Michael Mantler

Alien

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Michael Mantler apparently conceived Alien as a kind of concerto for trumpet and orchestra but with ex-Mothers of Invention keyboardist Don Preston substituting for the orchestra on various synthesizers and drum machines. The musical style will be familiar to listeners who know Mantler's other work: a mixture of dark, brooding textures (rarely melodies as such) and the occasional rhythmic surge with one foot strongly planted in the art rock world of bands like Henry Cow. Given that it was recorded in 1985 when the overuse and abuse of drum machines was rampant, Mantler and Preston manage to largely avoid the excesses one might have feared, the keyboards actually filling in orchestral parts, the potentially static electronic rhythms used sparingly. Still, kitschy sounds do emerge from time to time, making one think that an actual orchestra might have been a better idea. The album title is left unexplained; as it was recorded several years after the movie of the same name, one can hardly be faulted for imagining this as an alternative soundtrack, and if that's the case, Mantler has constructed some attractive accompanying music. Not a bad record, but not in the league of his work with the Jazz Composers Orchestra.

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