It starts with a crackle of static and electric hum. Then there is a rumbling Blade Runner synth motif, before the violin kicks in. The beats are laid back, but the strings are majestic. For 5 minutes 39, “Lopez” transports the listener into the lonely, dark and slightly sinister backstreets of some unknown European city – fear and melancholy in equal measure. The last two minutes sees the piano take over, and the track loses some of its power. The initial half, though, is some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. The solo violin is played by Jackie Drew and the strings by the Budapest Film Orchestra. The rest is the work of the Deadly Avenger aka Damon Baxter.
Deep Red came out on Illicit Records in the autumn of 2002. It was an album with a long gestation period – an initial version was scrapped (indeed, “Lopez” first appeared in a much different form on the Illicit EP, a twelve inch issued four years earlier). It was worth the work, though. It’s one of the very best albums of cinematic down-tempo music, even though it appeared a good few years after the genre was in vogue.
Illicit struggled on, and in 2004 the owners decided to call time on the label. They put out a bumper triple CD box, rather bitterly entitled The Last Time I Do This For Nothing. It included an entire disc of Deadly Avenger material (including the original “Lopez”), some previously unreleased, as well as various other stuff from the label archives. Since then all has been quiet. I’ve no idea whether Baxter has a label at the moment or not, nor indeed whether he is even making music. I like to think he’s hidden away in some underground studio lair perfecting his next masterpiece. I hope so.