The Chronicles of Narnia/The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Chronicles_Dawn_treader_A88697811422This is probably one of the most talked about and anticipated scores of 2010. David Arnold has always pulled out all of the stops and seemed to be comfortable and at home when scoring big action movies. I remember hearing his magnificent theme for STARGATE for the first time and not knowing who the composer was thinking this has got to be John Williams, but then found out it was Arnold so went out of my way to actually get the CD on import because I refused to wait until it was issued in the UK. Then came the thundering and powerful INDEPENDENCE DAY, which certainly contained the wow factor and of course we have his brilliant work on the JAMES BOND movies, plus there was that gorgeous Barry-esque theme for THE LAST OF THE DOGMEN that is rich and luxurious on the ear. Arnold for me evokes a feeling and atmosphere that one used to experience in film scores many years ago. Within his soundtracks there are an abundance of themes and magnificent set pieces to accompany the imagery and stories unfolding on screen, as there were back in the golden and silver ages of film music. Nowadays it seems to be something of a fashion to underscore or understate the music, even stifle it in some cases using it simply as a decoration, there are no real wholesome or developed thematic properties anymore in music for the blockbusters or in 99 percent of Hollywood made films, well until now at least. THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is I am glad to say one of the composers most accomplished, sumptuous and grandiose works for the cinema to date. Right from the beginning there is a sound and air to this score that is magical, fragile and mystical. THE OPENING TITLE track is short lived but soon manages to establish itself and conjure up an atmosphere that is breathtakingly stunning and brimming with enchantment and mysterious overtones. Choir, strings and horns combine to create a sound that is wistful, sweeping and attractive, with utilisation of fleeting chimes and a smattering of timpani which both act as a punctuation of sorts, as well as enhancing further the central performances. It is a perfect introduction and also an enticing invitation to the listener to explore further the musical delights that lay ahead and there are many of those.
Track 2, THE PAINTING, is more of a robust, windswept and dramatic sounding work, brass and strings perform in unison complimenting and enhancing each other interspersed by timpani and flyaway sounding woods to give the impression of urgency and a distinct atmosphere of action and adventure, but the mood changes mid way through the cue relaxing slightly, the same instruments melding together to bring us an uplifting almost reassuring conclusion to the piece. Track 3, HIGH KING AND QUEEN OF NARNIA, is penned by Harry Gregson Williams and is the theme utilised in the two previous movies. This is also an opulent and noble sounding work, full bloodied and heroic in its make up and overall sound but at the same time tinged with a slight ambience of melancholy that radiates warmth and pride. Track 8, THE GREEN MIST, brings us a combination of driving strings and brass with shrills from woods which act as a background to chanting male choir and even though this is short lived in its duration again the composer manages to develop and bring the music to its full dramatic potential creating a thrilling and exhilarating composition. Track 9, MARKET FORCES, is for me one of the many highlights from the score, it is within this cue that the composer flex’s his musical muscles showcasing the brass, strings and percussion in a full on run through of one of the scores principal themes, it is not only an stirring piece but one that is exciting, inventive and memorable. The remainder of David Arnold’s score is proud, commanding and passionate, it harkens back to the days of Korngold, Newman and Rozsa, and is the heart of Aslan, the courage of Edmund, the evil of the Snow Queen, the innocence of Lucy and the life blood that brings Narnia and its inhabitants into being.

Mad Doctor of Blood Island.

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This Filipino fest of bloodletting and frights was released in 1969, the main character is not actually a he as such but more of an it, as the monster is a green blooded chlorophyll creature that resembles the Toxic Avenger on a bad day who resides on a remote island and is the result of an experiment gone horribly wrong, once a patient of the MAD DOCTOR referred to in the pictures title. The insane physician Dr. Lorca is portrayed by Ronald Remy, whilst John Ashley stars as Dr Bill Foster the hero of the tale, with Angelique Pettyjohn in the role of Sheila Willard providing the love interest and glamour in the film.

