HIS DARK MATERIALS must be one of the most hyped TV series for a long while, it seems that every five minutes there is an ad for it or an image flashed across the screen. So, it’s a series I think everyone might tune in on. It’s the music for me that I focus upon in cases of hyped up and grand looking series especially on the BBC. I was a little taken aback when I saw that it was Lorne Balfe who would be providing the musical support for this series. I along with several other collectors (yes you know who you are stop backing off and hiding) have always thought that he is a second-rate composer, and also not a particularly interesting or original one either. I think I have only ever given one of his scores a positive review, and afterwards kind of regretted it, because when I listened again a few weeks later could pick out the uninspired and quite honestly dull elements that it contained and also maybe the lack of inspiration or care that went into fabricating it. Balfe for me is not one of the most original composers around, and when one hears people say he is a Zimmer clone then you know what I have to agree. HIS DARK MATERIALS I think confirms this, on listening to the score I have to firstly remark that it is probably one of his better efforts, but it is not exactly wonderful, yes it does have a grand sound and also hints at elements and content that maybe in the hands of another would become affecting and imposing in its sound and stature, but it for me is a lack lustre affair that sounds electronic and sampled, although it is credited as being performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and this initial release which is being advertised as a concept album rather than the actual score or soundtrack, contains contributions from K T. Tunstall, Chad Atkins, Tina Guo, composer-cellist Peter Gregson, steam punk influenced violinist and dancer Lindsey Stirling, classical horn player Sarah Willis, award winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey and Vanya Moneva’s Ethnic Bulgarian Choir. So, an array of talents here (and so many collaborators) but it sounds in the words of D.T. FAKE. You know when you hear a cheap drum synth on a track, or a not very good synthetic strings sample or synthetic voices etc and you know that they are bad because you know straight away that they are not real, it’s that kind of sound that s being purveyed, that type of writing and that sadly is the bones of it. Some of the themes are good and do have a lasting effect upon the listener, but largely the music here is easily or even instantly forgotten once you have heard it, there are hardly any lingering echoes or haunting little tunes that one can latch onto.
But, let’s stop and ponder. Is film music about little tunes that one can whistle, well it used to be an age ago, but not anymore, it’s about underling and supporting the scenarios on screen, does Balfe manage this, in a very short word, NO. He seems to provide a musical wallpaper, but nothing that that is vaguely strong enough or supporting enough. I am sorry (well not really) that this is a not a more positive review of the music, but it is an honest one from my point of view and anyway it is just a personal opinion we all know that, a review is a personal thing, so there is nothing to stop you taking a listen to this and maybe disagreeing with my view, we are all different. Saying what I have it will now probably go on to be applauded and given an avalanche of awards. There will be a second album again released by Silva Screen, which I guess is the actual score, who knows?