A List of Things We Lost is the rare vinyl blog of the sometimes corporeal, always ephemeral Unbreakable Records.

Nothing posted here will be found on a compact disc. Links are lingering somewhere at the end of each post; go find 'em!

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Sunday, February 8, 2009


Blippy and trippy, Gil Melle's soundtrack to the 1971 film of Michael Crichton's career-making The Andromeda Strain has been credited as the first completely electronic movie score. Well, at least that's how Melle himself - no slouch when it came to shameless self-promotion - pitches it. In fact, we now know that that honor goes to the equally B-movie Forbidden Planet, which debuted a full 15 years earlier than Melle's work.

Still, given Melle's unfaultable pedigree as both a player, writer and arranger (my favorite of his works are still the dreamy, Third Stream-y sides he cut for Blue Note in the 50s), his music for The Andromeda Strain is a sharp departure aesthetically as well as compositionally. The soundtrack itself is notable for its gimmicky appeal, as well - the original pressing of 10,000 was released in a die-cut hexagonal cover, with 10" hexagonal vinyl, too (my rip is from an original "hex" copy). 1971 was the year of gimmicks galore with vinyl & sleeves, including the Stones' zipped-up Sticky Fingers, Grand Funk's embossed and coin-shaped sleeve for E Pluribus Funk, and Traffic's corner-cutting Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, and there's a great anectdote on the hexagonal vinyl's manufacture by Rick Wise, the man who created this out-of-the-box idea. The original version sold out quickly, and Universal pressed a second version on plain ol' 12" wax with a different cover.

Regardless of the debunked myths of "firsts" that Melle claimed, his soundtrack takes all the elements of primitive electronic music and approaches them in a compositional way, rather than through the more random applications from which most users of Moogs and ARP Odysseys got their sounds at the turn of the decade. For non-organic sounds, Melle makes his cascades of beeps, ticks, swishes, and so on come alive, building in tension and even rhythmic counterpoint. He sets the tone well with each piece, and there's a great flow and logic - and even musicality - to the otherworldly sounds he's able to coax from his homespun collection of cables. Sadly the sountrack itself - which must've taken a long time to create - is super short, clocking in at under 1/3 the length of the actual movie, a brief and disappointing 26 minutes.

What I'd really like to know is not just how the hex vinyl was manufactured, but the exact gear Melle used to create the music. Melle himself built the synths he used, much like Bob Moog and Wendy Carlos, but unfortunately there seems to be no accounting for, or even much on-line interest in, this question (which is surprising); Melle died in 2004, so the chance to ask the man himself is now past. I guess that's all for the best, because that leaves us listeners with a more complete sense of mystery in these over-informed days, and maybe still the same sense of wonder and fear that both The Andromeda Strain and its soundtrack evoked lo those 38 years ago.

PS - Apologies for somewhat noisy vinyl, but this one is especially hard to find, and especially the original pressing... sometimes ya gotta go with what ya got!