Wednesday, June 8, 2016

OGRE & Dallas Campbell Go Beyond The Infinite

By Sarah Halloran

The year was 1968. It was a year of tragedy and triumph; the year that the world lost Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and the year that America introduced the first Boeing 747 and orbited the moon. It was also the year that saw the release of possibly the best science fiction film ever made.

Based on Arthur C. Clarke’s story The Sentinel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick's epic masterpiece, pushed the boundaries of special effects (no CGI in 1968 - just lasers, clever use of sticky tape and a giant hamster wheel), and indeed mankind’s quest to understand our very existence and the meaning of life. If you thought that Star Wars: Episode IV was the height of early science fiction special effects, you really need to see where George Lucas, at his own admission, got his inspiration from.

From the moment 2001 begins to the moment it reaches its mind-bending finale I guarantee you will be transfixed. Seriously, I have never rewound a movie so many times wondering “How the hell did they do that in 1968? 1968!” And to think, this movie was made a whole year before man stepped foot on the moon. That in itself is mind blowing. I toyed with the idea of giving up big spoilers in this review, but I decided against it. If you haven’t already seen the film, I suggest you watch it as soon as you can. You may not understand what it is about, you may compare it to other more recent sci-fi movies , but I think you just might be picking your jaw off the floor when you realise this is a movie that has been iconic for almost fifty years.

Fans of groundbreaking 70s and 80s sci-fi classics like Blade Runner, Escape from New York and Solaris will appreciate the importance of a brilliantly experimental soundtrack, and 2001: A Space Odyssey’s soundtrack is no exception. From the almost languid ballet of the spacecraft as they turn in orbit to the trippy “Star Gate” sequence, our senses are held hostage to stunning visuals and monumental soundscapes; soundscapes that will stay in the mind for many years to come, and which will always be associated with the key scenes of this groundbreaking movie.

The original soundtrack is very much orchestral in its arrangement, featuring classical pieces from Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss II and Sprach Zarathustra. It is a soundtrack that has been released many times over the years, and which has also been digitally remastered.

A question that many people have asked since the movie was released was whether it could be improved or appreciated in a different way if it were to feature a synth-based soundtrack. And why not? Moogs and moviemakers have enjoyed one hell of a successful relationship over the years with Apocalypse Now (Carmine and Francis Ford Coppola), The Fog (John Carpenter) and more recently Drive (Cliff Martinez) being some of the most noteable electronic soundscapes.

It’s a question that Robin Ogden (OGRE) and Dallas Campbell also pondered, and fortunately for us, they had the drive, tools and talent to give us the answer. Over two months (although you’d be forgiven for thinking it was much longer!), they worked tirelessly together to craft a “carefully composed alternate soundtrack created on analog synthesizers alongside more experimental techniques that spans 2001’s entire 134 minute run time.” With tools such as the Korg MS-20, Korg Mono/Poly, Roland SH-101 and RS-505 at their disposal, Robin and Dallas have created a masterpiece that really does need to be heard to be appreciated. My words simply cannot do it justice.

Beyond The Infinite is a stunning collection of 35 analog soundscapes that perfectly mirrors the flight of Discovery and its condemned crew. From the overture to the end credits, Robin and Dallas capture the very essence of ominousity, wonder, futility and enlightenment portrayed in this timeless cinematic classic. Huge black monoliths and whacked-out computers deserve dark, edgy music, and this is dished out in spades in what can only be described as a true labour of love, and a deep appreciation and understanding for analog instruments and effects.

There were many, many stand out moments for me on Beyond The Infinite, and what I really appreciated was how this soundtrack made me feel, and I mean really feel. That could only have been achieved through planning out each individual composition in meticulous detail and matching it flawlessly with the action on screen. You feel the terror, the abject panic, the relief, the realisation, the wonder, the loneliness and this epic journey across time and space in its entirety, and that’s what makes this soundtrack so brilliant, whether you are listening to it standalone or alongside the movie.

In short, this is a monumental achievement in both synth composition and experimentation, and it would be great to see more of this type of work in the future. If you have yet to watch one of the most influential movies ever made, I really urge you to do so, and to do so alongside one of the most influential synth soundtracks ever made. Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?

Beyond The Infinite is the definition of a Synthtetix Reference Experience as it raises the bar for what producers are capable of achieving in retro synth soundtrack music. It's available through the Telefuture label on Bandcamp here and for a limited time you can also get your hands on 2 professionally duplicated cassettes in a black-on-black tall box. The first 50 sets also come with two buttons, an insert and sticker.

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