Cul de Sac - "The Strangler's Wife"
(Strange Attactors Audio House 2003, SAAH017)


Uploaded to Aural Innovations: December 2003

I must say I love movie soundtracks, and especially horror/sci-fi movie soundtracks. So you can imagine my anticipation when I heard that one of my favorite bands, Cul de Sac, was recording the soundtrack to an erotic horror thriller by Roger Corman. I found out about this over a year and a half ago as the band was touring with Damo Suzuki, and trying out some of the material from their then forthcoming album, and first with new members Jake Trussell and Jonathon LaMaster, Death of the Sun. Well, itís finally in my hot little hands, the second release from the 5-piece line up, the soundtrack to Roger Cormanís The Stranglerís Wife. Since I havenít seen the movie, I canít tell you how well the music goes with the images, but I can tell you how the music is as a stand-alone listen.

Film soundtracks, by their very nature, are background music, so this is by no means as intense a listening experience as Cul de Sacís regular studio albums. I kept that in mind as I gave it a listen, letting it seep through the background of what I was doing (namely, writing this review!). Eschewing the Krautrockish rhythms of their earlier work, the band moves forward with their sound, taking their cue from Death of the Sun, combining traditional folk and jazz textures with dark, sonic explorations ranging from ambient to quite experimental.

The intense and exciting rush of First Victim/Main Titles sets the mood for a soundtrack that explores a lot of intriguing territory from the cuts that rely on more traditional elements like Thatís Great, Isnít It? and the lovely and evocative Mirror II (Mae and Elena), which were reminiscent of Ry Cooderís soundtrack work; to the ploddingly mechanical and disturbing Second Victim (Shower); to the experimental, noisy, crunchy, feedback attack of Fifth Victim; to the ominous and droning atmosphere of Mae Learns the Truth. We get the idea almost immediately that this is not going to be your typical soundtrack.

The band has always had a close relationship with the cinema, starting with the fact that their name is a reference to a Roman Polanski film. Their former bassist, Chris Fujiwara, who now teaches film and has written several books on the subject, used to create films that were meant to be screened with specific pieces of the bandís music. So itís no surprise that Cul de Sac are a natural choice to compose a film soundtrack. What is surprising is that it would be the soundtrack to a Roger Corman erotic thriller. But the band transcends their B-movie material by creating an A-class soundtrack that can stand alone as a fine addition to their discography too.

For more information you can visit the Cul de Sac web site at: http://www.culdesac.org.
The Strangler's Wife is distributed by Strange Attractors. You can visit their web site at: http://www.strange-attractors.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Strange Attractors; PO Box 13007; Portland, OR 97213-0007.

Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald


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