Hear Me Out: John Carpenter, 'Vortex'


Having directed, produced, written, and scored nearly 40 beloved B-movies, including “The Thing” and “Escape from New York,” prolific quadruple-threat John Carpenter has easily established himself as one of Hollywood’s hardest-working men. It should come as no surprise, then, that at the ripe age of 66 the virtuoso continues to expand his horizons. In February, Carpenter will release his hotly anticipated debut album, “Lost Themes,” a collection of the director’s material from undeveloped films and the his own studio dabblings. The album’s opener and lead single, “Vortex,” is a foreboding jaunt that fits perfectly with Carpenter’s esteemed repertoire.

Weaving punctuated, haunting chords into layers of percolating synthesizers, the track is quintessentially Carpenter: brooding, atmospheric, and completely exhilarating. Like the composer’s other thematic scores, “Vortex” is purely instrumental. However, its combination of a steady crescendo, ominous piano trudge, and tendency to unsettle conveys a message just as well as lyrics would, proving that Carpenter’s innate storytelling abilities extend past a purely visual medium.

When discussing his upcoming album, Carpenter noted that “it can be both great and bad to score over images.... Here there were no pressures.” Because Carpenter’s previous musical work is so iconic, listeners can’t help but associate his songs with their respective films—the first few seconds of the “Halloween” theme immediately conjure up images of a knife-wielding, unyielding Michael Myers, for example. But the inherent appeal of “Vortex,” and presumably “Lost Themes” as a whole, is that there are no visual constraints. Whether it’s a dark and stormy night or a post-apocalyptic nightmare, Carpenter’s latest single provides his audience with the freedom to dream up its own adventure.


“Lost Themes” is out Feb. 3 via Sacred Bones.


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