Secret Chiefs 3: Traditionalists
"Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini"
From out of nowhere Secret Chiefs 3 (operating here as Traditionalists, one of the seven ‘satellite bands’ introduced on Secret Chiefs 3’s album Book of Horizons) presents an elaborate “colonna sonora paranoica” — a paranioac film soundtrack. The film is imagined, but the horror is real. This entire project, as you might expect from this band, is a spiralling allegory that extends itself well-beyond its starting-point cliché as a “soundtrack for a non-existent film.” But that’s always been one of those potentially good clichés, in theory anyway. Pursuant to that potential, this particular work remains singularly, decidedly faithful to its sworn genre, the Giallo Horror Film Soundtrack.
At this point, it’s fair to assume we can take the dizzying conceptual maelstrom that comes with anything SC3-related as a “given,” right?
Alright, so we won’t go into that here.
But a word on the strictly musical side of things is warranted. The first thing to note is that Giallo cinema music has the distinction of having been graced by nearly all the great masters of Italian film music in general: Bruna Nicolai, Stelvio Cipriani, Ennio Morricone, Goblin, Pierro Piccioni etc. And though this area of “B cinema” certainly has its appreciators, one still-underplayed element is that when considering the music, Giallo’s harmonic language was developed by brilliant people who, by current musical and aesthetic standards, set the bar very high. For any of us wannabes to share in the magic of this lost artform, we have to bring a bit more more to the table than some vintage amps & keyboards and vague undeveloped musical ideas based only in hipster aesthetics. Because if you ignore the deeper intricacies of the music theory at work, the orchestration, the arrangement, etc., you’re really only asking to make an ass of yourself (which is likely anyway no matter what you do). But the usual thing is to sample stuff or simply borrow themes from the masters and to then repackage them in a new “updated” context. Well, in a climate like that we should emphasize that Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini is quite simply an album of original compositions. The process should be likened to when someone is learning another language and begins to have dreams in that language. It’s the same process in any style of music, really. So to state it plainly, these are original compositions that were dreamt into being in the harmonic language of the Giallo Horror Film Soundtrack. It’s that simple. The point is not to be strictly period-specific, or culturally-specific, but to be psychically specific — caring first and foremost about how to convey things that will affect the psychic state of the listener in the intended way. After all, the point of dreaming in this particular language, with all its sophistication, elegance and beauty, is to go that much more deeply into the territory of nightmare... and um, let’s just say SC3 feel it’s necessary to pursue this particular range of the human experience at this moment.
The album itself is a full orchestral score that fully capitalizes on SC3 stock of musical manpower (Trey Spruance, Ches Smith, Timb Harris, Shahzad Ismaily, William Winant, et al.) and adds to that a broad cast of A-list hired musicians (among them Laurie Goldstein and Hans Teuber). The material runs the gamut; dissonant violent strings receding to beautiful textures with flute and female vocals through echoplex; analog synthesizers, harpsichords and celestas over a tight ’70s-style rock band rhythm section; crazed psychedelic freakouts with major payoffs; church organs granting repose, until tape treatments and a chorus of possessed shrieking voices force the listener to reconsider his position on the existence of Evil... If you can imagine all that produced to the standard found on any other Secret Chiefs 3 release, you’ve pretty much got the idea here.
- Mixed analog to 1/2 inch tape
- First SC3 album on Mimicry in 5 years
- CD is a mock LP gatefold with printed sleeve
- First "Apocryphon" and first full-length album by a SC3 "satellite band"
- sure to scare off some of the more timid SC3 listeners, and be a seriously coveted item for anyone even mildly into this kind of thing
- all original music and original paintings in artwork
- decidedly walking in the footprints of the Great Masters of cinema music. They don't call it Traditionalists for nothing, you know!
- If you're looking for Book of Souls, this definitely isn't it.