There has been a lot of soundtrack releases recently which are from new movies and other new productions for either TV or games. Plus of course we can always rely on the re-issue market with record companies all over the globe, bringing out special editions or expanded versions of scores that are already familiar and have already established themselves as the favourites of collectors, LEGENDS OF THE FALL for example,
Horner’s superb score being expanded into a 2 disc set by the ever obliging Intrada record label. Which opens a whole new prospective to the grandness of the score and of the importance of it within the movie.
THE RIVER by John Williams too has received an expanded release also on Intrada records and is well worth acquiring. But some of the newer scores we as collectors might have missed or not even noticed due to things such as the lockdowns in various countries and also because most movies that were due for a release did not receive that release as yet because of the virus and what seems to be its unstoppable spread around the world.
Thus, the soundtracks maybe managed to sneak under the soundtrack collectors normally high alert “release” radar. The majority of the new releases have been from motion pictures, with a handful being for the ever growing video game market, but a number of them have been for TV productions, with composers such as Mathieu Lamboley, Paul Leonard Morgan, Stephen Rennicks, Matthijs Kieboom escaping our attention, the four composers I have mentioned I think have excelled in their latest musical creations for the small screen, Stephen Rennicks in particular catching my ear with his understated but also powerful music for the equally as powerful TV drama NORMAL PEOPLE which has been aired on the BBC in recent weeks, the series which is adapted from the book by Sally Rooney, has become essential viewing for many, it is a tale of the lives of two young people Marianne and Connell who drift in and out of each other’s’ lives, it is a journey in which sex and desire are focused upon and also about love and the need to be loved, it is a riveting watch, with the musical score nuancing and underlining various key points and scenario’s within the lives of the series central characters. Rennicks music although effective is never overpowering and remains forever supportive allowing the story and its characters to breathe and develop without ever being intrusive.
Composer Matthijs Kieboom also is to be congratulated for his work on the re-boot of the 1970’s cop show VAN DER VALK and I for one was pleased that the composer did not reference the original shows “Oom pah pah” sounding theme EYE LEVEL which was an unlikely number one record back in the day, which was not a bad result seeing as the music was not specifically composed for the show. Instead Kieboom (BLOODY MARIE and WILD), presents us with a dark and somewhat low-key soundtrack that is filled with a tense and nervous musical style, the composer was successful in adding tinges of suspense and quirky droplets of nervy and apprehensive moods to the proceedings via this subtle approach. Sadly, the show did not seem to create a lot of interest in the UK, but we will see if or when it returns at some point in the future if viewers might give it another chance. The brooding and darkly atmospheric score added much to the drama and the composers economic use of musical textures, colours and sounds on the first three episodes certainly aided the production.
Mathieu Lamboley has written an emotive and intensely moving score for the documentary SIGMUND FREUD, UN JUIF SANS DIEU, the composer writing poignant and haunting tone poems for cello and other stringed instrumentation and piano to accompany the story. The pleasing and heartrending score is exquisitely emotional, and completely envelopes the listener via its lilting Yiddish sounding themes. Emotional is a word that I feel fails to even begin to describe the atmosphere of this soundtrack, it is not only expressive and sensitive but also we hear a true sense of passion within the work that works so well and lingers within the listener long after the recording has ceased to play. The beautiful and delicate piano solos are a key feature of the work.
Another series that has been aired by the BBC during these days of isolation and lockdown is THE NEST, it is a drama about the trials and tribulations surrounding Surrogacy. It focuses upon a couple dealing with infertility and is set against a rather dank and depressing backdrop that includes urban and country locations. The couple have been unsuccessful but do have some embryos which are from several attempts at IVF, their surrogate who is the sister of the male in couple decides that she can no longer carry on due to a number of failures, but the couple come into contact with a rathe unpredictable teenage girl who at eighteen has just come out of care.
The girl Kaya says that she will carry the one remaining embryo, which the couple agree to because it is possibly their last chance of becoming parents. I think the reason that this five part drama was successful and popular partly due to it being aired at the time of the lockdown, it is compelling viewing with the subject matter for a change being treated with sensitivity and given a more realistic persona. The musical score for the series is also a little down beat, but also has to it a handful of attractive subtle themes, I would not say that the composer Paul Leonard Morgan has achieved any grand or lushly effecting level here, but the music plays under the drama giving it more weight and a diverse vitality throughout. Although it can be understated at times, smouldering, and slowly building beneath the drama. The composer managing to create an atmospheric musical identity for the story that somehow makes the series more interesting and alluring.
