UK label Finders Keepers is at it again. It’s been a while since they last put out a soundtrack release of a treasure from the vaults of Czech Barrandov studios.
They dig out, for LP release (and other suitable digital formats – They hear you John Bender!), Zdenek Liska‘s music to Jindrich Polàk 1963’s space opera Ikarie XB-1, known in the US with its butchered edit under the title Voyage to the End of the Universe, from the book by Stanislas Lem, author of Solaris.
For various reasons Liska is an unsung hero of film scoring. And at Finders Keepers they certainly are doing their best to get him out of oblivion, since its their third released score by the composer after Karel Kachyna’s Mala Morska Vila (The Little Mermaid, 1976) and Juraj Herz’s The Cremator (1969).
Zdenek Liska’s film music legacy and the overall quality of his body of work is impressive: The films of Karel Zeman and Jan Švankmajer, the 1966 Oscar winner Obchod na korze (The Shop on Main Street, Best Foreign Language Film), Vera Chytilová’s Fruit of Paradise (1969), the epic Marketa Lazarová (1967 ) and The Valley of the Bees (1967) both by František Vláčil or Kinoautomat (1967), an early ‘interactive’ cinematic experiance shown at Montreal World Expo. Nearly 300 soundtracks to his credit.
An adept of Avant-Garde techniques, of Musique Concrète and other various experimentation, mixed with the folk, the classical and the sacred, often acting as the sound designer, Liska, starting from separated takes of the orchestra ensemble, disassembled the ensemble with short separated takes, and opted, with Ikarie XB-1, for cutting reel tapes of real take in building a somewhat library who would be name, nowadays, a sample bank.
The abstract work is dominated by electronics with nods of future scoring in films. The use of the ARP Synth by Jerry Goldsmith (The Illustrated Man, 1969) comes to mind. Part of the general sound is à la Forbidden Planet (1956) but with an organic texture on its own. Parcels of the eclectic collection, give away the fact there is a composer knowing exactly what he is doing. Melodies are far from being catchy as some of your favorite scores, but there is definitely some here and there. Such was the talent for deconstruction, reconstruction of the innovative and artistically ambitious Liska.
This is a fascinating, historical release.