Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dust Off Those Grooves (Chapter 16) Full Circle By Colin Towns

There is a line from the film PLAYING BY HEART that goes something like, "Talking about music is a bit like dancing about architecture" and that is a bit how I feel when it comes to writing on something like Colin Towns remarkable score for Richard Loncraine's FULL CIRCLE. This elusive album needs to be experienced and nothing I write can come close to capturing the astonishing music contained on it.
Outside of being one of the finest soundtrack albums ever released, Towns' work also stands as some of the most memorable electronic music of the seventies. I hold the best moments on FULL CIRCLE up with some of the work people like Eno, Popol Vuh, Mike Oldfield and Goblin were doing in this period, the album is that good.
Towns was born just a few years after World War Two in Britain and began taking piano lessons at a very young age. Throughout his late teens and twenties he would do a variety of session work before landing a spot in the Ian Gillian band. It was while working in Gillian's band that Towns began to work in his spare time on the themes that eventually wound up in FULL CIRCLE.
I am not sure how Loncraine and crew came across the relatively unknown Towns but a demo tape of Towns score ended up in the producers hands and once they heard the magnificent main title they knew they had found their composer, and Towns was commissioned for the full score.

Towns work on the film is simply astonishing and it is a prime example of how important music can be in a horror film. Saying that FULL CIRCLE wouldn't be as effective without Towns score is a massive understatement. The film is unimaginable without it in the same way that Carpenter's HALLOWEEN or Argento's SUSPIRIA would be without their respective scores.
The main thing that sells Town's score for me is the sense of loss in it. Towns perfectly encapsulates Mia Farrow's tragic Julia in this music, you can almost imagine that this is the music that is playing in her head throughout the film. No where is this more evident than in the stunning pieces that bookend the film, FULL CIRCLE: THE PARK and FULL CIRCLE: EVERYTHING'S RIGHT NOW. Julia's very sad but remarkable journey is perfectly captured in these two long and unforgettable tracks.

The album, which is one of the most exceptional releases of a year that included Bowie's LOW among many other career defining releases, starts off with THE PARK and it takes its grip immediately. THE PARK is probably Towns most famous creation and it has popped up on many ambient and electronic collections over the years. A ten minute plus tour de force of sound effects, inventive synthesizer work, distant voices and one of the most beautiful piano themes I have ever heard, THE PARK is the album's masterpiece and it is one of those rare pieces of music that I can play over and over again.
After the majesty of the opening track, Towns delivers the intense HAVE YOU GOT A MAGNIFICENT PROBLEM, one of the more frightening tracks on the album. A persistent and heavy piano solo signals this track as perhaps the darkest and most traditional track on the record and it leads directly into PRETTY MEN ARE VERY RECEPTIVE, a synth orchestrated piece that is my least favorite on the album; although it is still quite brilliant.
KATE, on the other hand, is a real favorite and contains some of the loveliest moments on the album. Highlighted by a sweet keyboard solo that merges some of THE PARK'S themes into it, KATE is a real highlight on the record. Even better is the one sung song on the album, the jaw dropping OLIVIA. Towns sings in an emotional and pleading style that matches the nostalgic and yearning tone of the song perfectly. The song, a meditation on the ghostly Olivia from the film, features one of the great moments in Towns career when just past the three minute mark, his vocals stop and one of his most inventive and moving synth solos suddenly appears and the song switches gears from a pop single into a dissonant mix of ghostly voices and echoes of a lost time.
OLIVIA is a bit hard to recover from but LOVE SCENE, with its striking flute solo, is a nice moment on the album and is one of the lightest. MAGNUS: THE UNWELCOME INTRUSION on the other hand is one of the most terrifying, a droning landscape that suddenly explodes into a chorus of bells that reminds one immediately of a similar effect Pink Floyd had used on DARK SIDE OF THE MOON a few years earlier.
Town's score concludes with FULL CIRCLE: EVERYTHING'S RIGHT NOW, a comapnion to THE PARK and nearly its sequel. The seven minute plus EVERYTHINGS RIGHT NOW starts out with a lovely nostalgic piano solo that sneakily drifts into a quiet version of the main theme before exploding into a slightly speeded up version of THE PARK. Anyone who has seen this film will remember this piece of music as it goes along with the film's final shot, one of the most iconic and unforgettable in all of horror.

Colin Towns' FULL CIRCLE is a major work and its current out of print status is unacceptable. Briefly available on cd in the mid nineties, copies of the album and disc fetch huge prices on Ebay and are very hard to track down. The album is in bad need of a re-release and re-appraisal, as much of the score still remains unreleased. Indeed one of the films key moments, the rainy drive home, and best pieces of music is nowhere to be found on the original lp or cd. For those who can't locate this towering and magical work, I would suggest doing a blog search as downloads often pop up. It is unfortunately the only way to hear this breathtaking and rather groundbreaking record right now.
A google search will also bring up TOwns official website as well as a comprehensive fan site. The man is one of the great unknown voices and composers in popular music, and FULL CIRCLE is his masterpiece.


Rogue Spy 007 said...

Hey Jeremy. Great article. It sounds great. Why does it seem like all the wonderful music and films are always out of print? It's a shame.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
Do a blog search if you get a chance and give it a is really remarkable...thanks for the comment

fred said...

I agree with you : Colin Towns' soundtrack is the best i ever heard. I had the chance to buy the LP when i was twenty. I'll never sell it. Colin Towns had composed a music so terrific, but although oniric, sweet, ambient, dissonant. A real masterpiece. I'll write a critic in my blog, soon.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks so much Fred...I have just added your blog to my links...