PHASE IV Soundtrack 1974

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In the 1950s, as the atomic arms deadlock with the Soviet Union settled into a decades-long deep freeze, American moviegoers began to imagine threats coming from all angles, even from beneath their feet. Warner Brothers’ highest grossing film of 1954 was Them!, about a scourge of atomically enhanced ants. Soon, all everyday bugs were distorted to inspire fear and horror, a trend lasting well into the 1970s, where movies gave us reason to fear fire-starting roaches (1975’s Bug), African killer bees (1978’s The Swarm) and flesh-eating earthworms (1976’s Squirm).

One of the most profound—albeit neglected—sci-fi horror films to arise from the insect- kingdom subgenre was 1974’s Phase IV. Like Them!, Phase IV scrutinized ants, but instead of being supersized by radiation, these ants had been intellectually enhanced by a cosmic event*.* The movie holds a special place in the hearts of cinephiles and graphic designers as the lone film made by Saul Bass, an artist who designed the posters for Spartacus and Anatomy of a Murder, and the title sequences for West Side Story, Vertigo, and Goodfellas, among others. Alas, his lone foray behind the camera was a disaster: Phase IV sank without much attention upon its release, and is probably most famous today for being mocked in the very first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and, I suppose, inspiring a Yeasayer video). Perhaps that’s why its soundtrack has never seen release until now, with Waxwork Records paying loving tribute to the film with a special vinyl pressing.

Brian Gascoigne has credits intermittently spanning decades, ranging from The Dark Crystal to Gosford Park to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and he’s worked with Scott Walker. He gets the compositional credit on this soundtrack, though the intense analog synthesizer work is contributed by Desmond Briscoe and David Vorhaus. The soundtrack also features Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamash’ta. While many sci-fi and horror films of the '70s are usually brief cues (rare is the John Carpenter track that runs longer than three minutes) what makes Phase IV such a fascinating listen forty years later is that the compositions are broken down into four exploratory, ever-evolving sections, each in the eight-minute range, spanning a wide spectrum of emotion, from fear to pastoral calm, from alien to earthly. (Review by Pitchfolk)

Waxwork records MINT Unplayed