The musical score is the work of Filipino born composer Tito Arevalo, who’s rhythmic, percussive and dramatic music enhanced and punctuated the movies inventive storyline perfectly. It is a mystery to me why this score has not been issued before, it ticks all the correct boxes in the category of a horror soundtrack, but also contains some surprises that are appear in the form of enjoyable lighter moments, these are heard alongside pulsating and infectious up beat tracks which are in a way addictive, as once heard will be played over and over again. The orchestrations are polished, original and interesting, Arevalo throughout experimenting and combining instruments that one would think unlikely bed fellows, but each time the combinations work to great effect creating a consistently good listening experience. This is not a large scale score, neither is it a booming or overblown sounding soundtrack as in Hammer or AIP productions. Instead the composer has kept the proceedings quite low key and invented a work that not only serves the movie well, but manages to stand on its own two musical feet and entertain away from the images it was intended to enhance. For myself the stand out tracks include track 16, DANCE PART 2, which combines dramatic brass with choir that are embellished by the use of jangling and percussive beats, in many ways this composition is reminiscent of the dance sequence music from SOLOMON AND SHEBA but just more up tempo, it possesses a raw almost primitive sound that is both attractive and compelling. The TITLE MUSIC is certainly a highlight as its style and sound that consists of brass strings and timpani fused with chorale work sets the scene perfectly for what is to follow.
Track 8, Number 13, contains an almost melodic xylophone performance that picks out an uneasy sounding music box motif, which works in two ways for the listener, it relaxes in the first instant, but there is a slightly off key macabre sound to it that soon makes one realise all is not right when this music is employed But to select these three examples as being highlights is rather unfair as the entire score is a delicious slice of innovative film scoring from the 1960s, which I am confident will be of interest to anyone who is a collector of film music. This is the first release on Elysee Productions and is a credit to the label, sound quality is very good and it is presented with colourful and striking cover art and a booklet that includes very detailed and informative notes on how the score came to be released. The CD is a limited edition of just 1000 so it would be a good idea to order your copy as soon as possible. Hopefully Elysee will unearth more of these lost treasures in the future and create a catalogue of somewhat obscure but at the same time worthy releases. Recommended.

The Dead.

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THE DEAD is a horror movie that has at its subject matter the ever popular scenario of Zombies, but I must say that it is a movie which, although gruesome, frightening and gory in places is also absorbing and at times makes one stop and think. Set in Africa it contains a musical score which is the work of British born Indian composer and producer Imran Ahmad. This is an interesting and most of all original work for this genre. OK, it contains the usual atmospherics and the sharp and short musical stabs which make the listener jump and add impact and depth to the proceedings on screen, but this is a score that is intelligently constructed, and well thought out in its placing within the movie. This sounds as if it is a soundtrack which is mainly synthetic with a scattering of conventional instrumentation, but there is also an effective use of percussion, ethnic sounds and voices throughout, the percussion being urgent, threatening, vibrant and most of the time throbbing. The voices, male and female, are chilling and earthy, adding much to this original score and come courtesy of Eritrean singer Saba Tewelde and Kora from Gambian virtuoso Jally Kebba Susso.

Woodwind instruments augment and support the central musical passages and create subtle melodic phrases that put one at ease but are still edgy in their overall sound and execution. It is the driving percussion combined with eerie voices and effects that become the heart of this work and it is a fusion of these sounds that are so effective within the context of the movie itself, creating an atmosphere not just fearful but harrowing. These are also an interesting and unsettling listen away from the images. I think I am correct when I say that this is the composer’s first full length feature; he has scored shorts and documentaries before but never a full movie. If this is his first effort I can’t wait to hear what he will come up with on future projects. I was particular attracted to the end theme on the disc, an eerie breath effect begins proceedings and then the percussion kicks in with an earthy sounding female voice above it.

 

thedead_cover250The voice is pushed along by the pulsating and rhythmic drums which are supported and punctuated by strings and bolstered by effective use of synthetic sounds and more percussive elements. It is an infectious if not ghostlike and unsettling composition but at the same time an attractive and enticing cue. I recommend this score and look out for more from this composer. He is original in his style and sound and like a breath of fresh air in the arena of film scoring. At first the score was available as only a down load, but has since been released by Howlin Wolf Records Stateside.

Outlander.

