By David Browne
Updated January 08, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Could there be an easier gig than soundtrack compiler? From The Waterboy to You’ve Got Mail, most film-music discs have been reduced to oldies collections that were probably a cinch to assemble, not to mention fun — imagine playing DJ for millions. Yet the formula has grown stale faster than you can say ”closing-credit power ballad.” Thankfully, a few renegade soundtrack producers are shooting higher, commissioning new, untested material and performances and aiming for anthologies that are more than just K-tel compilations for the DVD era.

The tie-in disc to the remake of Psycho features portions of Bernard Herrmann’s motel-hell score, faithfully re-created by Danny Elfman. But for the most part, the album focuses on new alt-rock and country material with an emphasis on the obvious — meaning songs with ”psycho” and ”screaming” in their titles. The approach isn’t exactly subtle; Steve Earle’s Stonesy rocker ”All of My Life” goes so far as to incorporate the still-jarring stabbing strings of the shower theme.

Yet just like many recent film-music supervisors, the Psycho team seems to think electronica will be the soundtrack music of the next century. Lending the album continuity are spectral trip-hop and drum-and-bass — by newcomers Mono and Lamb and old-schoolers Pet Shop Boys — whose very chilly stillness cuts like a knife: Can’t you picture Norman Bates unsuccessfully attempting to unwind to Thievery Corporation’s ”Honeymoon Suite”? Producer-DJ Howie B’s techno sound collage ”Once Is Not Enough” even incorporates samples of dialogue, transforming Vince Vaughn’s creepy lines (”The kitchen’s awful homey!”) into passive-aggressive rapping. B+