Agood film score complements and reflects the action on-screen. A great score becomes a character in its own right. Think of Max Steiner's thunderous score for the original "King Kong," John Williams's menacing "Jaws" theme or Bernard Herrmann's respectively suspenseful, thrilling and mesmerizing scores for Hitchcock's "Psycho," "North by Northwest" and "Vertigo."
Consider, too, the well-known works of prolific Italian composer Ennio Morricone, whose music was often every bit as memorable as the moving images it was meant to match, whether the gentle pan flutes of "The Mission" or his playful scores to the works of spaghetti western master Sergio Leone (who famously lent his favorite musical collaborator so much freedom that he edited his films around Morricone's iconic music rather than the other way around).
Granted, not everything Morricone wrote was equally memorable. With hundreds of credits to his name, how could it be? But nothing the maestro devised proved less than intriguing, and his workaholic habits left countless unfamiliar corners in his adventurous career well worth exploring.
That's where the double-disc "Crime and Dissonance" comes in. Released by former Faith No More frontman and film score enthusiast Mike Patton (whose experimental music super-group Fantomas often turns to Morricone for inspiration), the set focuses on some of the composer's lesser-known works, music he wrote for seldom-seen slasher films and cult freakouts from the '60s and '70s. And for anyone familiar only with Morricone's more mainstream work, this 30-track sampler is a revelation, rife with bizarre soundscapes, discordant drones, proto-sampledelica, weird instruments, strange sounds and oddball voices.
At their best the tracks are deliriously loopy, such as "Recreazione Divertita," which begins with pretty chimes and proceeds through jaunty rounds, rock-and-roll, classical swooning and military grunts. On tracks such as "Un Uomo Da Rispettare (Titoli)" and "Sequenza 10," the lines between jazz, rock, classical and experimental music are blurred so aggressively they're almost perverse. Elsewhere, moaning, panting voices -- male and female -- are introduced as erotic or disturbing and sometimes both at once. Freed from visuals, their ambiguity is striking. Does the moaning and whimpering of "L'Uccello Con Le Piume Di Cristallo (Titoli)" convey pain or pleasure? Both? Neither?
There are also impressive moments when the selections feel not like curious kitsch artifacts but cutting-edge contemporary works: the cymbal and racket of what may be open piano-string or guitar of "Astrazione Con Ritmo" like an avant-garde chamber ensemble, the funky din of "Trafelato" even harder to classify but not unlike something cool and buzz-worthy that you might encounter at a crowded, hip club.
If it weren't for some of Morricone's less eccentric, more restrained scores, "Crime and Dissonance" wouldn't seem that different from any other recently unearthed artifact from an outsider artist or forgotten madman. But Morricone, a five-time Oscar nominee, is no mere weirdo. His particular genius is not just his knack for manic juxtaposition but also his instinct for when to keep those traits in check.
While never exhibiting anything other than utter confidence and complete control, "Crime and Dissonance" serves as a snapshot of Morricone allowing his gifts to spiral just shy of out of control. It's the result of creativity with no rules, the composer untied from the bounds of expectation with little concern but to explore the freedom of imagination to its fullest.