CD: Pressure Point (1962)

June 2, 2012 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: Kritzlerland / Released: December 28, 2009

Tracks & Album Length: 16 tracks / (35:28)


Special Notes: 8-page booklet with liner notes by producer Bruce Kimmel / Limited to 1000 copies..


Composer: Ernest Gold




Dramatic jazz scores were in vogue from the early fifties to roughly mid-sixties, and the trend for the fusion probably goes back to Elmer Bernstein’s Man with the Golden Arm (1955), insofar as a jazzy score accenting the psychological hell of a character, tormented by personal abuse, drugs, or bigotry.

1962 may be the part of the central period when jazz was both cool and wholly functional within such a mélange of cinematic personal troubles, and Kritzerland’s CD features the full score to a little-known work by Ernest Gold (Exodus, The McCullochs [M]), taken from excellent mono master tapes.

As producer CD Bruce Kimmel observes in his fairly personalized liner notes (so enamored with the film, Kimmel caught it 5 times during its theatrical run), the score has great similarities with the Twilight Zone scores of the era (“Slipping Down the Drain” in particular), and Gold’s approach is no less different: a small orchestral occasionally performing jazz-influenced cues and the odd source cut, and featuring a grimness that often spirals to wretched lows.

Even without having seen the film, Gold’s score evokes the battle between a psychiatrist and his ‘monstrous’ patient, and the stressors that affected the latter in his younger days. In Pressure Point, jazz merely establishes a tone of discombobulation: off-kilter rhythms, repetitive piano figures, and often shrill brass with a shimmering backbeat. The influence of both Bernstein and Alex North (Streetcar Named Desire) are apparent, and Gold creates a truly unsettling journey into madness, with only a few bits of calm between non-melodic pieces that rarely come to any resolution. Most of the cues cover varying shades of madness, and given the patient’s ongoing illness, it makes perfect sense most of the score deals with episodes of unresolved rage, and how that character chose to express himself.

Like a few of the Twilight Zone scores (which were, quite often, performed by small orchestras, chamber orchestras, or jazz combos), Gold makes use of peculiar electronic sounds in the stellar cue “Daddy Issues,” including what appears to be a synthetic or electronically processed violin, and watery string plucks which presage their eerie appearance in Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien (1979). Then there’s the inherent nastiness of “Raw Liver,” which sounds like lengthy portrait of someone trying very hard not to upchuck from the slow, gross ingestion of something utterly wrong.

There’s also a special robustness to Gold’s writing which makes every cue unique, due to the instrumentation or the sharp orchestrations which beautifully evoke the conflicts between patient and shrink. A carnivalesque tone dominates “Laugh And You Won’t Hear Us Coming” wherein the bowing has a grotesque gnashing style, but the album eventually winds down towards a soothing final cue; perhaps because of the carefully arranged colours, there’s still continuity between harsh and gentle cues.

Kritzerland’s mastering is clean, and the tracks flow well in spite of some brief running times. The album as a whole is fairly short, but there’s no narrative fat, and among grisly suspense scores of the era, this is easily among the best of the early sixties which should not be overlooked by genre fans.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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