THE WITCHER 3. WILD HUNT & BLOOD AND WINE.

 

 

 

I have been collecting film music for many years now, in fact too many years I think at times, but in the 5 decades that I have been adding soundtracks to my collection I have seen many composers come and go and many genres come into fashion and go out as quickly as they arrived. However as a collector of music for film I suppose nowadays we have to include music not only for TV and motion pictures but also music for video games etc, many collectors of soundtracks do I know dismiss the medium of video or computer games, but when you investigate and explore the music for these games they are in fact movie scores, and many of them are grand and symphonic and have to them a fully lush symphonic sound. I decided that I would start to explore these scores more and have had some wonderful listening experiences doing so. I think the first game score I fully appreciated was CASTELVANIA as it was so atmospheric and was a soundtrack of powerful and epic proportions, it also contained themes, which is something that is discussed a great deal these days amongst film music fans, or at least the lack of said themes in movie scores.
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Maybe composers have become to reliant upon the synthetic and sample options and because of budget in many cases directors and other film makers go for a slightly cheaper way of getting the music or the sounds that they want for their movies. However, I was told many years ago by Maurice Jarre that a synth score can at times be more expensive route than a conventional soundtrack. I recently went online and just randomly selected a couple of video game scores, which I am pleased to say turned out to be first class choices, these were both from the WITCHER 3 series of games which contain some of the earthiest and near operatic sounding scores that I have heard in a while. So, where better to start than WITCHER 3-BLOOD AND WINE which was released in 2016. My initial thoughts on this score were it could be Woljeich Kilar but written in a more contemporary style, it is epic and powerful driving and commanding and the main parts of the score are by Polish born composer, Marcin Przybylowicz with contributions from Mikolai Stroinski and Piotri Musial, the collaboration obviously works because the music is constantly good throughout and the style to is similar each cue complimenting the other.

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The use of solo vocals both performing songs or performing wordless and soaring passages within the score is stunning and gritty making them a compelling listen, add to this creative use of percussive elements driving strings and powerful utilisation of brass’s woods and choir and we have the makings of an inventive and innovative sounding work that would certainly not be out of place in any block buster movie. The composer or composers also throw into the mix ethnic instrumentation which adds another dimension and gives the score a more depth and credibility.

 

 

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BLOOD RUN (track number 4) is a favourite of mine, and although brief it has an unworldly quality that evokes memories of Kilar’s DRACULA score the dark and the light textures fusing becoming one eventually to purvey an atmosphere that is filled with tension and apprehension but underlined with a sense of melancholy and romanticism. Then we move to track number 6, I CANNOT LET YOU LEAVE which could be out of a Morricone western score from the 1970.s forthright percussion and sharp dark string stabs act as a background to chanting female voices that create an affective piece that stands out. The score also has some less upfront pieces within its running time and again the use of wordless female vocalising and lush strings in track number 7, THE BANKS OF SANSRETOUR, for example is breath-taking. The cue being melodic fully romantic. This is a score you must check out, NO, this is a score that you must own. The only thing is if you add this to your collection, you will after listening to it be craving more of the same, so why not also investigate, THE WITCHER 3- WILD HUNT, which is a score that is of equal stature and quality, again the work of more than one composer which with video game scores can be the norm.

 

 

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This is a more vocal score as in choir and solo performances which are given centre stage and surrounded by thundering percussion, dark and ominous strings and raw and rasping brass. There are however softer moments which although fleeting are beautiful and haunting, these have a richness and dark lavish sweeping persona that again command that you stop and take notice, the composers utilising low strings and sorrowful cello to infuse a sense of melancholy and loneliness, these two scores will I think keep any discerning film music collector happy and occupied for many a day, each time one takes a listen you find little pieces that maybe were not there before or if they were you did not hear them. These are scores of a high quality and works that are incredibly potent. I dare anyone who listens to them not to be impressed. Recommended.

FIRST MAN.

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I will say at the start of this review that I think that  FIRST MAN will be a movie we will be hearing a lot about and seeing a lot of it too. My focus is of course the music and when a big movie such as this is announced one always wonders who will score it, what type of music will they create etc. Well when I heard the composer would be Justin Hurwitz, I sort thought, OK! I do not realy know anything about the composer apart from his work on LA LA LAND, and that is I am ashamed to say is my full extent. So, what would he do, how would he approach it, what would the result be. I am pleased to say that I am not disappointed one little bit, the score is inventive for one and is majestic and innovative. I did hear little samples of the score before it was released officially and the two cues that came my way stuck with me and when listening to them I was thinking cool sound, great orchestration, and yes there are themes. So, I think I am going to highlight one of the cues that I was sent first which is THE LANDING. This is slow burner at first, with strings creating a sinewy but at the same time melodic sound that is apprehensive and brooding, the strings are joined by little hints of percussion and more strings are brought into the equation giving the cue more substance and creating a tense atmosphere which continues to build slowly, the composer adding piano and giving the percussion or more pronounced role as the strings bring the piece to a crescendo that turns into a working of the theme via the brass. with trumpet, horns and trombones all taking a hand to concoct a lumbering but at the same time haunting musical persona that just simple relies on the ebb and flow of its sound and the repetitive but interesting foundation to create so much atmospheric electricity.

 

 

The composer also employs synths within the cue which act as wonderfully in tune back up to the conventional instrumentation. It is an inspiring listening experience that is overflowing throughout with a proud and astute style, that is attractive and alluring. In many ways THE LANDING evokes the style and sound of old school film music and boasts richness and many colours and textures that just keep building and growing. Cn I say it reminds me of any one composer? No, I don’t think so as it is after all an original score, although it does have nods in the direction of both Morricone and Goldsmith, so I think you get now where I am coming from. The score is also inventive as in the orchestration, the composer utilising Theremin to great effect, which reminds me of the vintage space or sci fi movies where composers called upon the unusual sound of this instrument to create otherworldly sounds for strange and unfamiliar landscapes. One of the major cues within the score is track number, twenty-six, APPOLLO 11 LAUNCH.

 

 

The composer combines both symphonic and synthetic styles and sounds, to fashion what is initially a tense sounding piece, but it builds into a more themeatic composition as the composer introduces rumbling percussion and electronic echoing effects whilst the central theme is given a down tempo introduction on synths, the percussion is then ushered in giving the cue a more urgent mood whilst the strings begin to rise and add warmth to the proceedings, as the strings become stronger so does the brass beginning to wrap itself around the string performances, until they become one sound and arrive at compositions peak. Track number, 15 THE DOCKING WALTZ is also a nice touch by Hurwitz, as it evokes memories of the use of the BLUE DANUBE in 2001 A SPACE ODDYSSEY, the composer fashioning a Viennese type waltz that is enhanced by the use of some quirky and unusual electronic sounds.  The END CREDITS cue is also stunning and impressive, it has to it a majestic sound and a lushness that is beguiling but also has to it an underlying sound that keeps up a tense and nervous atmosphere.

 

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This is I have to say a stunning score and one that I think could be the Oscar winner for next year in Hollywood. It has all the hallmarks of a quality film score, but it also has all the attributes of music that can be listened to on its own and savoured and enjoyed by all. Check this out you will I know love it. Recommended.