To travel in silence by a long and circuitous route. To brave the arrows of misfortune and fear neither noose nor fire. To play the greatest of all games; and win, foregoing no expense is to mock the vicissitudes of Fate; and gain at last the key that will unlock the Ninth Gate – Boris Balkan (THE NINTH GATE)
Making its debut on vinyl, WOJCIECH KILAR’S haunting soundtrack to ROMAN POLANSKI’S disturbing film THE NINTH GATE (1999) features at its core the vocals of Korean born soprano, SUMI JO. Kilar established himself as a horror score composer with BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA and his work here on POLANSKI’S film achieves a creeping sense of menace worthy of POLANSKI’S dark tale of Satanic worship.
Even after reading the above, I could not quite believe it until I actually had a copy in my hand. One thing you will learn as you head down the vinyl soundtrack enthusiast/collector path is that things change and they change often. A score or soundtrack can be talked about for a while and never materialise, but in the same breath a title will appear out of nowhere and bring you hours of pleasure. When SILVA SCREEN announced they were to release THE NINTH GATE on vinyl as a part of this year’s RECORD STORE DAY, I alongside many others had the title at the top of our collective lists. Unfortunately, due to unknown forces (potentially good, potentially bad, which you can read about below) the title was pulled and a great sadness descended. Luckily for film music fans the world over, SILVA SCREEN were not deterred and I sit here now listening to this magnificent score with a huge grin on my face.
Much like the film, itself, I am sure there are those out there that probably aren’t as enamoured by WOJCIECH KILAR’S score as I am. Personally I have waited to own the score for THE NINTH GATE on vinyl since seeing the film. And again for some, THE NINTH GATE is considered a lesser film by POLANSKI – this I find maddening (but then some may not enjoy books, the dark arts, a black mass and the odd dose of Satan [cinematically, of course] quite as much as I do). I would even go as far as saying I prefer THE NINTH GATE to ROSEMARY’S BABY. Don’t get me wrong, I adore both on celluloid and vinyl, but given the choice, I will always lean towards THE NINTH GATE.
What is it about THE NINTH GATE I hear you ask?
Simply put, the album is flawless. Dramatic when it needs to be, warm and nurturing when it needs to be, quirky and whimsical when it needs to be but above all; THE NINTH GATE is a dark score for a very dark film. That being said, the score is also one of the most beautiful I have ever heard, due in large part to the heavenly vocals of soprano SUMI JO.
I recently chatted to ANNA HARVEY from SILVA SCREEN about the albums release and also the struggle they have had bringing it into our lives.
Blumhouse – What attracted you to release The Ninth Gate on vinyl?
Anna Harvey – I love the film! There’s something about it; an ambiguity that colors the plot in a way that is very intriguing. The supernatural is something I have been interested in from a young age, so I have always liked horror films. Not the gore, but anything psychological, fantastic, ghostly or otherworldly. The Ninth Gate isn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but it’s unusual in this strange ambiguous quality.
B.H – Are you a fan of the score yourself?
A.H – Wojciech Kilar’s score must certainly take a large portion of the credit for the film’s unusual atmosphere. It’s great horror movie composing, full of suspense, with ethereal melodies spun over hypnotic string sections. Kilar is, of course, a respected classical composer, although most of his best-known work outside his native Poland falls under the soundtrack genre, so it’s no surprise that the score works beautifully apart from the film. I love the romantic and folk influences in his music so this soundtrack is right up my street.
B.H – Can you explain what happened to the release and why it was pulled from RSD?
A.H – I don’t think there’s an independent record label that doesn’t have a Record Store Day tale of woe from one year or another! I put this into production in October 2015 for release in April ’16 along with Doctor Who and the Daleks, to ensure there was plenty of time. The pressing plants really struggle with the flood of orders so I thought I would avoid the bottleneck. Even though we had to reprint the sleeves due to a random problem, Ninth Gate was hand pressed onto flame coloured vinyl (had to be flame coloured!) by late February. When I received the stock though, there were small groups of craters on the records’ surface apparently caused by a temperature issue when the two vinyl colors were mixed. The feeling was that the problem would be replicated if we attempted to repress them, so we took the very difficult decision to pull the release and repress it on black vinyl at a later release date.
B.H – Do you think the release was in someway cursed?
A.H – I did start to wonder! First of all the sleeves: the star was upside down. We didn’t notice at first but someone mentioned it on Twitter when I posted a pack shot. The star appears on the front of the books in the film with its points arranged like horns, but the scan had been reversed on the sleeve. We check these things pretty carefully before manufacture, so it was a bit strange but we reprinted the sleeves anyway. Then when I saw the pitting on the vinyl I was really surprised. I’ve never seen this type of random pattern before. Normally, pits are like small pinpricks and not in groups, but the ones on these pressings are larger and collected in constellation-like patterns, every one different. Make of that what you will!
B.H – Can we expect more horror themed releases from Silva Screen in the future?
A.H – Absolutely! Horror films provide some of the most exciting and atmospheric soundtracks and we look forward to releasing more in the future.
As great as this release is (and if you haven’t already gathered I am something of a fan), it has had its share of issues. As mentioned above, the reason it was pulled from RSD was down to an actual issue with the pressing of the vinyl. These things can happen especially when mixing colours. SILVA SCREEN has been very open about the pressing issues and as such, have offered a limited amount of the ‘Flame’ version available alongside the black vinyl version on their website at a reduced rate. Personally I buy records to listen to so often the colour/shape/limited edition nature means very little to me. In this instance though, I had to have a copy of the ‘Flame’ variant to display. If you were buying a copy to listen to, I would recommend the black vinyl version, if however you want something devilish to gaze upon, it has to the ‘Flame’ version all day long.
THE NINTH GATE is released on June 10th 2016.
Images courtesy of Silva Screen Records.