By JENNIFER KELLY
This long-out-of-print soundtrack to the 1973 Cannes Jury prize-winning film, La Planéte Sauvage simmers and insinuates with down-tempo funk, bristling with wah-wah guitar and gleaming with moody Fender Rhodes riffs. Composer Alain Goraguer was best known, before this film, as a jazz pianist and sometime Gainsbourg sidekick. His work here has the slinky, stylized sexuality of 1960s French pop, filtered through a Vaseline-smudged porno lens and then polished to a futuristic gleam.
The film, now a cult favorite, concerned a planet with two races, one human and subjugated, the other enormous, blue and firmly in charge. A friendship of sorts develops between a human pet and his giant mistress, though the boy escapes eventually and joins a colony of rebel humans. The soundtrack alternates between two basic motifs, a dreamy circling downward drifting riff that sounds like a falling leaf signaling Tiwa, the owner, and a funkier, Shaft-wah’d car chase musical theme that pertains to the boy, Ten. Both are played in a variety of timbres and instrumentations, though the palette favorites tremulous string swells, chilled out Fender Rhodes, twitchy funk guitar and altered vocals.
The album is somewhat repetitive, as soundtracks often are, with short variations on the main musical ideas coming one after another with nothing but the titles to give them context or, in some cases, differentiate them from each other. Still there’s a vertiginous thrill to be had from the tension between retro instrumentation and space-funky futurism; the album sounds exactly like the deep future imagined in 1968 or 1969.
Still the album works, most of the time, as music, its building blocks constant, but the mood shifting from ominous to dreamy to playful to aggressive from track to track. And if some of the riffs sound familiar that’s because they’ve been widely sampled by hip hop artists. Both Madlib and J. Dilla counted the Goraguer soundtrack as a touch stone, and Air’s The Virgin Suicides was also influenced by this lost 1970s landmark. All in all, La Planéte Sauvage is an odd, fascinating musical detour, worth hearing on its own terms and for the mark it has left on contemporary music.
DOWNLOAD: “Le Bracelet” “Ten et Tiwa”