Staying with TV we go now to ONCE UPON A BITE, SEASON 2, which is being aired by NETFLIX, the first season was filmed over a period of four years and it explored the popularity and also the changing aspects of Cuisine in China and also the influences of Chinese cooking and food in 22 other countries, it is I suppose a kind of foodies version of East meets West. Which is strangely relevant in these uncertain days. The music for season 2, is the work of composer Roc Chen, who has provided the series with a collection of elegant and eloquent sounding themes, for a documentary about food the composer has written a score that is surprisingly romantic and richly thematic, the composers subdued and at time melancholy musical contributions are well matched with the images on screen, the composer utilises solo piano to great effect and laces and underpins this with subtle use of strings, that seems to entwine themselves around the piano performance as well as integrating themselves into it. There are occasional heightened moments with the music bursting into something more up-beat or up tempo, and also there are a handful of more tense or apprehensive moments, which all go to make an interesting score and also an entertaining listen.
To the big screen now, and to ADVENTURE OF RUFUS THE FANTASTIC PET, yes that’s right. A fantasy, this is certainly one for kids of all ages. Two young friends Scott and Emily discover a strange creature whilst staying at Emily’s Grandmothers house. Rufus and a Wizard Abbott are planning to find some secret ingredients so that they can manufacture some special magic dust that will they say help save their magical world. Scott and Emily decide that they will help and go with Rufus and Abbott who have a magic spell book in search of the ingredients.
But the foursome come up against numerous obstacles which include three servants who decide that they want the book for themselves because they think it will turn everything into gold for them. The musical score is by composer David Stone Hamilton who last year wrote a wonderfully innovative and inventive soundtrack for the sci fi horror DARK ENCOUNTER. The composer does not disappoint on this outing either, providing RUFUS with a plethora of adventurous and action led music, that is not only filled with bravado and urgency but has to it an almost Golden/Silver age sound to it. I think that the composer pulled out all the musical stops on his previous works DARK ENCOUNTER and SOLIS and to be honest I have to say he has done it again for this his most recent work for the cinema, certainly a robust and theme laden score, which again for me personally evokes the sounds and the styles of Goldsmith, Williams and to a degree Barry in the more romantic or thematic sections of the work. Filled with romanticism, power, and carried along by an energetic superhero vitality, that snaps at the heels of any Marvel or DC hero.
BAYALA A MAGICAL ADVENTURE or THE FAIRY PRINCESS AND THE UNICORN is not due to be released until mid-August 2020, and I have to say I am not sure if that will still go ahaead. Maybe it will be one of the many movies that will eventually be released straight to DVD or even made available via Sky or Virgin etc. This animated feature looks interesting if nothing else. With the fantasy Kingdom of BAYALA in danger it is left to twin sisters Surah and Sera to save it. The delightful musical score is by French composer Pascal Le Pennec, who has written a charming and glittering soundtrack that is for the most part fully symphonic but also includes a handful of vocals. The film was supposed to be in cinemas in the latter part of 2019, hence that is why the score is available now before the films official release. Its impish and cheeky themes are mesmerising and have to them a sense of mirth and quirkiness. It is also a score that throws up a few surprises, with interesting and inventive compositions popping up here and there keeping things lively and fresh. Check it out on Spotify and other digital platforms. I am sure you will enjoy it.
LANDGERICHT or LIBERTY ROAD was released in Germany in 2017, the soundtrack has only just found its way onto digital platforms, so I thought I would mention it because it contains some fine music by composer Lorenz Dangel, the film tells the story of a German Jewish Judge and his family, whose lives are thrown in to disarray by the Nazi’s during the years leading up to the start of the second world war. The children of the family are sent to England the Father goes into exile in Cuba and the Mother is made to remain in Germany throughout the war until 1947 when the family is finally re-united. The score is a driving and emotional one, with the composer utilising for the majority of its duration a more conventional instrumentation, but on occasion enlisting the aid of synthetic or electronic support. Solo piano performances also feature and open the score in the cue entitled ANTIQUARIAT, which although brief is also a beautiful and haunting piece to open the work. The music oozes a quality and a vibrancy that is filled with hope, melancholy, and emotion but at times is tainted slightly with a mood of uncertainty.
