Rating: Always, a winner, it seems like the ‘soundtrack to a movie that never existed’ trope has never been more popular than in 2021 and arguably one never more fanatically pursued than by the Whatitdo Archive Group. For starters, the PR campaign goes heavy on the idea that the ‘movie’ in question – spaghetti western-cum-noir-cum-caper-cum-giallo epic The Black Stone Affair – really did exist before being tragically destroyed in a fire in the early seventies and the band are merely curators of the recently rediscovered OST. But things don’t stop there. Nope, it transpires the ‘movie’ had a visionary director, ‘Stefano Paradisi’ (a cross between Leone and Antonioni), and they even roped in Shawn Lee and The Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan to make videos giving credence to the idea this is a long-lost cratedigger’s holy grail. Which is a quite a PR campaign – but does it live up to the hype? For the definitive answer to that, readers, let’s embark on a track-by-track adventure!
1. THE BLACK STONE AFFAIR (MAIN THEME)
Straight in with the Roy Budd/ Lalo Schifrin-isms – it’s a strong start that evokes a classy late 60s/ early 70s moody cinematic ambience…
2. BLOOD CHIEF
…as does the blaxploitation/ giallo vibe of this one’s funky conga-break, wah-wah guitar, horns and keys.
3. ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES
A.k.a. Whatitdo Archive Group in Africa. On a Mulatu Astatke tip.
4. IL FURTO AFRICO
‘Il Furto Africo’? They’ve certainly plundered from somewhere, though precisely whether it was the discography of Schifrin, Alessandroni, KPM or De Wolfe or a combination of several of the above could take even a globe-trotting shamus a bit of legwork.
5. ITALIAN LOVE TRIANGLE
Who doesn’t like a bit of sixties bossa? Especially when it used to be cinematic law that such music could only accompany scenes in which the protagonist and lady friend cavorted in a soapy bath above a noisy saloon, clothing strewn on the floor and down the back stairs.
6. LAST TRAIN TO BUDAPEST
More of that blaxploitation rhythm/ giallo melody hybrid funkiness about which you will find no complaints at this end – nor any other, one suspects.
7. L’AMOUR AU CENTRE DE LA TERRE
It’s less ‘naughty romp’ this time and more intense ‘amour’ as signalled by the moody French female talkie bits.
8. THE BLACK STONE AFFAIR (REPRISE)
And we’re back in the game! The trail is hot, a denouement is near and it’s time for more Schifrin-moodiness…
9. FAREWELL LOLA
…and a short detour into a smouldering evocation of lost love. Has she died or given our hero Mr Jenkins the old ‘heave-ho’ though?
10. BEAUMONT’S LAMENT
Either way it’s perfect time for a lament. And what better way to lament than in an Ennio Morricone-esque spaghetti western way? That’s right – no better way…
11. THE RETURN OF BEAUMONT JENKINS
…which is why it’s entirely fitting to combine a Morricone-style whistling motif (courtesy of Alessandro Alessandroni Jr., no less!) with funky rhythms and giallo melodies for the big finale.
COMMENTS: If you’re going to be a bear be a grizzly! The wheeze of the lost cult flick combining elements of all Whatitdo Archive’s favourite retro cinematic genres seems not only to have provided them with an excuse to put their pastiches of all their favourite retro soundtrack styles on one album but driven them to execute it in singular and triumphant manner. The ad. syncs, sampling and score requests will be rolling in.
BEST TRACKS: Best tracks?! This album demands to be listened to from start to finish every time but since you’re asking (and since the band themselves haven’t been averse to picking a number of singles from the set) you can’t beat the double-end whammy of Beaumont’s Lament and The Return Of Beaumont Jenkins, though Blood Chief rocks too.
(Out 9 April on Record Kicks)