Autopsy (aka Macchie solari) Album Review
Written by Richie Corelli
Released by Arrow Records
Composed by Ennio Morricone
1975, Limited to 900
Released on April 21st, 2018
Ennio Morricone is behind so many giallo soundtracks that seeing his name in the film credits is almost a genre trope. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1970), Kill the Fatted Calf and Roast It (1970), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971), Who Saw Her Die? (1972), and What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) are just a sample of Morricone’s giallo soundtracks. And yet, the composer’s creativity was rarely stifled by his prolificacy. While Morricone certainly repeated and recycled themes and sounds throughout his career, he also carried a wide range of style in his repertoire. Armando Crispino’s gruesome 1975 film Autopsy (originally titled Macchie solari in its native Italy) invited Morricone to embrace his darker, more cacophonous side.
The album starts with a bit of a fake-out. "The Victim" is built on traditional Piano balladry. An upright bass and a sandy drum keep time as delicate currents of strings brush underneath. A sad clarinet is underpinned by soft vocal affectations, oohing and ahhing with feeling.
But then things get crazy.
The second track, "Macchie Solari", dramatically changes the record’s tone. Empty air alternates with short bursts of chilling instrumentation. Vocalist Edda Dell’Orso gives a wordless performance, moaning through this darkness. Her voice is frightening. She sounds like a woman suffering. With two thirds of the track left, a bass-line flies in and chunks of piano keys crash and stagger along. This song lets listeners know that this is going one of Morricone’s stranger and more avant-garde works.
The experimentalism introduced on the second track moves right into the third, forth, and beyond. "Con Voce Strozzata" starts with a distant, groaning voice. A steady drumbeat accompanies a flatline of eerie strings. "Passaggio Secondo - Multipla Il Pezzo" turns the vocals up and makes them more breathy, more dramatic. A rhythm section comes in at the 30-second mark. It’s pierced and eventually killed by sharp stabs of strings. "Passaggio Quatro" amplifies the vocals even more. Anisimando has strings sliding in an out while other instruments descend and climb a series of notes. Sibili takes stretches of human whistles and layers them, creating a harsh, grating, boiling tea kettle sound. "Sesso e Potere (version 2)" hisses and rattles as it cautiously slumps forward. Alternate versions and variations of some of these sounds rearrange and reprise throughout the rest of the album. It builds a tense and unstable world.
Interestingly, the songs play in a different order on the record than they do during the film. The soft melancholy of "The Victim" is reserved for lovemaking scenes while the noisier tracks are used for the movie’s more suspenseful and horrific moments. Shuffling the track list for the record allows this album to play out with a more cohesive flow. It makes for a better standalone product.
While the instrumentation is solid throughout the album, it’s the vocal work by Edda Dell’Orso that takes the front of the stage. Her theatrical flair brings a sense of real danger to these songs. She chokes, pants, moans, and squalls. Her performance could be polarizing. Her voice heightens the tension on the record and extends themes of horror, but it is also intrusive. Some listeners may appreciate the feral and nervous emotion while others may be off-put by the sheer intensity. Playing this record at high volumes may invite concerned neighbors to dial 9-1-1. That’s how real it sounds.
This pressing, put out by Arrow Records to celebrate Record Store Day, marks the first time Autopsy (Macchie solari) was released on vinyl. It’s a good one. The Italian title, Macchie solari, translates to sun spots in English. The two LPs reflect this. They are bright white, marbled with blazing orange. The album is newly mastered from the original analogue tapes, and is well-mixed. The sound is clean.
The visual artwork displayed on the front and back cover, designed by artist Graham Humphreys, looks great. Scenes from the film are illustrated over fiery backdrop. The layout is strong. It pulls the eye in different directions and gives the viewer much to explore without inundating or intimidating. The inner gatefold, which scatters a few seemingly random stills from the movie, isn’t quite as strong, but it still serves its purpose and relates to the film. An inlay features soundtrack and film notes from media journalist Lovely Jon. The writer clearly knows his subject, and his shared expertise complements the work nicely.
Through his long career, Ennio Morricone has accumulated over 600 full-length works. He is one of the most accomplished modern composers in history. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, Autopsy (Macchie solari) is probably not a good introduction. It’d be better to start with one of his better known and more traditional pieces. But for horror fans who appreciate dissonance in their music, for people who truly want to hear something nerve-racking, Autopsy (Macchie solari) is something to check out.