You might not know but Australian film soundtracks have an unexpected synthetic past. Whilst the Ozploitation movement was celebrated a few years back via Mark Hartley’s energetic doco Not Quite Hollywood, until now their scores have largely been ignored. Whilst Mad Max composer Brian May scored more than 30 films in almost 20 years, ran the ABC Showband, and was best known for his grand orchestral Bernard Herrmannesque soundtracks, few are aware of his exploratory synthesizer work. And it occurred by accident.
The makers for 1982’s Turkey Shoot lost almost a third of their budget weeks before shooting, and with limited funds May turned to the synth, creating quasi orchestral multi genre cues, where he wasn’t afraid to get atonal, dissonant or strange, inadvertently borrowing from the pop realm, and developing slightly hysterical Nintendo meltdowns and unnerving Carpenteresque grooves. Whilst the film’s uneven tone (think The Running Man meets Hogan’s Heroes) and gratuitous violence grabbed the headlines, the score really is something special and is being released for the first time by Melbourne archival label Dual Planet.
They’re also offering up another Aussie obscurity, the soundtrack to the 1980, eco doomsday thriller The Chain Reaction. Featuring most of the cast and crew from Mad Max, including executive producer George Miller filming the car chases, it’s a popcorn flick with a classy refined electronic score that it really doesn’t deserve. Andrew Thomas Wilson gets modular, playing Moogs, Rolands and other vintage devices, channeling, Carpenter, Goblin, Tomita and Vangelis, delivering a unique kind of electronic fusion that is still mind blowing some 34 years later.