A striking new phase in In the Nursery's career began with this album, first in what the band terms the "Optical Music Series," commissions to create new soundtracks for silent films. Allowing brother Klive and Nigel Humberstone the further chance to create cinematic music -- something they always seemed destined to do -- was an inspired touch on the part of the British film society who placed the request, and which the brothers fulfilled in spades. Working here without any of the their regular side players, the Humberstones create a rich, lovely soundtrack that fits in well with their other work while still being distinctly different. The film itself is regarded as one of the classics of early cinema, and has had a number of soundtrack interpretations over the years; ITN's entry begins with a nice touch -- the sound of a film threading through its projector -- before beginning the seamless series of pieces making up the album as a whole. Much like the soundtrack for Ambush, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has few songs that specifically stand out on their own, instead providing a general mood-setting ambiance which carries through the album. Predominantly consisting of explicitly electronic as opposed to symphonic synth compositions (though such elements do crop up throughout), the soundtrack carefully suggests the action without being explicit or overwrought, as with the distorted samples of carnival music on "Fairground." Gentle basslines and echoed percussion sounds come to the fore as well, with a bell-like chime acting as a running motif throughout to tie everything together, and atonal or grating tones are worked into the mix at times to suggest the growing unease and nightmarish quality of the film as it progresses (and which at times seem to slightly echo another classic electronic soundtrack to a dark film, Vangelis' work for Blade Runner). In sum, quite a fine start to ITN's new line of work.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett