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Review by Brad Green:
This compilation of remixed Ennio Morricone themes by dance music gurus from across Europe is being released to coincide with the composer’s 75th birthday. Unfortunately it’s much closer to travesty than tribute, serving to demonstrate just how effectively monotonous beats can subvert the most wonderful melodies.

For a genre closely associated with ritualistic communal body heaving and en mass ingestion of unconventional narcotics it’s surprising just how conservative such sounds can be. They’re very polite with their tones these electronica architects. Certainly the craftsmanship, the tightness with which the percussive textures interlock is palpable; and to just the same extent the emotion is nebulous. 

Fashionable bass and drum assemblages, with the melody mixed way down low and the orchestrations morphed into rigidly circumscribed parameters of cool fidelity, are the very antithesis of Morricone’s real achievements. The essence of his oeuvre lies in imaginative risk-taking arrangements, idiosyncratic soundscapes and ironic evocations of mood. All we have here are burnished beats faintly underlined with his themes. 

Instead of the rhythms serving Morricone’s motifs it’s the other way round; and for that purpose any old tunes might have well sufficed. Having said that, it would be uncharitable not to advise that there are classier pulses here than your average, endlessly recycled doof doof doof. Most of these tracks boast instead an endlessly recycled doof whack clangalang. This is the new breed of inventiveness. How thick will we make the bass? How much gating on the snare? How painstakingly can we ensure that tonal spectrum is just so for all those hi-fi junkies? Instead of the common four-on-the-floor let’s create a contrasting back-beat and cross it with a syncopated cow bell.

The creativity is of course entirely superficial. Rearranging square bass and snares with variations of sixteenth-note cymbals and metallic accents is only a notch above tonal-colour-by-numbers. The ensembles might be tasteful but they’re fashioned from an extremely limited kit. Look mum! Today I matched Barbie’s floral-print dress with the yellow purse and the blue sandals! Such suave humdrum simply debases Morricone’s motifs. He has mastered a compositional legerdemain that often renders kitsch tantalising, and in truth the gimmicky-techno treatments given to old favs like Mission Impossible in recent years would have yielded more compatible and far more entertaining results. 

Morricone is without doubt one of film music’s most protean and prolific talents, but you’d be mighty hard pressed to realise it if this happened to be your first introduction. Humph, some birthday present! 

Published November 20, 2003

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

TITLE: Ennio Morricone Remixes Vol. 1
ID: CPT150-2
Cinesoundz/Creative Vibes
MUSIC BY: Ennio Morricone
ARTISTS: International Pony; Alex Attias; Swell Session; Hakan Lidbo; Leory Hanghofer; Raw Deal; Needs; Hird; Kabuki; Butti 49; Kid Sundance; Majbour; The Amalgamation of Soundz; Temporary Soundmuseum

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