Clockwork Records, July 2023
BY DAVID BENEDICT
Violent Hand of the Sleeping City is a thrilling musical trip through a 1970s-inspired crime film score that explores and celebrates the niche yet captivating genre of library music: music composed for specific use in movie and television soundtracks. A composer, producer, and engineer, Sean Wolcott’s latest album highlights this genre while making the soundtrack unique and capable of standing alone—creating a determined experience using mutated jazz, funk, and driving beats to take listeners through the dark and edgy streets of the ‘70s big-screen crime soundtrack.
Wolcott constructs his rich, layered soundscape with the contributions of over twenty of Seattle’s top jazz musicians and is littered with instrumentation like brass, strings, and vibraphone alongside the standard jazz and funk lineups.
The album opens with hypnotic choral chanting, a theme throughout the entire record that sets the atmosphere of a classic crime film score. The opening track, “Under the Heat of the Ice-Pick Man,” also sets the stage with a grungy funk bassline and background vocal elements of ‘70s Brazilian psych-pop. “Hunted at Hunters Point” brings along moods of a psychological thriller, with eerie, screechy piano strings evoking the suspense of a Hitchcock film or the terror from Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
The album’s sonic qualities contribute to the listening experience and are a result of recording the album at Soundview Analog Recorders, Wolcott’s studio, equipped with vintage recording equipment. This analog touch adds an intangible and timeless quality to the album and enhances its cinematic authenticity.
The album dives into heart-pounding foot chase scenes with tracks like “Tangle With San Francisco’s Finest,” which features classic, tinny, muted trumpet, mysterious flute, and cinematic orchestra hits that immerse listeners in the thrill of pursuit. “Rookie on the Beat” pushes peppy horn and groove elements from the likes of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights and drops of funky flute melodies reminiscent of Herbie Mann’s Push Push.
“Excessive Use of Force” introduces a synth police siren and rhythmic guitar, conjuring the spirit of films Shaft or Super Fly, while “Voyage of the Voyeur” leads the listener into a realm beneath seductive streetlights with a drunken trombone waltz.
The album’s final track, “With All That is Left,” features Lauren Santi, who brings the musical narrative to its cinematic conclusion with her alluring vocals that carry the lingering melodies beyond the boundaries of the big screen.
The creative vision of Wolcott’s Violent Hand of the Sleeping City, produces a musical adventure into an imaginary yet tangible landscape that leaves its impression on the listener’s senses.