times, Shore’s work for Crash has a haunting beauty to it — and like the film its pleasure comes from a certain amount of discomfort. It also happens to be one of the most unique pieces in Shore’s vast discography. Comprised heavily of a clashing style between soothing flute/strings and distorted and reverb-drenched guitar, its a record that leans more towards the ambient and brooding than it does the symphonic. While it strays from Shore’s comfort zone, it never feels like an artist trying and failing to break image.
But you are doing you damnedest to! It seems like sometimes you are releasing upwards to five or six records in a single month.
It’s like a rollercoaster that you can’t get off once you start. But we try to be clever with and how and where we place things, and not sort of cross over too much because we don’t want people to get fatigued. There are some people who buy Death Waltz and don’t really buy Mondo, or people who buy Mondo but don’t really buy Death Waltz, and then there are some hardcore people who get both. So we try and be smart with how we place things but sometimes it just bottlenecks. We’ve had a quiet two month period, I feel, but we have a ton of records coming out in the second half of the year because that’s just the way it worked out.
To move to some recent releases, with the release of Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, and Crash, you’ve now worked on a handful of Cronenberg-Howard Shore scores. Has there been any sort of method to choosing which records to work on and when?
We have a wish list with Howe Records/Howard and it’s just about how we get to that place. I think with those three records, that each one is really unique in his catalog and shows his breadth as a composer. They are pretty amazing. Naked Lunch is such an incredible piece. Dead Ringers is so mournful, but it isn’t depressing. You get the movie from that score. He’s really good man [pause] He’s amazing. When you listen to Dead Ringers it’s tinged with this sadness throughout. Crash is really unnerving as a listen. I think Crash is a difficult record from start to finish, like in one go because it is really unnerving. Which is great. We always want to release records that challenge you as well. We are really stoked to be working with him, and there is more to come, which is fantastic.
Another thing about these releases are how outside of the scope of a big tendency in the current wave of soundtrack reissues. None of them are synth or even traditional horror soundtracks. Instead, they are very unique, sort of singular works. For instance, I think it’s safe to say that — especially with Ornette Coleman’s contributions — Naked Lunch is an incredible jazz record, something that I didn’t really pick up on until I listened to it detached from Cronenberg’s visuals.
Horror soundtracks can have a tendency to fall into maybe 3 or 4 different genres: you’ve got your synth; your spiky Joseph Bishara style; sort of crappy rock from the 80s [laughs], etc. The feedback that I’ve got is that people are really stoked on Naked Lunch, and I actually didn’t realize how jazz the score is — even though it is Ornette Coleman — because, like you say, when you watch it with the movie, it is just an attack on the senses anyway. When you get to release something like that, you hope that it will get people to go and check out other Ornette Coleman records, or that they go, ‘I’ve never really listened to Miles Davis; I’ve never really check out some of that stuff.’ You hope it is going to open people up to a whole new world. At the same time, we are hoping that Naked Lunch is going to get reviewed in MOJO and Jazzwize, and places like that, because it’s a really great jazz record.
I think it shows how brilliant Howard is at matching mood. The score really sets the tone of the film, a sort of the acid-drenched frenzy.
Yeah and it has these super noir moments. where you can sit there and just envision the dark, wet, and barely lit streets, and then it has these insane moments — with Coleman and his son on drums — where it just attacks you. You could release this record and not tell anyone it is from a film and they’d be like, ‘this is a great record,’ as opposed to just being a great soundtrack.
Similarly, you have a work like Crash, where Howard is almost pre-dating Post-rock. It’s really a unique score. You mentioned that it is is a more difficult record, are you worried that it will be a tougher sale?
The guitar work and effects on that are really crazy. Listening to that record on a whole can be quite disorientating because all of the effects and everything that is going on. It is why it is a harder listen but it is a very rewarding listen.