Sunday, November 18, 2012

Black Sunday: John Carpenter & Alan Howarth - Halloween II & Halloween III: Season of the Witch (2012)

A couple weeks too late, this Black Sunday is devoted to Halloween; specifically, two magnificent scores recently reissued on vinyl, Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, both from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. Both come from the fantastic Death Waltz Recording Company, a label dedicated to vinyl reissues of cult film soundtracks.

While both scores are undoubtedly ingrained in the brains of the Halloween series' fans (with red-headed stepchild, Halloween III, a personal favorite - I'll go out on a limb here and proclaim it one of the finest film scores I've ever heard and an essential entry into the library of anyone appreciating analog-era electronica), the Death Waltz Recording Company has gone above and beyond here in terms of presentation. Absolutely brand-new, stunning artwork graces these jackets, with Halloween II done up nicely by Brandon Schaefer and Season of the Witch, my favorite here, too, handled by Jay Shaw. From Shaw's own liner notes: When I sat down to create the cover for this release I wanted to not only evoke the tone of the film and score but to embed a piece of the movie into the art itself. Aside from the transmission imagery and the 1982 color palette/design aesthetic there's a much more significant connection here. The image is actually a photo I took of the scene at the end of the film where Challis is screaming "Turn it off! Stop it! Stop it!" into the telephone while one TV station is still playing Cochran's evil broadcast. I opened the photo in a text editor, which produced a jumbled mess of random characters. I then typed the sentence "eight more days till Halloween" and re-saved it as an image file. Once that image was opened again it looked like this. A scrambled signal waiting to be decoded.

Each record comes with a poster recreating the jacket artwork and the jackets themselves feature both the cover art and artist photos in a gloss finish. Notes on composition and recording from Alan Howarth occupy the rear of each jacket. Mine, purchased stateside from 20 Buck Spin, are both black vinyl while Death Waltz's own UK-based shop lists editions in orange-and-black vinyl that also include 12x12" lithographs - may be worth the extra bucks...

The tiny details matter, too. The dialogue on the jacket spines and Silver Shamrock logo on Halloween III indicate real devotion to the source material. Releases such as these are a genuine pleasure to own and play and Death Waltz not only offers other John Carpenter titles (Prince of Darkness and Escape from New York with They Live coming soon) but also a subscription service guaranteeing exclusive variants for a lucky club of 200 subscribers. It's this type of fan-friendly thought that will keep me actively watching - and buying from - this label.

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