Monday, May 15, 2017

Gil Mellé - The Andromeda Strain Soundtrack

Record Store Day, which began ten years ago as a way to celebrate and promote independent record stores, has grown so much that it is now somewhat of a mixed blessing. Record companies use the day to release limited-edition vinyl, which has gotten more expensive each year, and which any individual record store may or may not actually be able to get. Resellers swoop in, buy up the stock, and sell on Ebay for inflated prices. The owner of my favorite Atlanta record store said exasperatedly, "Instead of expensive limited editions, give me something I can sell for years."

But I will admit that I usually hit that favorite store every Record Store Day, and there are usually two or three releases that I am really excited about. The top spot on my RSD want list this year was a limited edition reissue of a record I had looked for for years - the soundtrack to the 1971 movie The Andromeda Strain. I saw that movie when I was about 14, but didn't remember anything about the music. But at some point, I became aware that it was composed by Gil Mellé, and I very much became interested in finding a copy.

Gil Mellé (1931-2004) was a jazz saxophonist turned electronic composer. I'm particularly fond of the three jazz albums he recorded for the Prestige label in the 1950s. His 1967 Tome VI on the Verve label is a fascinating early foray into electronics. By the time he created the Andromeda Strain soundtrack, he had fully mastered the electronic world. He uses pure electronics as well as acoustic sounds, sometimes electronically altered.

The RSD reissue, on the Jackpot label, reproduces the elaborate packaging of the original release, and like the original, the record is hexagonal, with the actual playing surface on each side about the size of a ten-inch LP. It was impossible to take a picture of the highly reflective silver cover without my reflection showing, so I embraced that.

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