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(68:55, Giant Electric Pea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Are You Awake 3:23 2. Awake 0:53 3. ABC 1:54 4. The Rip 2:17 5. Reflection 1:54 6. She’s Down There 1:29 7. On The Street 2:43 8. Under The Stars 3:37 9. The River 1:37 10. With a Gun 2:01 11. In The Car 0:52 12. Closer 4:16 13. In The Box 0:59 14. You Need To Leave Now 1:33 15. Meeting 1:06 16. Goin’ Down 2:15 17. In The Basement 4:16 18. In The House 3:46 19. Deceit And Death 5:02 20. Beginning The End 3:16 21. You Made It 11:26 22. Goin’ Back 2:05 23. In This Wilderness 6:03 LINEUP: Michael Holmes - all instruments
Prolusion. Subterranea (2015) is a feature film by Mathew Miller (Birdman Films) inspired by and based on IQ’s 1997 double CD with the same name. The filmmaker involved Michael Holmes, IQ’s guitarist and founding member, as a composer for the movie. Two years later, in 2017, Michael Holmes released this Subterranea CD, for which the film’s soundtrack was adapted to form a standard music album.
Analysis. 1. The mysterious life of Kaspar Hauser (1812-1833). It all began almost two centuries ago, when a strange youth appeared out of nowhere in the German city of Nuremberg on 26 May 1828. The boy whose name was Kaspar Hauser had with him a letter written by an unknown person telling that Kaspar had been born on 30 April 1812 and since his early days been confined within a certain house. The anonymous letter addressed to a von Wessenig, the captain of a squadron in a cavalry regiment, also informed that in his incarceration the boy had been taught some reading, writing and Christian religion and that now he was released because he was to be a cavalryman like his late father. It contained no other detail about him as to where he was born, who his parents were – nothing. All Kaspar could remember was that he had lived in a tiny room two by one meters, where he had slept in a straw bed. All he had for toys were two horses and one dog cut of wood. He woke up every morning to find a piece of rye bread and a bowl of water next to his bed. The only human he had contacted was a man who appeared shortly before his release to teach him what he knew and let him out. The investigation launched by the president of Nuremberg’s court of appeal yielded no results. After five years full of living in various noble German families that were taking charge of him, during which period there was an unsuccessful attempt on his life, the young man was stabbed in Ansbach on 14 December 1833. This wound proved fatal and Kaspar Hauser died three days later.
2. Subterranea, studio album, IQ (1997). That was the end of Kaspar’s life but in no way the end of the story. Full of mysteries, controversies and inconsistencies which have not been solved to this day, it put to unrest numerous historians, psychologists, psychiatrists and even philosophers, who during the man’s life and after his death did their best to find his secrets, and gave inspiration to a number of artists. Among those inspired by these events were the British progressive rock band IQ, who used the plot as a base for their concept two-CD studio album Subterranea released in 1997. The guys from IQ (Peter Nicholls was the main ‘scriptwriter’ and lyricist) changed considerably the original story and transferred it to nowadays. Though I can’t say I really like what they did to it, the album is in fact a multi-layered poem which can be interpreted in various metaphorical ways. The fate of a man who, as a part of an experiment, was brought up in a cell and released into the big world can be the path each of us has to cover on their trip through life, and the hero’s return to the cell from which he had come and where he, finally, found peace, is so remindful of the reconciliation, appeasement or submission to fate one often feels towards the end of one’s life. So, the story, delivered as a talented piece of poetry invested in complex and emotional musical fabrics and presented on stage by an outstanding team of musicians/performers, made up a really great album, which deservedly received commendations throughout.
3. Subterranea, feature film, Mathew Miller, Birdman Films (2015). The next link in the chain of inspirations was Mathew Miller, an American film director, who, a big fan of the British band, was impelled to make a feature film with a scenario based on IQ’s work. Michael Holmes, who was involved in the production as a composer, wrote absolutely new material largely based on themes from the IQ album. The movie released in 2015 was a sheer disappointment. The good idea was degenerated into a category C thriller/detective story, with no undersurface layer visible. Blank, uninteresting characters (with but a few exceptions), slow development and predictability of events, a good collection of incoherencies and unbelievabilities and familiar musical themes often brought too much to the foreground.
4. Subterranea, soundtrack CD, Michael Holmes (2017). Some time after the release of the film Michael Holmes decided to create a CD of the film music in such a way as it could be listened to independently from the picture. For this purpose he made some minor changes in the length and structure of some episodes in the film’s soundtrack and divided it into 23 tracks. The music on the CD is completely different in style compared to IQ’s double album, which is natural taking into account the difference of purposes. Here most of the material between the first and last tracks is relatively homogenous, meditatively melancholic synthesiser-based ambience, with a lot of piano emulators, various organs and sound effects, electronic percussion here and there, scraps of dialogues from the film in the background, very little acoustic guitar and no electric guitar or any other instrument besides those mentioned above, as far as I could make out. One of its most outstanding features is the game ‘Find a motif from the 1997 secreted in the 2017,’ for, indeed, themes from IQ’s concept album can be found woven subtly and delicately into the texture throughout the album. The opener contains a couple of very short hard-edged episodes, with drums and electric and bass guitars present, reminiscent of the band’s conventional sound. However, by far my favourate composition is the last one which begins with the credits in the film – a song in the style of present-day IQ written in co-authorship with Peter Nicholls, with him on vocals and an excellent solo by Holmes on electric guitar towards the end, where, however, no live drums or bass guitar is used.
Conclusion. Although it contains some interesting moments and lovely allusions to IQ’s momentous album, there is nothing particularly outstanding or innovative about the Subterranea soundtrack CD within modern progressive rock. Its cinematic origin is evident, and the compositions aim primarily to create an atmosphere rather than develop any musical idea. On the other hand, it is quite good as music for a feature film, particularly as a debut work in this field, whatever the quality of the movie. Anyway, for big fans of IQ and their 1997 double CD only.
Proguessor: March 10 2019
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