Le Matos came into my life at a very strange time.
In late January of 2016 I had my local record shop order in a few albums for me. They weren’t ones I was really familiar with, but ones I was curious about. Law Unit with Antoni Maiovvi and Matt Hill, Jodorowsky’s Dune S/T by Kurt Stenzel, and Le Matos’ Chronicles of the Wasteland/Turbo Kid Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. At this same time I began to have numbness in my right leg that went all the way down to my foot, as well as having a drop foot. At first I thought it was my sciatic nerve. Sciatic issues were something that ran in the family, so I figured it was my turn to start dealing with hereditary health issues since I’d hit the magic number 40 just a couple years before. I was also working out pretty regularly then and just assumed I didn’t stretch well enough and pulled something. But after three weeks of this I suddenly began to feel pain. Uncomfortable pain that turned into searing pain on Valentine’s Day 2016. Two days later I was at the minute clinic which led to an x-ray, which led to an MRI which led to a visit with an orthopedic surgeon. I had a pretty serious herniated disc in my L4 that physical therapy would only make worse. The only thing they could do was a discectomy in order to relieve the pressure the disc was causing on my nerve.
They set a date, gave me a bag of weird soap I’d have to wash myself with the morning of the surgery, and a prescription of Hydrocodone to manage the pain until surgery day which was March 31st, 2016.
So, back to Le Matos….
Between my diagnosis and the surgery I had about a little over a month to deal with this increasingly annoying limp. This allowed for many weekends at home doing not so much because walking around in public was kind of a chore, as well as too much walking caused that searing pain I mentioned. For that month I was home on the weekends(I was still working…up until the day before the surgery) reading lots of graphic novels by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale mixed in with Paul Pope and spinning records with my son. Him and I were pretty inseparable that whole time. We’d go to the record store, then hit up Chimp’s Comix for the next graphic novel. We were also going downstairs and doing the retro thing by watching some old VHS tapes my parents still had, as well as playing the Namco Museum classic arcade game collection on the Playstation. Lots of Rolling Thunder, Rally-X, Galaxian, and Pac Man interspersed with The Terminator, The Thing, and Near Dark on videotape.
When we’d play videogames we’d usually mute the TV and my son would pick out a record to spin downstairs. I think that entire month the record we spun almost nonstop was Le Matos’ Chronicles of the Wasteland/Turbo Kid S/T. Something about that record just connected with my son and I. A month before we’d watched RKSS’ Turbo Kid and loved it. The movie was a total retro trip to the early 80s. It was a mix of B-movie ridiculousness and the soft-hearted coming-of-age stories that Spielberg was famous for. Think The Road Warrior and Steel Dawn mixed with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Explorers. It was over-the-top and also incredibly endearing. My son and I really connected to it. We also connected to the 80s-centric electronic music that Le Matos scored it with. Hard techno mixed with 80s electro pop and just the right amount of menace when needed. The music stayed in our heads, which was part of why I picked up the vinyl.
As far as those three records I bought in January of 2016, Le Matos was the one that hit the hardest. I loved the Stenzel score and Law Unit was great, but I suppose the fact that my son and I bonded so much over Chronicles of the Wasteland is what pushed me to that album. It’s hard for me to imagine Galaxian anymore without having “Wasteland”, “Eyes Throat Genitals”, or “Highway 64” playing in the background. There’s something quite fantastical when Le Matos’ 80s sounding vibes are scoring these pixelated arcade games from the late 70s and early 80s. It’s as if they were meant to come together. Like peanut butter and chocolate, Lennon and McCartney, or Tango and Cash. The pulsating rhythms, the longing in the synth melodies, and the overall uptempo drive of these songs is really the perfect mix to give new life to these relics of the arcade. And for me, feeling that mixture of trepidation and fear as to how I would fare from a back surgery, there was a groundedness I got from that fantastic record that kept my head in the game, both literally and figuratively.
The album, a double LP set, was filled with all the great tracks that were in the film. It was also re-tooled from the straight up Turbo Kid S/T to Chronicles of the Wasteland. It felt more like an actual album than a soundtrack. The flow of the tracks and moods created feel like an epic listening experience. I liken it to Sinoia Caves Beyond The Black Rainbow soundtrack, Tangerine Dream’s Thief, and even Johann Johannsson’s Mandy. These records were integral parts of the films they scored, but they’re all very much standalone pieces as well. Records that stand as essential works in that band’s music canon. Chronicles of the Wasteland is absolutely essential in Le Matos’ discography.
The surgery eventually came and it was a success. I took about a month to heal and the limp went away as did the numbness. I came out of it fixed and with a scar. I also came out of that period a huge fan of Le Matos. I ended up buying Join Us and Coming Soon on vinyl, and just last year I grabbed their incredible score to Summer of 84. My son has made several Le Matos mixes since then, too. We still spin Chronicles of the Wasteland at least once a week, and he plunks on his Garageband virtual synth dreaming of the wasteland.
And when the mood strikes, we fire up the Playstation for some Namco fun as well. Of course, Le Matos continues to be part of that tradition as well.