Ennio Morricone ‎– Lolita (WeMe vinyl edition, 2017)

5 out of 5

Label: WeMe

Produced by: Ennio Morricone (?)

While movie scores certainly do not have to function as standalone listens in order to be perfect accompaniment to what they’re scoring, if that music is going to be put to album so that I can listen to it without the visuals, I admittedly do give automatic credit to soundtracks (put to said albums) that are more geared for that. And a step beyond that is when the soundtrack, wholly listenable as its own experience, can then conjure and inflict the intended feelings of the film.

Yes, Ennio Morricone’s score for Lolita is an example of that, as well as being eye-opening for those of us (i.e. me) who only associated the composer with spaghetti Westerns, indicating a range and precision to the creator’s skills not previously known.

Fairly minimal but very affecting, Morricone opens with the haunting theme, which will be revisited in various forms throughout the score. My initial listens found certain emotional elements lacking in parts of the music, but subsequent spins helped reveal the layers Morricone establishes right from the outset: ‘Lolita’ mimics the more playful and open piano work on some of the more “light-hearted” tracks, but its done with electronics; the notes of mystery and conflict are present, but only become pronounced to the ear (i.e., again, my ear) once familiar with them. Afterwards is when we get the sense of innocence, and discovery – the themes aren’t exactly happy, but they could be interpreted as such: they’re careful composed; avoiding direct conflict. But soon enough, things turn – ‘Take Me to Bed’ has an underlying ominousness; a few tracks later, on ‘Requiescant,’ this is fully fleshed out with contrapuntal strings. The score plays between these states, fomenting unrest as it builds on the ‘Lolita’ theme – delicate, haunting – and testy use of strings and electronics and choir, revisiting a lastingly drifting take on the theme for the conclusion.

The WeMe vinyl release of this sounds great, and is the first vinyl offering of the Moriccone-only score; more commercially available previous releases were often criticized for also including some 40s / 50s pop standards scattered throughout, which interrupted Ennio’s vibe. Having just the composer’s music isolated is ideal, and the score itself is simply fantastic.