John Carpenter's 'Escape from New York' Sounds More Classic Now Than Ever

BY Brock ThiessenPublished Nov 30, 2020

At this point, John Carpenter is known as much for his music as his films, and for good reason. With the director almost always handling the music to his films himself, Carpenter has pulled together a stunning string of soundtracks over the years. And riding high among those OST classics is 1981's Escape from New York, which is once again ready to kick your ass out of the world with a new reissue by Waxwork Records.

While Escape from New York has received more than a few reissues over the years, this double-vinyl set from Waxwork promises to present the "complete score album" by Carpenter and longtime scoring partner Alan Howarth. What that amounts to is four sides of 180-gram vinyl, a jump from the original's 13 tracks to a whopping 28, and one of the best Escape from New York presentations yet.

While Carpenter's Halloween will forever stand as his most memorable theme, Escape from New York is arguably his strongest and most versatile soundtrack effort, introducing us to the synth-driven minimalism that would go on to define the classic John Carpenter sound. From the sky-scraping "Main Theme" to the beautifully fragile "Across the Roof" to the musclebound, disco-tinted "The Duke Arrives/Barricade," the music of Escape from New York sounds as modern and future-thinking in 2020 as it must have in 1981.

Amazingly, this all came from an incredibly primitive musical setup, with Howarth and Carpenter employing a range of now-classic gear. This included ARP and Prophet-5 synthesizers and the legendary Linn LM-1 drum machine, which were then given sonic highlights with more traditional instruments like acoustic piano and Fender guitar. Yet through this no-frills set-up, the pair managed to create one of their most timeless and influential works, leaving countless artists doing their damnedest to duplicate this sound ever since.  

But for the JC fans who know all this already, is Waxwork's Escape from New York worth a double-dip? For those with only a truncated early 2000s reissue, most definitely. But for everyone who has an already expanded reissue from more recent years, the listening experience is a very similar one. That said, the sound quality of the Waxwork release is phenomenal, with the "Statue of Liberty" blue green marble edition sounding not only dead quiet but dynamic in the best way possible. In other words, if you don't already own an IRL copy of the album, this is the one to get.

And for those who have yet to dive into the world on John Carpenter, Escape from New York remains the perfect entry point — both on film and on record — and still sounds as timeless as ever all these decades later.
(Waxwork Records)

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