Keith Richie is a Texas-based electronic music composer, who has been releasing a string of highly impressive albums in recent years. Following a similar concept of his 2014 album, “March of the Inanimate” (recently extended and remastered with the subtitle “Repossessed”), “Mister Stichs” is what Keith refers to as an “original 'n’otion picture soundtrack”. Notably inspired by the works of John Carpenter – who directed and scored films like “Halloween” and “Price of Darkness”, among others – “Mister Stichs” plays out like an imaginary soundtrack to a spookily suspenseful storyline. Comprised of twelve compositions, the album musically interprets the narrative of a struggling family moving away from California to begin a new life in a small town in Texas. The family’s son discovers a scarecrow named “Mister Stichs” in a field behind their house, and soon learns that it’s possessed by an evil spirit who haunts the property.

Creeping in slowly with ominous drones, “The Road from Downey” sets the stage for an alluringly dark and suspenseful story to unfold. Billowing basslines and sparse piano notes are joined by layers of analog sounds and harpsichord-like sequencers, which appear frequently throughout the album. An incredible opener, the composition boasts immaculate production and technical quality right from the beginning. “Erin’s Theme” moves at a slightly quicker pace, with bustling, buzzing piano and somber violin amidst electronic layers – until a windy swell tears through towards the end of the piece. One of my favorites is “Fields of Sorrow”, a hauntingly gorgeous piece full of flowing strings and spinning textures, which seem to convey the notion of a spiraling decent. “Someone’s in the House” is another highlight characterized by heavy sequencing; this composition brings to mind that of exploring hidden halls and cryptic corridors, as ghostly shadows slip in and out of view. Another one of my favorites is “Carnival of Pain”, a beautifully breathtaking piece that weaves the melodic stanza and instrumentation of carnival music into Keith’s signature motif. As with many of his compositions, there’s a distinct undercurrent of melancholy and profound emotional depth – all while eliciting both vivid and fascinating images. “Can You Keep a Secret?” is the album’s final composition, which bears the classic hallmarks of dynamic electronic space music. Making for a riveting closer, its initial pounding beat evolves into a steady rhythm, which moves the composition along at a traveling, forward pace. Here, piano and guitar are interlaced with pulsating textures – eventually culminating into a grand finale that perhaps signals that of making a great escape.

Not only is “Mister Stichs” impressively reminiscent of a John Carpenter film score, the album also greatly reminds me of Tangerine Dream (whom Keith is likewise admirable of). He makes fantastic use of modern and vintage synthesizers, along with riveting and realistic-seeming surround-sound effects that boasts continually alternating intervals of serenity and suspense. Proving once again that Keith Richie easily ranks among today’s best electronic music composers, “Mister Stichs” is not to be missed, especially, by fans of both John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream! ~Candice Michelle

Links & Purchase: Bandcamp, Keith Richie 

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