Delirium of the Senses: Psychedelia in Italian Cinema

Various Artists

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Delirium of the Senses: Psychedelia in Italian Cinema Review

by Uncle Dave Lewis

Co-branded between English label Cherry Red and Italian film soundtrack specialists Bella Casa Music, but originating with Bella Casa, Delirium of the Senses is a collection of soundtrack cues designed to illustrate the manner in which Italian film composers absorbed the influence of psychedelic music. This began as a direct consequence of the rise of trippy, surreal drug-related sequences in Italian movies in the late '60s, although according to note-writer Christopher Evans, the psychedelic sound managed to leach into all kinds of films; here are cues taken from crime dramas, comedies, westerns, giallo, and particularly science fiction films. The range of the material stretches from 1966 to 1974, though most of it is from the years 1967-1971, and in this sub-genre of Italian film music Ennio Morricone seems to have served as the main agent provocateur. His cues from films such as Queimada, Ecce Homo, and Metti Una Sera A Cena seem among the most convincingly psychedelic selections here. Bella Casa is utilizing the term psychedelic in a very broad sense; Morricone's cue for the short film Forza G, to American ears, seems a little less like psychedelia and more like spaced-out jazz amped up with studio effects. Likewise, Morricone's cues for the film Veruschka, among the most compelling in the collection, utilize alto flute, harpsichord, and electronics drenched in lots of reverb; more of a cinematized avant-garde classical approach than a purely psychedelic one. The subtitle, "Psychedelia in Italian Cinema," is in a way more apropos than the theme advanced in the notes.

Toby Dammit, including the cue "The Awards" featured here, is arguably the most outrageously surreal of Federico Fellini's films in a purely visual sense. "The Awards" accompanies a scene where Dammit, played by Terence Stamp, is watching a succession of beautifully dressed mannequins (or live models -- hard to tell which); music and scene together are a completely trippy experience. Without the visuals though, the track just sounds like something of Nino Rota's, which it is. Nothing wrong with that, but one wishes Bella Casa's criteria of collecting psychedelic film music cues were a bit more stringently applied in such cases; the theme for Roman Polanski's rightly notorious sex comedy Che? features nothing more than a classical string quartet playing a Boccherini-like piece written by Claudio Gizzi. In the latter half of the disc, one does get to hear some things closer to a traditionally psychedelic vein, particularly in the Piccioni and Umiliani cues. Umiliani's music for the early giallo 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto (which Mario Bava claimed was his "worst" film) is right on the money and serves as a terrific example of what an Italian composer could do within the psychedelic idiom. The English groups Soft Machine and Pink Floyd (in its post-Syd Barrett, pre-Dark Side of the Moon) had a big impact in Italy and this is heard in several of the tracks heavy with electronic organ jams. However, there is not a single note of the typically freaked out, shrieking electric guitar most strongly associated with psychedelia to be found here, in fact, only two or three tracks feature any guitar at all.

Make no mistake; most to all of this is top quality Italian film music, and for those already informed with what the genre has to offer, then Bella Casa/Cherry Red's Delirium of the Senses will be an easy choice. However, for others coming from the reissue exhausted field of psychedelic rock looking to expand into like-minded undiscovered territory, then Delirium of the Senses is probably not going to flip your wig.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Forza 'G', film score
1 Ennio Morricone 01:45 Amazon
Sissingnore, film score
2 Berto Pisano 01:55 Amazon
3 01:49 Amazon
Il Dio Sotto la Pelle, film score
4 Piero Piccioni 02:59 Amazon
5 Piero Piccioni 03:29 Amazon
6 Piero Piccioni 02:39 Amazon
7 Piero Piccioni 01:50 Amazon
L' Arcidiavolo, film score
8 Armando Trovajoli 02:00 Amazon
9 Armando Trovajoli 01:40 Amazon
Histoires Extraordinaires: Toby Dammit, film score
10 Nino Rota 05:04 Amazon
Queimada, film score
11 Ennio Morricone 04:08 Amazon
Ecce Homo (Behold A Man)- I Sopravvissuti, film score
12 Ennio Morricone 01:20 Amazon
Veruschka, film score
13 Ennio Morricone 03:40 Amazon
14 Ennio Morricone 01:03 Amazon
Metti una sera a cena, film score
15 Ennio Morricone 01:23 Amazon
Teorema (Theorem), film score
16 02:44 Amazon
4, 3, 2, 1 ... Morte, film score
17 Anton Garcia Abril / Marcello Giombini 03:50 Amazon
Le Isole dell'Amore (The Island of Love), film score
18 Piero Umiliani 03:29 Amazon
5 Bambole Per La Luna D'Agosto (5 Dolls for the August Moon), film score
19 Piero Umiliani 02:22 Amazon
20 Piero Umiliani 01:39 Amazon
Fieras sin jaula (Due Maschi Per Alexa), film score
21 Piero Piccioni 03:22 Amazon
I Giovanni Tigre, film score
22 Piero Piccioni 03:08 Amazon
Scacco alla Regina (Checkmate to the Queen), film score
23 Piero Piccioni 03:04 Amazon
Fumo di Londra, film score
24 Piero Piccioni 02:21 Amazon
Scacco alla Regina (Checkmate to the Queen), film score
25 Piero Piccioni 06:23 Amazon
Il Profeta (The Prophet), film score
26 01:23 Amazon
Rebus, film score
27 03:46 Amazon
Che? (What?), film score
28 02:01 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick