Cinema Braille does it again with their latest release, "Haunted Corridors." Their previous effort, "Blank Screen," was as innovative and eclectic an electronic composition as one could hope for, yet amazingly, "Haunted Corridors" takes this achievement one step further.
Don't let the spooky title fool you: this composition is not just another faux-monster movie soundtrack or Halloween sound effects record. CB takes a wide catalog of aural horror-film "icons" (lightning storm, shuffling footsteps, screams, et al) and reimagines them in refreshing and unique ways. Lingering and meditating on the simplest sound, such as a creaking door, leads the listener into surprising areas of revelation, in which the true essence of the sound, and its underlying theme, become evident. Stretching a "shock" sound to unheard-of limits has a tendency to defang it of its assumed power to frighten, and the strangest sounds are made attraactive here, sounds which might have previously frightened or repelled.
Although the choice of soundbite is deliberate and eclectic, the resultant mix is integral and coherent, and like CB's other work, results in an entirely symphonic work. Themes build one on top of the other, contrasting and complimenting the other in delightful ways. Rumbling, rolling bass soundscapes, alternately ominous and relaxing, vie with screeching string sections, shrill and defiant, in an attempt to create an atmosphere both vaguely threatening, yet curiously alluring.
Although the music can certainly be used as background ambience, it seems a shame to waste it thus, as a full reading of the work offers so much to the astute listener. Interwoven throughout are brief sketches of classical cues, most notably the highly appropriate "Totentanz," and the screaming strings from Bernard Hermann's score from "Psycho," painted in broad expressionist strokes, yet eerily familiar. At midpoint, the work takes a most interesting turn, as tribal drums bring skeletons to animated life, and a creepy yet whimsical dirge of the dancing deceased ensues, with CB thus making a sly statement on the mantric power of music, and its ability to "raise the dead." Raising old ghosts may not be the author's intent, but raising consciousness surely is. Fear, like any other thought or emotion, is an abstract, a psychological construct, and by turning traditionally "spooky" music into a revelatory, charismatic symphonic poem, CB illustrates the subjectivity of all aesthetic experience, an insight both educational and entertaining. Indeed, the listener may be most surprised that for all its (perhaps) intended tension, "Haunted Corridors" is primarily a meditative experience. The repetition and overlapping of distinct sound segments comes across as a form of aural mantra. Rather than obscuring the sources of anxiety, it illuminates and reveals them. If it's overriding subject is fear, the conclusion drawn is that fear resides within, and is not a foreign threat from the outside. Indeed, the message may be that the "Haunted Corridors" discussed are the inscrutable inner pathways of the human brain, from which arise all strife and sorrow. As such, "Haunted Corridors" may offer an opportunity for personal apeothesis, in revealing the internal source of fear, and thus, offering a chance to exorcise it. After reaching an invigorating crescendo via some triumphant faux-orchestral passages, the work comes to a rest at the point from which it began: the thunderstorm which originally invoked a band of screaming demons, returns to soak those same restless banshees in a healing and enervating rain, and they dissolve into the soothing ambient ether so that the world may return briefly to its former, just slightly deranged state.
"Haunted Corridors" is compelling, exciting, and haunting in the best sense of the word, yet another example of the breathtaking genre-hopping that Cinema Braille seems to do better than anyone else in the field. It is nothing less than a masterpiece of electronic composition. And like the others in the "Seamless CD" series, the composition can play over and over, endlessly, with no beginning or end, just like the circle of life itself.