Twenty years ago the British band IQ released their sixth studio album Subterranea. This concept album deals with a man who has been imprisoned all his life within the framework of an experiment and has been isolated from all external sensual influences. One day he escapes (or is released, which is not quite clear) and the environment falls upon him. He collects experiences of every kind: religious fanatics want to convert him, then he falls in love, finally kills a persecutor. Eventually, he realized that there are other victims like him (all burned with the square IQ logo), joins them and tries to take revenge on his tormentors (Mockenrue). These, however, are too clever to lock in a house, they burn the test rabbits and all the evidence of the experiment. All that remains is the protagonist, who resigns himself to isolation, with which the circle closes.
Based on this story, the American director Mathew Miller wrote a screenplay and, in 2013, made the film Subterranea for the most part in Montana (USA). Postproduction took place one year later; Then the soundtrack was written and recorded.
As a composer, Miller was able to win Michael Holmes from IQ. Holmes was enthusiastic about the idea of writing a film soundtrack right from the start. However, he found it difficult to find a reasonable balance between a simple remixing of the existing compositions on Subterranea and completely new material. On the one hand, it made sense to use material from the double album, as the film was based on Peter Nicholl's story and the album. On the other hand, Holmes wanted to illustrate the musical scenes and re-create them.
His conviction was that a film soundtrack is always successful and good, if it remains largely unnoticed and does not come to the fore. In the end, a soundtrack was created, in which the themes of the original album are subtly modified. This happens especially where the story of the film overlaps with that of the album. Holmes also wrote a lot of new music.
For the present soundtrack, Holmes then reworked the compositions, since he wanted the album to be heard without a movie. The music of the film is therefore different from the one on this CD.
Subterranea was shown at smaller film festivals in the US in 2015 and received several prizes (including Rhode Island, Queen City, Reel East Festival, Reno / Tahoe and the Montana Film Festival). In the spring of 2016 it was performed in London and finally released on DVD in the autumn of last year, but only in the USA.
But now to the album with the (partly) score of the movie. The overall feeling is that the album sounds very mellow except for the opening section. On Are You Awake? metal type music can be heard. The mellow parts move very much towards ambient and new age kind of music. Its therefore obvious that a large part of the music was played on synthesizers and pianos. The sometimes atmospheric music sounds very beautiful. The integrated spoken words from the movie work very well and gives you a true feeling you are sometimes in the movie yourself. The use of some rhythm boxes and pulsating sequencers sounds makes sure there is enough variety throughout the entire album. The music is colourful and varied enough not to lose the listener and carry interested in the album.
The final song In The Wilderness is the only track with real vocal lines. With lyrics written and sung by Peter Nicholls the music that you hear moves very much to a more mellow IQ tune. It is a quiet emotional song, where Nicholls sings in the style we know from IQ, and we also hear a gorgeous guitar solo from Holmes.
While listening to the album one name came up several times. Namely the Austrian multi-instrumentalist Heinz Strobl. Better known as Gandalf. Just like Holmes he can handle the keyboard and guitars in a very melodic way. Even if the rhythms are not always present. If you know his first two albums Journey To An Imaginary Land (1980, see review) and Visions (1981) you will hear a lot of similar music on this soundtrack! But also the albums made by Strangers On A Train came to mind. The musical project of keyboard player Clive Nolan, guitarist Karl Groom and vocalists Tracy Hitchings and Alan Reed. On the albums The Key Part I - The Prophecy (1990) and The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth (1993) the compositions had some of the same type of atmospheric, symphonic musical parts.
In the end you can say that what you hear on this album is the result is a very atmospheric mix of sound, which is mostly airy, ethereal and always melancholic. Fans of IQ will love it if they are into more atmospheric mellow music. As a lover of IQ myself, I can appreciate it. I really had an amazing time listening to the music which is based on the double album Subterranea by IQ! Most of all because I like the music of Gandalf and Strangers On A Train as well!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2017