CD: Warning Sign (1985)

March 26, 2015 | By


WarningSing1985_InvadaCDScore: Excellent

Label: Invada Records

Released:  December 2, 2014

Tracks / Album Length:  29 tracks / (54 mins.)

Composer: Craig Safan

Special Notes:  Also available as a limited 2-LP set.




Using sounds performed on a Synclavier, a combination synthesizer that could also record and change sound samples, Craig Safan’s 1985 all-electronic score matches the drama of a biohazard thriller in which sterile cleanliness is threatened by an organic agent that adapts, infects, and alters the health of its host. Besides a brief theme that opens the film (and is expanded into a classically styled closing work in the end credits), chords and pulses are frequently upset by shifts in tempo, the addition of dissonance, fractured voice samples, and the lack of any opening melody reflects the impersonal nature of a biological threat, moving on instinct instead of a desire to conquer.

Because the score has abstract sounding sections – thumps and metallic reverb have a certain random quality – Warning Sign has a genuinely experimental feel, and one can sense Safan was exploring the instrument’s full palette, finding its absolute sonic depths, levels of potential distortion, and variety of rhythmic options. (In his liner notes, he confirms the scoring process involved a lot of in-tandem reading, testing, and learning.)

Certain components became almost clichéd in film music – especially airy bass thunks, sampled voices pulsing, back-beat taps – but they don’t detract from the score’s design because the music isn’t supporting an action film. The amorphous, invisible nature of the agent, and the sense of dread and being overwhelmed has the album remain in a perpetual state of unease, with specific dramatic peaks.

Warning Sign always sounded rich on LP – Southern Cross’ platter had good sound and featured a decent arrangement of cues – so it’s an added bonus Invada Records reissued the score with a chunky second half of previously unreleased music which appears after the original album’s programme. This material is sometimes shorter, and it’s obvious the original LP arrangement emphasized longer tracks with rhythm and extended chords.

Vinyl fans will appreciate the limited LP pressing, whereas score fans can choose between the LP and CD editions, and Invada’s done a lovely job in remastering the album to bring out as much detail and sonic depth from the original analogue tapes.

A key attraction to synth fans lies in the rich chords and some subtle tracks which evolve into menacing, encircling drones. And bass. Really, really fat analogue bass. The score’s release also presents a fresher, crisper catalogue of vintage synth sounds which will certainly be appreciated by composers seeking to broaden their existing palettes for film and non-film work.

The release of Warning Sign follows a similarly remastered and expanded release of Safan’s classic orchestral score  The Last Starfighter (1984) from Intrada Records.

A 2015 podcast interview with Craig Safan discussing the release of both scores and other great music is available from’s iTunes, Libsyn, and YouTube channels.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



Additional Links:
Editor’s BlogComposer on IMDB  —  Composer Filmography —  Soundtrack Album

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Category: Soundtrack Reviews

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