Basil Kirchin - I Start Counting

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Sublime unreleased score to weird cult / brutalist Bracknell thriller. Music by Kirchin and his killer cohorts. Unmissable.

Released for the first time here is this charming, odd and affecting score by Basil Kirchin, made “in association” with his regular cohorts, Jack Nathan and John A. Coleman.

The film, released in 1970, was directed by the multi-talented and quite radical David Greene. Greene was also an actor, a successful producer and had already employed the services of Kirchin for his 1967 horror The Shuttered Room and quirky crime thriller The Strange Affair.

I Start Counting notably starred a young Jenny Agutter. who at the age of 14 was playing the role of an inquisitive 16 year old schoolgirl. The film is set in brutalist Bracknell, with Agutter’s character living in Royal Point, a classic “threepenny bit” of a 1960s tower block. When she ventures away from the safety of this concrete castle on an obsessive, erotically charged journey, her world is turned upside down.

As macabre, coming of age thriller, the score for I Start Counting allowed Kirchin to explore more dark edges of film music and composition: as a score it bubbles along with lots of classic Kirchin hallmarks, but here we are also treated to a beguiling opening song that is lyrically and musically developed and then slowly pulled apart over sequential cues. We also have a unusual Eastern tinge to some of the percussion and Kirchin’s distinctive pastoral oddness is here too. His sonic jumps between low drama and high tension are extraordinary, and his use of free jazz to bring about unease is both perfectly simple and effective. I remember talking to Basil about the opening song many years ago and he explained that his original idea was to have it sung by Cilla Black or Jenny Agutter but in the end Lindsay Moore, the daughter of jazz chum Barbara Moore stepped in.

The score mighty fine but a little short, so here we have included more unreleased soundtrack material from the Kirchin archive – a tape labeled “Third World Documentary”. This dates from the early 1980s and was produced for either TV or a festival and musically complements the first score well, even though they are two decades apart.

The names of the musicians working here died with Basil. But I reckon for I Start Counting the drummer may well have been Clem Cattini, Evan Parker was more than likely involved with the session and possibly Derek Bailey too – the improvised passaged have a whiff of their presence. As for the later recording, I have no idea, but there is a distinctive modern “Fairview” sound to the cues and production.

Together the two different recordings show Kirchin constantly progressing with his sound, embracing new ideas and modern studio techniques too, but always somehow maintaining his distinctive voice. More Kirchin will follow.