Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pink Floyd - Soundtrack To The Film Zabriskie Point

Pink Floyd – Soundtrack To The Film 
Zabriskie Point 
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Heart Beat, Pig Meat
2.  Country Song
3.  Fingal’s Cave
4.  Crumbling Land
5.  Alan’s Blues

Side B:
6.  Oenone
7.  Rain In The Country
8.  Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up

While doing research for my trilogy of Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd re-imagined albums, I stumbled upon an album I was unfamiliar with and some have called “The Great Lost Pink Floyd Album.”  While I can’t say that it’s truly ‘great’ per se, it is indeed an album that never was and I grew particularly interested in reconstructing it, as others have done before me.  And so here it is, a reconstruction of the proposed and subsequently withdrawn 1970 Pink Floyd album Soundtrack To The Film Zabriskie Point. 

1969 was a hit and miss year for Pink Floyd.  Obviously searching for a signature sound beyond Syd Barrett’s psychedelic pop, the band spent the year touring and composing conceptual sound experiments, finally releasing their double studio/live album Ummagumma to represent (what they thought was) the best of that era.   Aside from this, Pink Floyd had recorded the soundtrack to Barbet Schroder’s film More, and it’s soundtrack album of original music was released that summer.  But that was not the only soundtrack the band composed in 1969; Pink Floyd had also recorded the music for Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point in a specific recording session in November 1969.  Although they recorded an album’s worth of material, only a few songs were ultimately used in the film and the accompanying soundtrack, in which Antonioni vied for selections from a number of artists aside from Pink Floyd.  The remainder of the original Pink Floyd recordings was left in the vaults, heard only on bootlegs and subsequent fan reconstructions.

Aside from some previously unheard bonus tracks on the official Zabriskie Point Rhino reissue in 1997, a great leap forward was taken by Magna Qualitas Records for their anthology A Total Zabriskie Point of View and their own album reconstruction 370 Roman Yards.  Allegedly, they were able to obtain copies of tape-box notation showing the tentative tracklist for Pink Floyd’s proposed Zabriskie Point album, as well as firsthand accounts of the sessions, and their reconstruction attempted to follow as closely as possible to that.  While MQR has done a great job researching the material, I disagree to the methodology of construction for their Zabriskie Point; they often chose historical accuracy over simple sonic clarity (overuse of EQ to inferior source tapes).  As the use of release-worthy source material is my primary concern, my construction was a bit different, although I followed MQR’s blueprint from their fantastic research.

My reconstruction of Zabriskie Point begins with “Heart Beat, Pig Meat” and is then followed by “Country Song”, both taken from the Rhino reissue of the official album.  For the sake of audio clarity, I avoided using the familiar version of “Fingal’s Cave” because there is simply no quality source material to my standards.  Instead, I used the track with the working title “Take Off (version II)” from disc 1 of TZPV because it shares extremely similar musical characteristics and motifs as “Fingal’s Cave” (short heavy psychedelic track in the key of E major), not to mention that both pieces were meant for the same scene!  With this information in mind, it’s obvious to me that “Take Off (version II)” is simply an alternate “Fingal’s Cave” and the two should be considered interchangeable.  My choice of “Fingal’s Cave” is hard edited into “Crumbling Land” from the Rhino reissue, as intended by Pink Floyd and featured in the film.  Side A concludes with an unedited version of “Alan’s Blues” (previously known as “Love Scene 6”) from the Rhino reissue.  Although MQR went to great lengths to digitally remove reverb and create presumed edit points to match a specific runtime, I felt the full seven and a half minute track sounded good enough for me! 

The shorter side B begins with “Oenone” and it was a tedious task to find an appropriate take for my reconstruction.  I eventually chose the “full mix” of “Love Scene 2” from disc 2 of TZPV since it featured the longest length and the most sonic elements.  The track was faded out after the orgasmic climax six minutes in, effectively removing the inappropriate post-coital laughter and one-liners from the band.  My reconstruction ends with “Rain in the Country” (known as “Unknown Song”) followed by “Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up”, both from the Rhino reissue.  The final touch is my original cover art, made to resemble its sister album, Soundtrack To The Film More. 

The result is a more concise 38-minute album than other Zabriskie Point fan reconstructions, and a more sonically pristine assemblage than MQR’s novel attempt.  While certainly not the greatest Pink Floyd album—and one can understand why it was never released—the Soundtrack To The Film Zabriskie Point seems to stay close to my heart and holds a lot of air time on my music player.  The album showcases a series of snapshots of Pink Floyd genre-hopping, including individual songs that each play upon their diverse range of strengths and influences: experimental found-sound collage; heavy psychedelic rock; electric blues; atmospheric psychedelia; acoustic folk.  There is a bit of everything thrown in the mix, yet the album works as a whole, more so than their previous and equally-diverse soundtrack album for the film More.  Although largely instrumental, the two song-based gems “Country Song” and “Crumbling Land” are stand-out tracks that could rank as high as any of the Pink Floyd singles from the 1960s.  Soundtrack To The Film Zabriskie Point has something for everyone and shows the essential continuity in between Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother. 

Sources used:
Various Artists - Zabriskie Point (1997 Rhino reissue)
Pink Floyd – Total Zabriskie Point of View (bootleg, 2011 Magna Qualitas Records)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included