Daniel Davies + Sebastian Robertson – Condemned (2015)

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There are, to be sure, moments in which the scarifying original motion picture soundtrack to Condemned hints at the legacy of Daniel Davies and Sebastian Robertson’s very famous fathers.

For Sebastian Robertson, it’s the heart-rending sparceness that defines Robbie Robertson’s best work with the Band — to say nothing of the appearance of an old Yamaha DX7 on the piece “Shynola’s Rumble” that his dad used to compose a portion of the soundtrack for The Color of Money.

For Daniel Davies, there are twin dynamics at work. On the one hand, his father Dave Davies — creator of rock’s most distinctive fuzz-riffs with the Kinks — must have gotten a twinkle in his eye when he heard the rumbling, low-frequency buzz that defines this spooky song cycle. On the other hand, there’s godfather John Carpenter, the legendary horror director and composer — whose impact via their shared work on the stormy, propulsive Lost Themes album is clear at different times throughout.

In truth, however, those connections are more conjured than obvious. After all, Condemned spins its blood-curdling yarns without the infrastructure of guitar — the earthy, grounded bulwark from which both the elder Robertson and Davies based their twin Hall of Fame careers. Instead, these roiling themes were created with a combination of synthesizers both old and new. That mixing and matching keeps the project from sounding retro, but also not exactly of this time and place either.

Daniel Davies and Sebastian Robertson, long-time collaborators whose most recent project was a cool reworking of the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” for Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, utilized Moog Voyager, Diva, Serum and the Yamaha DX7 to flesh out an original motion picture soundtrack that ultimately stands as its own fizzy statement of musical purpose.

And so we have “Cookie’s Theme,” which begins with a dimly threatening ambience before abruptly shifting toward a vicious, and very modern electronic pulse. There’s a similarly nervy dichotomy, later on, between the doom-flecked “Alejandro’s Angels” and the bongo-driven menace “Black Disco.” Elsewhere, “Hub to Dream” and the superlative “Maya’s Hope” bring in jazz influences in the form of piano and a synthesized flute, respectively – something more completely explored through the doubled bass chug of “Johnny’s Jazz.”

There are flashes of reckless ’80s nihilism in “Cookie’s End,” no small amount of classic Carpenter creepiness about “Locked In” and “Room to Roof,” and elements of mysterious Eastern intrigue in “Maya’s Escape.” The concluding Condemned theme returns to a suitably ominous analog sound — leaving things shivery, untethered, in a suspended moment of trepid expectancy.

It simply begs to be listened to again, if only to illuminate other darkened corners. Should the film itself turn out to be half as inventive – to say nothing of bone-chilling – as Daniel Davies and Sebastian Robertson’s soundtrack, Condemned should be a huge box office smash.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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