The Unsound Festival, which began in Poland in the early 2000s and has been successfully exported to New York City two years running, is renowned for its mix of abrasive sound performances and thoughtful workshops. Though many of the artists that took part in the event were truly legendary, with several of them making their New York debut, one performer clearly stood out. Alan Howarth, the synthesizer mastermind who became John Carpenter’s frequent collaborator during the ’80s and ’90s, was booked at Le Poisson Rouge to perform excerpts of some of his most classic movie scores, including Halloween, Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China.
Watching Alan play this jangly riff in a darkened room with about 250 other people was a seriously nerdy thrill. As he ran through other films (Christine, The Thing) I hoped against hope that he’d also play the soundtrack from Prince of Darkness, a personal favorite that involves an evil green liquid and Alice Cooper as a trench coat creeper. Sadly he didn’t but made up for it by playing the amazing nuevo-cowboy jam of a theme to They Live.
After an extended, spooky take on the Halloween theme Alan’s all-too-short set was up. Thankfully, he came back at the end of the night to collaborate with Emeralds, who have taken up the banner of atmospheric, synth-heavy sounds and infused them with a simmering menace that’s both melodic and haunting. Before they began their set Alan spoke briefly about a new project he was working on with them, which involved measuring and exploiting the natural resonant frequencies of the Egyptian pyramids. Consider me intrigued.