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I faintly remember seeing Geoff Zanelli’s name pop up on the closing credits of one of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films as an additional music contributor, but other than this I have to admit to being in the dark about his other film music credits. OUTLANDER is certainly a great introduction for me, fully symphonic with electronic support in places this is a powerhouse of a score that just oozes strength and presence. In many ways it can be compared with the likes of BEASTMASTER, CONAN and PATHFINDER as its musical attributes are very similar, expansive and pounding musical motifs and themes which are intermingled and entwined with softer more emotive and poignant interludes. Right from the offset one just senses that this is going to be something spectacular and after listening around about mid way through the anticipation of this being something special is certainly not dampened as it builds and builds as it progresses, the composers use of chorale support throughout is sparkling and at times almost unsettling in its style and placement, brass and strings have the upper hand throughout and combine to create some wonderfully exhilarating moments. A solo soprano voice is also utilised to great effect in a few of the cues, creating an almost celestial sound and atmosphere. The movie is maybe THE 13TH WARRIOR meets PREDATOR, a spacecraft crashes into the Nordic coast of long ago when Vikings held power, the traveler Kainan emerges from the wreckage, but he is not alone a fierce creature called a Moorwen also survives the crash and sets out to cause harm and havoc to almost everything in its path, Kainen joins forces with the Vikings to try and stop the creature. Zanelli’s score underlines and punctuates the action and storyline perfectly and is a pounding and commanding soundtrack to a movie filled with action, drama and emotion. The score is a striking and highly entertaining one, which makes one look forward eagerly to more from the pen of Geoff Zanelli. Recommended.

Bandidas.

 

Bandidas_RMFF068345118342The best way of describing my Eric Serra soundtrack collection is to say minimal, well actually its THE BIG BLUE, so as you can imagine I was very surprised to listen to this a western score by the composer and be blown away by his music. BANDIDAS is a cross between, THE LEGEND OF FRENCHIE KING, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES and THEY CALL ME TRINITY with infusions of dramatic sounding material, that could be compared with the  HANNIE CAULDER soundtrack by British composer Ken Thorne. A mixture of styles and sounds I know, but a fusion that works wonderfully, and not only supports the movie but is an enriching and rewarding listen away from the film. The score is full to the brim with theme after theme, but not just any ordinary sounding themes, they are haunting, poignant, dramatic and original in their construction and performance. There are many cues that are of a Mexican flavour, with fiesta sounding trumpets, castanet’s and Spanish guitar solos a plenty, Serra treating us to light mariachi sounding cues, which are at times reminiscent to Elmer Bernstein’s Mexican flavoured compositions in the MAGNIFICENT 7 movies, these are more prominent in cues such as, TRAPERAS (track 7), EL CABALLO ATRAS (track 12), the excellent LA ESCUELA DE BILLBUCK (track 13) and the pleasantly haunting COMPANEROS (track 15). The work also has a darker side to it, the composer utilises a fairly large orchestra which is enhanced by synths and driving percussive elements, to relay a sense of the dramatic and create an atmosphere of tension in cues such as NOVIOS EN EL BANCO(track 22) and, ROBODOS (track 23). Then we have yet another side to this score, which is definitely of a spaghetti western nature, lone trumpet compositions, electric guitar passages, female solo voice, and those saloon piano tracks are all here as well. The cues in this mode to check out are, BILLBUCK (track 11), where the composer fuses a dark bass guitar riff with smouldering and shadowy synths. BANDIDAS (track 17), in which Serra gathers the full string section along with brass elements to act as a driving background to a catchy but aggressive sounding guitar rift which is interspersed by an effect that actually sounds like an arrow shooting past ones ear, a delight for any Italian western soundtrack fan. LOS PUEBLO EN LA INGLESIA (track 7) and LEYENDA Y MUERTE (track 29) are also worth more than a fleeting listen. BANDIDAS will be a very welcome addition to any collection, and probably a big surprise for many soundtrack collectors, as Eric Serra is a composer who, I for one thought was a little bland with his musical palette, BANDIDAS has certainly proved me wrong, and changed my opinion of his musical talents. I always thought of Serra as being a composer who employed jazz influenced material in his scores, using a veritable landslide of electronic gadgetry to create his soundtracks, and although the composer does use an array of synthetic sounds within this score, they are not blatantly obvious and are employed with a light and subtle touch, never drowning out or encroaching on the territory of the conventional instrumentation of the work. I think you should definitely check this one out.