The Swiss electronic pioneer’s CULT jazz soundtrack to supernatural Soho strangler epic held CAPTIVE since 1966
There’s a devious religious sect underneath the Tower of London which consists of some of the most greedy and powerful men and women in the world!
The plot of this obscure Soho-based Swiss/German thriller perhaps feels more believable during today’s political climate than it did when it was released back in 1966, taking die hard fans of Edgar Wallace paperback adaptations on a slightly more macabre and mystical journey than they had come to expect. What is perhaps less believable is the almost “criminal” fact that this film’s unheard spooked-out jazz score by one of the most innovative European players and composers has spent almost fifty-five years locked away, shrouded by mystery, not unlike the stolen Parvati Emerald that lies at the centre of the storyline of Der Würger vom Tower. For those who thought soundtracks and conceptual cinematic records like Mad Monster Party and The Vampires Of Dartmoore were unrivalled within their phantasmagorical micro-genres, the time has come for the original “jazz électronicien” Bruno Spoerri and the Finders Keepers archivists to unleash thick plodding bass lines, mind-bending percussion effects, wayward electric organs and breakneck European jazz to the loneliest part of your record library. Bound in the unbroken chains of baritonal chants by mystical mad monks during cloaked underground ceremonies while the life- blood of some of the most important and coveted players of the Swiss, French and German jazz scenes perform outlandish musical exchanges under Dr. Spoerri’s watchful eye, Der Würger vom Tower delivers on a rare conceptual brief marking a truly unique moment in their combined careers.
Having finally been liberated from Bruno Spoerri’s meticulous master tape vault, this music takes us right back to his first-ever feature-length soundtrack commission (following advertisement compositions for brands like Kodak and the Swiss Co-Op) in order to finally find its place alongside other recently resuscitated oblique jazz scores by the likes of Basil Kirchin, Krzysztof Komeda (Cul-De- Sac), Angelo Michajlov (Saxana / In The Night Kitchen), Roger Webb and Jonny Scott. For an established jazz composer like Spoerri (who would quickly gravitate towards the rise of electronic music to become one of its biggest champions and pioneers) it is easy to identify within this score the early murmurs of minimal electronic sound design and jarring keyboard motifs which wouldn’t sound out of place in recordings by Sun Ra if you can imagine an unlikely recording session with the John Barry Seven. “In 1965 I was just a beginner in film music, so I was very excited when writer Erwin C. Dietrich hired me,” explains Bruno today. “I could see the film only once, received a script withdescriptions and timings, and I had just one week to prepare the recordings. I wrote some short compositions, but for the rest we had to improvise. I asked some musician friends to join the session, and for the choral parts I enlisted two teachers (both amateur musicians) as the singers, who we doubled-up to make a choir.” On these rare recordings Heinz Pfenninger’s thick plodding bass notes, complete with double tracking and reverb, embody the classic Bert Kaempfert and Tony Fisher wet bass sound (that will instantly appeal to fans of Dave Richmond and Serge Gainsbourg), successfully pinning down the sodden plot against the damp underground canals of Sixties London in conjunction with legendary Swiss jazz drummer Rolf Bänninger as the rhythm section(s?) unwittingly channel McCallum and Axelrod in the dark shadows. “The studio producer Walter Wettler had a spring reverb and a simple echo machine which gave me this strange (but cheap) sound” explains Bruno, “It instantly made everything very mysterious, especially with the timpani and the bass.”
Translated as The Strangler In The Tower this lesser-known thriller possibly stretched the imaginations of cinematic crime buffs beyond the genre’s parameters before disappearing into obscurity. “I saw the film in Zurich during the short time it ran – and the only person also present in the cinema was the cameraman Andreas Demmer,” laments Spoerri. Opening up with Sixties shots of Big Ben and Oxford Circus before a cat-and-mouse chase through Soho (and a quick stop at Paul Raymond’s Revuebar strip club) this film, under the direction of established TV programme maker Hans Mehringer, sees a cast of bizarre red cloaked occultists – called The Brothers Of Compensatory Righteousness – gather in the deepest chambers of England’s capital to worship their “holy root” and retrieve the sacred jewel that binds them. Following a varied cast, including renowned burlesque dancers and confusing twin brothers, this ambitious seventy minute whodunnit (replete with the obligatory tangental plot) might pay the right kind of niche aficionado in rich dividends. It is the soundtrack, however, that is the real sacred jewel in Bruno Spoerri’s crown as the leader and pioneer of Switzerland’s electronic underground (not to mention sample source amongst rap royalty) and a mysterious monarchial figure in European jazz and music technology. A cult soundtrack in every sense of the word.