For the first time ever, Record Kicks is pleased to announce the release of the long lost soundtrack by Whatitdo Archive Group to the Italian Cinematic Masterpiece "The Black Stone Affair'' on beautiful gatefold vinyl. Long thought to be lost alongside the movie itself by the production studio, the soundtrack's master reels were recently recovered and its audio meticulously restored and remastered by J.J. Golden in Ventura, CA.
The movie itself was understood to be unusual for its time: a globetrotting adventure/western-noir written and directed by aspiring visionary, Stefano Paradisi. Unfortunately for Paradisi, the tragic loss of his masterpiece also meant the end of his short lived career in movies. People who worked on the film have been cited as saying this film was going to be a turning point in Italian cinema and henceforth put Paradisi on the map alongside the likes of Fellini and Antonioni.
While the movie never saw the light of day, the soundtrack by obscure band Whatitdo Archive Group has thankfully been recovered. The music itself is staggering to hear, each track evoking all the senses almost all at once. "The Black Stone Affair (Main Theme)" sets the story with its dizzying bassline underneath a Morricone-esque harpsichord melody eventually all digressing into a psych-freakout of guitars swirling over what is the overarching motif groove of this iconic soundtrack.
We then get taken into the giallo-steeped melody of "Blood Chief". What can only be the theme of the antagonist, this cut offers crunchy drum breaks, reverb-drenched bongos and a sinister baritone guitar line that seems to be indicative of its character. "Ethiopian Airlines" transports the movie into exotic lands with its afro-centric rhythms and mysterious horn melody. The search is on for the elusive Black Stone, an artifact so coveted it had been hidden for decades for its fatal power of seduction. For fans of KPM and De Wolfe Music, "Il Furto Di Africo" definitely delivers a similar 'library' flavor popular at the time. Our ears are treated to an ambiguous sense of center. What were Whatitdo Archive Group thinking? There almost seems to be two key centers at once and a slithering flute line blending between both. We can only imagine that the Black Stone was successfully stolen from the small Italian village of Africo with this track.
What movie really is complete without a lounge-y Bossa number? "Italian Love Triangle" delivers that sun-soaked Mediterranean romance. Our cunning female lead, Lola, decides the only way she can acquire the Black Stone is to pit the trio of characters against each other with an erotic love triangle she carefully crafts to exploit the vulnerability of Blood Chief and Beaumont Jenkins. "Last Train to Budapest" finds our two male leads in a gun-wielding, high-stakes train chase through the dizzying mountains of Bosnia racing to Hungary's capital city. The music brilliantly calls upon the soundtrack's multiple melodic motifs to all collide into a single stressful heart-racing track sure to put a knot in your stomach. Probably the most unusual song appearing in this soundtrack is the French infused "L'amour au Centre de la Terre", an obvious yet tasteful homage to the composers' musical hero, Alain Goraguer. A lilting monologue is recited by who seems to be Lola, the tragic female lead in "The Black Stone Affair". Her passage speaks of the entangled romance she shares with the other two male leads and her plan to acquire the elusive Black Stone for herself. It's every man (and woman) for themselves! Paranoia and deceit has crept into the minds and motives of our conniving trio. No one can be trusted and false alliances are crumbling from within.
"The Black Stone Affair (Reprise)" evokes the characters' gut-wrenching feeling with its ever-rising key center. "Farewell Lola" is the saddening funeral dirge and exit of the aforementioned Lola. Sworn enemies Beaumont and Blood Chief stand silently outside the church and watch as Lola's casket is lowered into her untimely grave. This is merely an armistice between the remaining opponents, only to resume after paying their respects to their former 'lover'. A gory fight leaves Blood Chief standing. Beaumont is nowhere to be seen and only a cloud of dust slowly settles into the landscape as the mournful guitar and harmonica of "Beaumont's Lament" plays quietly in the distance. All is not lost. Triumphantly, Beaumont Jenkins stands tall, throws one last devastating blow to Blood Chief leaving him incapacitated. "The Return of Beaumont Jenkins" plays loudly in the face of Blood Chief desperately reaching for the stone only to realize it's a false! Our new hero, Beaumont Jenkins, sustained by Alessandro Alessandroni Jr.'s cinematic whistle, rides away victoriously into the night sky... the Black Stone hidden cleverly in his hat. End credits.
Steeped in obscurity, a cult following of crate-diggers and musical oddity collectors has been brewing over the mysterious releases of the Whatitdo Archive Group. Surfacing in 2009 from the high deserts of Reno, NV, USA, this recording collective focuses solely on curating, performing and preserving esoteric soundtrack, library and deep-groove collections. The personnel of the group consist of three musicians; each of them avid composers, recording engineers and obsessive record collectors. Alexander Korostinsky, Mark Sexton and Aaron Chiazza met in college and have been working together on producing music for over 10 years. (Both Korostinsky and Sexton also happen to write and perform in critically-acclaimed soul group "The Sextones"). In 2015 they quietly released a small batch of lo-fi deep-groove demos recorded exclusively to cassette in an old garage. This became their first full length offering, Shit's Dope, and it began to quickly spread across the internet piquing the interest of record collectors and DJs all over the world—a record Fleamarket Funk describes as "Falling in between some Headhunters and Lunar Funk 45s" and becoming a bestseller on Bandcamp of that year.
During this time, the Whatitdo Archive Group also began what is often hailed as a vital turning point in Reno music history; by hosting their famous "Whatitdo Wednesday" residency at a local venue. These packed performances drew the attention of not only live music-goers, but also the most accomplished jazz musicians in the area, often joining them on stage. Eventually, these shows stumbled into the arena of obscure performance art, where the band would facetiously distribute written and multiple choice tests during their performance for the audience to participate in.
After their residency came to a bittersweet end, the Whatitdo Archive Group refocused their attention on the wonderful world of 1970's soul-jazz, where they wrote and recorded what would be their follow up 7" release, Crocker Way / Steve's Romp. This limited edition 45RPM became a hot ticket item for UK record collectors who had been previous fans of WAG's older lo-fi work. Crocker Way was also a featured track on BBC Radio 6. Shortly after producing Crocker Way / Steve's Romp, the group again started production on their crown jewel of a record, a concept album that had been tossed around for several years beforehand but never executed. As band member Mark Sexton explains "We wanted to create an album that encompassed everything we love and admire about old Italian soundtrack scores, and bring that energy back into the spotlight". The group spent 9 months of research, digging through their personal collections of dusty LP's scrutinizing the work of Piccioni, Torossi, Roubaix, Alessandroni and of course Morricone, recording, mixing and working with over 24 skilled musicians. The Whatitdo Archive Group finally completed what would be their finest work to date, The Black Stone Affair. Recorded entirely in Korostinsky's home studio, this record is a labor of love, dedication, appreciation and respect for the golden age of Italian Soundtrack and Library music.