I bought this for myself as a birthday present in December - is that OK? Or was it a shameful act of self-indulgence for which I should feel guilty because the money could have gone towards something for LJ? Well, I'd already bought her an orange.
When I lived in a quiet place in the country, my place of birth, Mum used to tell us about being given an orange for Christmas. So now I think: "If it was good enough in the 1920s"...there's no better time than this one of over-indulgence to remind ourselves that the smallest of gifts can be appreciated, savoured in their singularity...I bet that was the best-tasting orange imaginable...
Those of us who buy vinyl know that the record's singularity is one of it's pleasures. The black shiny slab stands apart from all those files, but Charlie Parker knows how much I love them too. Grabbing from the internet is how I got to know the extent of Ennio Morricone's genius away from his famous stuff.
There was no internet when I lived in the country. In 1968, when A Quiet Place In The Country was made, I was not quite old enough to buy music of my own and made do with what my older brothers bought, which wasn't a bad education, consisting of The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys, for instance. Had I heard this album then ('though it didn't exist) I'd have been struck dumb, of course. I hear tell of kids today with extremely developed taste; tales told by parents of their off-springs clamouring for Coltrane - those trendy parents spawning even trendier kids - huh! Not that Coltrane is trendy, but you know what I mean - perhaps hip is a better word. Still, I've a theory about that which goes something like: if your ten-yr-old kid likes Coltrane by the time she's 14 she'll have realised how alienated she's become from her peers and, like them, fully engaged with what's popular amongst kids. It makes sense. I mean, what's the point of trying to convince your schoolmates that Giant Steps is a work of greatness when the response can only ever be a blank stare?
A Quiet Place In The Country is where horrors unfold, judging by the cover. Presumably it features a female being terrified. I used to terrify my sister with pranks designed to scare the hell out of her, such as dangling a (large) convincing rubber spider from the top of the stairs as she walked up them. My finest hour in this regard, however, was making a papier-mâché head, putting it in my bed (with pillows as my body), pulling up the blankets and then calling her from under the bed. Imagine her horror when I grabbed her ankle - what larks, Pip!
Most listeners would find this record horrifying - they ain't got sophisticated taste like wot we 'ave. It's a terror-ble album, filled with nerve-shredding strings (conducted by Bruno Nicolai) - from the off (Fantasma), with wordless vocal queen Edda Dell’Orso at her house-of-haunted-horror-siren-song best. On Un Tranquillo Posto Di Campagna she la-la-la's a tune, reminiscent of the theme from Rosemary's Baby which, coincidentally, also came out in 1968. Whilst this melody is jollier than Krzysztof Komeda's plaintive classic, it nonetheless has a distinct air of madness about it as the merry/bonkers melody skips around it, banjo, whistle and all.
Since this involves members of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consananza there are striking segments of improvised mood music made for bending minds out of shape, such as I Sogni Dell' Artista (featuring Morricone on trumpet). Again, on Lo Spirito Di Wanda, the boys brilliantly create asylum-based Improv. Delirio Secondo's sound is made from an array of instruments blown, struck, bowed and tinkled in the name of creating a psychotic atmosphere. Most of it's like that. No respite in the form of harmony depicting peaceful moments. No romanticism. Lots of sonic stabs to the heart and Morricone's horn sounding like Satan's trumpeter luring you into the pit of Hell.