Conspiracy theorists often obsess over the link between modern music and fantasy film, but Brooklyn art rock quartet Conveyor cements that link with its sophomore studio album Prime.
Composed and recorded as an original score for George Lucas’ directorial debut THX 1138 (1971), Prime plays its role as a score with sharp attention to the film’s themes, but doesn’t play its role as a dynamic studio album for Conveyor.
In THX 1138’s 25th-century dystopia, faceless android police officers dehumanize citizens by reducing their names to simple codes, instating mandatory drugs that nullify emotion, and forcing them to work in dangerous, nuclear factories. Prime vividly reflects the humans’ trapped, silent screams with disconcerting sounds and emotional uncertainty (Conveyor frequently flips between the cold hum of machines and the warm comfort of human contact), but its flippant nature makes the standalone LP feel disjointed.
Introducing Conveyor’s massive overture “Theme I,” a futuristic, wavering organ swoops in as bassist Michael Pedron’s machine-like instrument murmurs a single note. Eerie, discomforting guitars reveal just how dark Lucas’ future really is. Since the humans work in nuclear factories, the threat of serious physical injury looms constantly overhead in the film. Conveyor represents this threat with a pitch-shifted, ambulance-like siren. Afterward, pained, reverb-drenched guitars expose the true dreariness of THX 1138.
While the film’s robot overlords forbid sexual intercourse, its titular character finds satisfaction in a hologram of a naked African woman dancing. In the midst of “Theme I,” drummer Evan Garfield erupts into a sudden tribal rhythm, emphasizing how dangerous a libido can be to Lucas’ hyper-structured society.
As dangerous as human interaction can be, both Prime and THX 1138 emphasize its glorious potential.
This motif is most apparent in “Theme X,” the first appearance of vocals on Prime (aside from the conversational sample in “Theme VII”). In the intoxicating piece, a four-part vocal harmony sings sweet “oohs” akin to The Beatles’ “Because,” stressing the beauty of creative collaboration, as opposed to the isolated, mindless factory work done by THX 1138‘s humans.
While Prime serves as a detailed, thematic score for THX 1138, its role as an LP sours by “Theme V,” due to lack of variety. Conveyor paints Lucas’ dismal dystopia with astonishing accuracy, featuring robotic noises, dissonant harmonies, and jolting sound effects, but cooks with the same ingredients throughout: pulsating, mechanical noises, funeral-like organs, buzzing bass lines, and slow, grounded drum beats.
The uniform buzzing dutifully emphasizes the absence of exuberance in THX 1138, but its frequent appearances cannot hope to fuel Prime’s 64-minute length.
The LP may not be entirely captivating, but Conveyor unfolds a few sonic surprises. In stark contrast to THX 1138‘s largely mechanical world, the band unleashes theramin-like sounds, lush, breezy guitars, and a jazzy, strummed interlude by guitarists TJ Masters and Alan Busch. The presence of these organic tones in Lucas’ lifeless future endorses THX 1138‘s themes of coloring outside the lines and rejecting dangerous norms but, outside the film, seems random and prohibits Prime‘s cohesion.
Also fighting cohesion, dynamic standout “Theme XIII” makes an exciting background for THX 1138‘s climax, but its unchanging tempo drums up an anticlimactic finale for Conveyor.
For the film’s credits, Conveyor aptly covers the 1957 Buddy Holly tune “Words of Love.” Its fitting lyrics plea for certainty about the existence of love, begging “Hold me close and tell me how you feel/Tell me love is real.” Conveyor’s version sways dreamily, affirming emotion’s triumph over robotic lifelessness and offering a comforting conclusion to the album.
Prime serves as a sufficient score for George Lucas’ 1971 film THX 1138, but doesn’t serve Conveyor’s discography nearly as well. Though its successfully depressing aura makes it a fantastic score, its repeated sounds and lengthiness make it a monotonous album.
Conveyor – Prime tracklist:
- “Theme I”
- “Theme II”
- “Theme III”
- “Theme IV”
- “Theme V”
- “Theme VI”
- “Theme VII”
- “Theme VIII”
- “Theme IX”
- “Theme X”
- “Theme XI”
- “Theme XII”
- “Theme XIII”
- “Words of Love”