Shinya Tsukamoto – Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Film On Tape)

5 out of 5

Label: Auris Apothecary

Produced by: (analog transfer to cassette)

Know what you’re getting. I’m crediting this the way Discogs does, to Tetsuo director Shinya Tsukamoto, but understand that this is a transfer of the movie – dialogue, sound effects, and music, in full – to cassette. So you could consider crediting it to music composer Chu Ishikawa (whom is credited on the tape’s interior), but then you’re missing out crediting cast like Tomorowo Taguchi, and we’d likely refer to a movie as being that of the director’s, so I like the Discogs credit. Or you could go with Auris’ method: just call it a Film On Tape. Indeed.

So what does that rating represent? Why would you listen to something like this? I don’t know. Do you like watching Tetsuo? I don’t. It’s an interesting film, for sure, that I’ve given a go a few times at various points in my life, but it’s never been something I’ve been able to sit through without getting a little bored. Interestingly, then, for as “visual” a movie as Tetsuo is, knowing the gist of it, experiencing it through this soundtrack alone is almost preferable, and maybe I can appreciate this particular aspect of it – the sound design – all the more, when I’m not sifting through the grind-punk aesthetic of the flick, and questioning if I’m piecing together the story correctly.

The actual isolated soundtrack is pretty badass of course, but it gains a totally different dimension when it’s mapped to the fast-edit style of the movie, plus the squelches and shrieks of the sound effects and the minimal dialogue – pleadings, screams. Harrowing stuff. The cassette transfer sounds a lot better than I would’ve guessed, and whether by way of planning or good fortune or both, the spot where we go from side A to B is pretty perfect – to my recollection, it’s after the sex scene, so there’s a bit of an, er, climax, with lots of screaming and drilling effects, and then the B-side picks back up with the core theme (presumably from one of the film’s many wandering-about sequences).

As per AA’s usual spot-on presentation skills, the cassette’s packaging is simple, but perfect: the stark B&W cover image – I believe from one of the movie’s film posters, but with all color gradients sucked out so that it’s truly only black and white – the inner image of a bundle of wires, and the metal-silver color of the cassette, with a hand-stamped title. It fits.

Know what you’re getting. If you do, and you’re game, this is oddly listenable stuff.