THE HILLS HAVE EYES soundtrack | ©2014 Perseverance Records

THE HILLS HAVE EYES soundtrack | ©2014 Perseverance Records

Don Peake is one of the musicians who’ve jumped on board of Perseverance’s new “composer distribution series,” which allows artists to use the label as a proxy for titles they’ve always wanted to release. Among the titles to spring from the former Everly Brothers guitarist are FRANKIE AND JOHNNY ARE MARRIED and two volumes of KNIGHT RIDER. But horror cultists will most certainly get their primitive fill for Peake’s run through the cannibal-infested desert of Wes Craven during the director’s way grittier days, a grindhouse talent that had memorable brute force in 1977s THE HILLS HAVE EYES.

This since way more brutally remade thriller pitted a suburban nuclear family against a freakish clan inhabiting America’s atomic wasteland, a no-frills camping trip from hell that embodied the kind of raw, pre-HALLOWEEN  synth and small instrumental ensemble horror scores that really got under one’s skin. That primitive power is on hand here in guttural spades (for the most part in ultra-short cuts) as Peake announces bursts of progressive jazz percussion and gnarled, lurking electronics. It’s the kind of twisted energy that one can imagine being banged out in the time it takes to listen to this 39-minute album, and is no less effective for its brutal, budget-necessitated efficiency. Peake’s HILLS are alive in a way that many way smoother horror scores (and films) aren’t. Then a student of OVERLORD‘s Paul Glass, Peake fills his score with provocative, blackboard-screeching anger, razor ringing glass, skittering bones and slithering weirdness, employed by such musicians as I, THE JURY pianist Mike Lang and “blaster beam” player Craig Hundley. One can even hear echoes of David Hasselhoff’s talking car in the album’s jazzier chases as the album turns from the experience of dropping in on a horror jam session to grooving to slightly longer pieces. It’s a sound that marked an untamed era in horror scoring that might send those used to the more refined dissonance of todays’ genre soundtracks screaming from the HILLS hodge-podge of barbaric cues, But Craven admirers who don’t like their listening particularly easy should dig the release of the small, bizarre wonder of genre expressionism, the aural equivalent of a bald, leering mutant hungering for flesh if there ever was one.

Giving a much more jazzily elegant ride is Peake’s other, even bigger cult favorite, as he assembles two volumes of his music from NBC’s KNIGHT RIDER Taking the wheel for the computerized K.I.T.T. alongside David Hasselhoff for 72 episodes between 1983 – 1986 (Morton Stevens and Stu Phillips earlier contributions can be found on a Film Score Monthly compilation), Peake differentiated his music from what Alan Silvestri was grooving to for NBC’s other rubber-driven 80s hit CHiPs by putting over 30 musicians on top of his jazz-dance disco riffs. The result is a truly fun orchestral quality that plays more like cop jazz superhero music than what you might imagine as action for a high-tech car, whose suave Edward Mulhare computer chip is captured by pulsating synths. It’s a symphonic glitter ball swagger as delicious as David Hasselhoff’s hair that makes for a truly enjoyable listen as Peake veers between exciting variations of the show’s iconic theme to string sentiment and creeping criminal suspense. The songs are also particularly delightful here, speeding from Mexican music to 60s-ish guitar folksiness a la Joan Baez and Motels-esque 80s rock, with the biggest surprise being a cool take of Re-Flex’s hit “The Politics of Dancing” – exactly the kind of rhythmic decade-defining song you can imagine on Michael Knight’s stereo system – as well as the K.I.T.T. mobile these albums will turn any car into.

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