2014: The Year in Genre Vinyl Releases and Reissues

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As a delightfully nostalgic way to celebrate the genre you’ve always loved or a tactile method of discovering one you’re beginning to, collecting vinyl has become an increasingly rewarding way to supplement horror fandom. Whether reissue LPs extend the experience of watching your favorite horror films past the end credits, or help reverse-engineer introductions to movies you’ve never seen, this decidedly anachronistic form of physical media has cultivated a growing army of experts and obsessives – not to mention retailers and distributors – who consider what was perhaps once best seen as punctuation for jump scares and gruesome deaths to be a piece of entertainment, and even legitimate art form, unto itself. And for longtime collectors and neophytes alike, the last 12 months in particular felt like a virtual explosion of options and opportunities – the musical equivalent of a Vegas-style all-you-can-eat buffet whose growing staff of culinary experts keeps adding new, unexpected and wonderful delicacies. 

Death Waltz Recordings, now entering its fourth year, is undeniably 2014’s MVP when it came to soundtrack releases: without the dedicated efforts of Spencer Hickman and Carlos Rossi to unearth, remaster, not only would the world be deprived of a vinyl pressing of Mike Armstrong’s title theme (and Jeff Grace’s gorgeous accompanying score) to Ti West’s House of the Devil, but also of the glut of fledgling labels and would-be distributors they inspired to scour forgotten filmographies and back catalogues for great, often forgotten movie music.

Death Waltz’ deluxe reissue of Fabio Frizzi’s magnificent, funky score to Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead ranks as a personal favorite from their ’14 output, as well as The Hook & Pull Gang, a vinyl pressing of a live re-scoring of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that marked a collaboration between Umberto and Antoni Maiovvi. But from the scummy early ‘80s no wave sounds of Joe Delia’s Ms. 45 to the tribal sleaze of Nico Fidenco’s Emanuelle Perche’ Violenza Alle Donne to the futuristic menace of Rob’s Maniac, the label’s indefatigably smart, eclectic choices make it a destination for tastemakers as well as archivists. And the recent announcement that Alamo Drafthouse’s Mondo acquired Death Waltz virtually guarantees even more interesting, obscure, ornately packaged releases in the near future.

Speaking of Mondo, the Texas-based label continued its own expansion into the soundtrack world in 2014, capitalizing on its growing reputation for crafting fan-and IP-friendly artwork and memorabilia with deluxe releases of the music from Jurassic Park, Gravity, and Rian Johnson’s Looper. For my money, no release in 2014 – from any label – got me more excited than their LP for Giulio Paradisi’s The Visitor, whose score (by Franco Micalizzi) is every bit as weird and wonderful as the movie that it accompanied. But it was a master stroke to release copies of the Shaun of the Dead score with a bonus “Zombie Extermination Disc” so listeners wouldn’t have to use their real records to fend off attackers in the event of a zombie apocalypse. That cleverness, paired with meticulous attention to detail, exemplifies why they’re among the fastest-growing purveyors of vintage soundtracks.

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Meanwhile, Waxwork and One Way Static have become promising distributors in their own right, especially in the last year: Waxwork’s Friday the 13th LP was the first vinyl release of Harry Manfredini’s iconic music since the days of Part III, while One Way Static’s Cannibal Ferox was the first ever vinyl release of Roberto Donati’s music for the film. Waxwork’s ’13 releases of Rosemary’s Baby and Day of the Dead were both top-notch as well – boasting gorgeous art and the most comprehensive collections of their respective scores available – but with releases like Philip Glass’s Candyman music coming in 2015 from One Way Static, and the score to credit designer Saul Bass’ only feature film Phase IV, they’re proving there’s plenty of market space for both blockbuster and obscure titles.

One label that existed long before this recent resurgence became “official” is Dagored, whose owners have been releasing incredible material since the late 1990s. (Their first official release, Black Emanuelle’s Groove, remains one of my all-time favorite records.) After releasing almost all of Goblin’s Dario Argento soundtracks in 2000, they resuscitated and reissued most of them again last year, enabling collectors to acquire copies of the music from Deep Red, Tenebre, Suspiria, Buio Omega, and even their early prog-rock albums Roller and Il Fantastico Viaggio Del “Bagarozzo” Mark, which are equal if not superior in quality. Seemingly open for business and eager to get back in action, Dagored released a Riz Ortolani and several Ennio Morricone soundtracks last year, all of which were new to them, suggesting they may utilize their ties to the Italian film market to gain access to some truly unique and exciting titles in coming years.

Otherwise, there were a handful of fledgling releases from new and up-and-coming labels such as Stella/ Private, which released its own City of the Living Dead LP, and We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Records, whose La France Interdite soundtrack by Andre Georget was a thing of beauty. Both Stella and Vombis records released versions of the soundtrack for Concorde Affaire ’79, a delightful slab of late-‘70s melodrama from Stelvio Cipriani, but Vombis’ two-LP set featured twice as many tracks as its competitor, forcing collectors to decide between a release that authentically replicated the content of the original soundtrack or one that was updated and expanded.

As great as both were, Vombis has yet to announce a follow-up, while Private has flourished, albeit modestly, as a distributor of rare disco re-releases as well as soundtracks. Even if their City of the Living Dead and Concorde Affaire ’79 LPs were less impressive in comparison to those put out by Death Waltz and Vombis, the label has exhibited superlative taste in all of its releases thus far, venturing into cartoon soundtracks (Captain Future), exploitation (Eaten Alive!) and even porn (the phenomenal Sex Fever, which comes packaged with a free vibrator).

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What’s remarkable about the spate of releases collectors have seen in the last few years is the relative dearth of overlap; notwithstanding the two Private Records releases, few of these labels have issued competing records, and it seems as if they scarcely target the same kinds of movies. Some labels focus heavily on, well, recognizable heavyweights like Morricone, while others aim for the most obscure composers they can find. One distributor might release predominantly synth-based or electronic scores, while others fill their catalogue with traditional string-based music. And still others, such as, say, Dual Planet, enables listeners to explore library music, or music concrete.

Ultimately, what 2014’s boon proved is not only that there’s a market for vinyl soundtrack releases, but an appetite for them as well – and an appetite that is multifaceted. There are completists who buy every release a label puts out, and then there are “pure” followers of the films, who only seek the scores for films they know and already love. And finally, and no less excitingly, there are those who just like the music itself, and want to hear it in an analog format on their hi-fi player, completely separate and independent – possibly entirely unaware of the films for which they were created.

The sheer volume and variety of 2014’s soundtrack releases makes it impossible to pick more than a few personal favorites, but also guarantees there will be more truly great ones in the future to choose from, no matter whether you’re a fan, hardcore collector or simply curious about this unusual musical subculture.

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Weekend: Mar. 28, 2019, Mar. 31, 2019

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