Richard Bellis’ IT score excels at one of the hardest things to pull off in horror music: subtlety. While there remains plenty of quick synth stabs and crashes peppered throughout, it’s the quiet piano and strings that deceptively draw you into situations of overwhelming fear and paranoia, hallmarks of Stephen King’s wildly successful time-shifting and coulrophobic coming-of-age story.
While King’s IT has now been adapted to screen twice (the latest a 2017 smash box-office hit), we’re dealing with the 1990 miniseries here, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and with the now iconic portrayal of Pennywise the Clown by Tim Curry. Bellis plays off of Curry’s whimsically sinister performance by adding calliope and bells whenever the clown appears on screen, a calling card for Pennywise and precursor to the sharp strings that always follow.
While the score never sounds too dated, tracks like “Punks” are a dead giveaway that we’re in the late ’80s. Here, Bellis uses an electric guitar to drive the action, as well as some synth bass and bells. It’s serviceable, but doesn’t quite pack the punch of the more orchestral tracks, which thankfully make up the majority of the experience.
“Every Thirty Years” showcases the gentler side of the album, mixing slow horns with piano and harp. It plays out like a spooky theme for a daytime soap, maybe in the vein of something like Dark Shadows, with a waltzing rhythm that calls back to the main theme. “Hi-Ho Silver” incorporates the theme as well, opting for a piano-forward approach rather than harp and horns. If there’s one glaring issue with the score, it’s that it leans on the main theme and variations far too much, which can become a little repetitive during the listening session.
Waxwork opted for the expanded version of IT, previously available on CD from Intrada in 2011. I’m not sure if it was sourced from the same digital masters, but Waxork’s release page indicates it was remastered for vinyl, so it’s fair to assume some work was done to get the audio up to their standards. Overall, the sound is very good, with no surface noise detected on any of the 3 records. It was a little quiet on my system, but that could also have been due to the cartridge on my table. If looking for a good audio experience, buy confidently.
The packaging is where IT really shines. The tri-fold sleeve, which I usually detest, works beautifully here, featuring a 3 panel view of Pennywise reaching out to the listener. The insert is a replica of the Derry town newspaper, with instructions for how to fold it into the S.S. Georgie, the sailboat featured prominently in the story. The vinyl itself is on red, blue and yellow wax, colors that match the clown’s balloons. My copy also came with an actual red balloon, a fantastic extra that helps set the mood before the spin. It’s one of Waxwork’s best packaging jobs, and they deserve a ton of credit for its immersive qualities.