Album of the Day: Various Artists, “The B​-​Music of Jean Rollin, 1968​-​1973”
By Noah Berlatsky · January 22, 2018 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

French director Jean Rollin’s cult sexploitation vampire films are a specialist interest. Fans love pop surrealist details like the crotch-sucking vampire bats, incongruous clown costumes, and ubiquitous opera capes. Others are likely to find the slow-motion chases and interminable S&M softcore set pieces a chore to sit through.

The soundtracks are a different matter, though. The music is a hip sexadelic mélange, veering with giddy bloodlust from pop lounge to avant dissonance and back again. Pierre Raph’s “Gilda & Gunshots” from Jeunes Filles Impudiques (1973) juxtaposes breathy female gasps with pistol blasts, strutting bass, and hepped-up percussion to create a go-go dance chase scene complete with cheekily orgasmic false starts and stops. Acanthus’s “La Chateau” from Le Frisson des Vampires (1971) gets into a Deep Purple-esque heavy rock groove, which dissipates into druggy atmospheric noodling before locking back in. Yvon Gerault’s quasi-Bach riff “Blue Doll Baroque” from La Vampire Nue (1970) is a charming toccata and fugue pastiche, with the obligatory fleet final passages juxtaposed with the shuffling of chains.

The most striking track, though, is François Tusques’s “Croque Weasel” from Les Femmes Vampires (1968). Tusques was an important French free-jazz pianist, and the most famous composer to work on Rollin’s films. This one-minute track is bracingly abstract, starting with sawing atonal strings, and moving through plucking and piano banging; someone tries to pick up a funk beat but is subsumed by ambient crowd noise. It sounds like a mod party in a graveyard awkwardly collapsing in on itself. Another selection by Tusques, “Golden Panther,” throws an alarm clock into the middle of a Debussy arrangement.

Fans of Morricone’s odder experiments will be delighted. The whole album, with its tonal shifts and unexpected stylistic detours, is an appealing evocation of all the fractured and groovy creatures of the night, even if (or maybe especially if) you haven’t ever seen a Rollin film.

-Noah Berlatsky
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