Your reviewer has never seen the film Belladonna of Sadness, for which Masahiko Sato performed the score. He's not particularly certain he'd be able to handle it. The press release for the Belladonna re-release from Finders Keepers definitely played up the psychedelic aspect of the score, to the point where, listening to the opening cut – Andy Warhol – one wondered if they were overselling, as it's a pretty basic bit of pipe organ and swirling kettle drum. Beautiful and strange, yes, but not substantially psychedelic.
Of course, then the last 50 seconds of the song kick into overdrive, and there's a certain sense of having been lulled into a false sense of security. The score backs off for a few cuts, with Belladonna and Valle Incantata operating in pretty standard blissed-out, organ-fueled dreamy '60s rock 'n' roll. Psych rock, but not full-on psychedelia.
The Notice is Notice, Mr. London, and then pretty much the entire second side of the record, however, are freak outs in full effect. Music phases from side to side, and the stereo effect is used to great ends. By the time the record's been flipped over, it's readily apparent as to why this has been reissued, and why it's been fetching such massive sums on the secondary market for the original pressing. Sato has created music that's both fascinating and absolutely involving.
Belladonna and TBSF are the only lyrical cuts, and it seems like that's just about the right number. Any more would've distracted from the absolutely fantastic instrumental work on display here. The guitar is held just barely in check, sounding as if it might at any moment see the collapse of the performer playing it. It's in stark counterpoint to the absolutely laconic drum work. The organ holds everything together.
Take It Easy closes everything out on a funky note. Despite adding in strange horns and further percussion, it also keeps the sounds of the earlier tracks while still managing to venture even further afield in terms of absolute musical adventure.
The reissue from Finders Keepers renders the music of Belladonna warm and rounded, creating an auditory experience that envelops the listener, allowing them to take in each and every aspect of this wonderfully weird, yet still accessible piece of cinema scoring. Fans of animation, psychedelia, and film scores – to say nothing of those looking for kicks to trip out on – will all find something to appreciate here.
BELLADONNA (1973) / COMPOSER: MASAHIKO SATO / LABEL: FINDERS KEEPERS / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 4TH