A more recent score by the composer is DUETSCHSTUNDE which was released in 2019. Again the composer employs symphonic elements alongside that of synthetic to fashion a score that although cannot in any way be referred to as grandiose or anthem like still has to it a likeable and interesting sound and style, there is a sombre and brooding persona to this work the composer conjuring up a sense of confusion or maybe of indecisiveness. At times in cues such as WARNUNG (track number 5) I was reminded of the work of Bernard Herrmann, the use of the string section being inventive and imaginative. So, two scores by composer Lorenz Dangel that are well worth a listen, and both on digital platforms whilst maybe compact discs are made ready for release?
STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS FINAL SEASON EPISODES 9 TO 12, music courtesy of Kevin Kiner, these scores are great, such fun and also it’s like being on a nostalgia trip hearing segments of the familiar STAR WARS theme cropping up her and there, Kiner’s original music for the series is just wonderful, powerful, pulsating and relentless, in the cue ASHOKA VS MAUL the composer whips up a frenzied and urgent mood via the use of an array of percussive elements that introduce the track, these then segue into a powerhouse piece of action music complete with choral support, brass flourishes strident strings, and the ever present John Williams sound being incorporated into the proceedings. It is hard I would think not to incorporate familiar musical phrases and themes into a STAR WARS score, but what I love about the Kiner scores is that although he does do this and does it well, he also manages to employ his own original ideas alongside the established ones, creating something that is new but also classic. STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS is a set of scores I would definitely recommend that you at least check out, but I am sure once you have listened to them, they will soon enter into your collection proper.
SUSI SUSANTI the movie was released at the end of last year, the score by Cyril Morin is a triumph and a wonderfully emotive work, that although delicate and fragile in places can also be robust and forthright. The film tells the true story of the young Indonesian athlete, who found herself in the spotlight after she rose to heights of a supreme athlete in the eyes of her countryman. Her career hit these heights at the same time that her country was going through the worst economic turmoil in its history. The young woman decides that she will display to her country and the people that heroism can only really be measured by personal sacrifice and an individual’s dedication and faith in something that they believe in. The composer has penned a score that is filled with a deep sense of faith and is also overflowing with determination and has to it I think a joyous and uplifting sound. Another for your consideration.
Ok an ordinary pooch who is loved by all his family, but at times he doubles as a secret agent. Yes unlikely, but then again sounds like fun. AGENT TOBY BARKS if nothing else has a frantically fun score and one that is filled with references to many movie scores of the late 1960’s through to the end of the 1970’s. The style employed by Lalo Schifrin in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and DIRTY HARRY films comes to mind straight away, add to this a little bit of OUR MAN FLINT some riffs from the JAMES BOND MOVIES and a little of the quirkiness of the MATT HELM film scores and what do you have, yep an entertaining score. The music is composed by David Bateman, who does a great job of parodying all the aforementioned as well as throwing in a little bit of musical madness from the OSS films that were produced in France. It’s a soundtrack that I guarantee you will listen to and will want to return to it straight away, ok its probably not the most original sounding score around, but it is entertaining, and with shades of Schifrin, Goldsmith, Barry, Bource, Bernstein and Montenegro, who would not be happy with it, good stuff.
HOMELESS ASHES, was for me a nice surprise, the score is superb and composer Mark Wind is someone who I am of the opinion should be given more projects and bigger assignments as soon as possible, he has a tender and poignant touch and is able to reach just about every emotion via his cleverly placed music in this drama. Frankie is a young lad who stands up for his concerns and fears and decides that he must run away from his home, ending up on the streets and sleeping rough. It is the story of his attempt to stay safe and foremost stay alive on those streets. The composer’s music is sublime, it is supporting and affecting, a truly tremendous score filled with so much sadness so much spirit, purveying loneliness, and desperation, with some enchanting and mesmerising cello solos and subtle use of choir and solo woods in places. I do not normally rate things as in 1 out of 10 etc, but this is an 11 out of 10. Spot on. I hope for many more scores from this Dutch composer. HOMELESS ASHES (HOMELESS NOT INVISIBLE) won best Music composer Garland at the New York Pitch to the Screen Awards.
Lastly in this latest soundtrack supplement is MALPASO a score by talented French composer Pascal Gaigne, released in 2019, this compelling drama is set in the border town of Malpaso, where Braulio works alongside his Grandfather. Braulio has a twin Brother Candido who is afflicted with albinism and remains hidden away. After the boys Grandfather dies, it is up to Braulio to carry on working and provide for Candido. Which he does willingly, but all the time is hoping that their Father will return to help them. The score by Maestro Gaigne, is sheer perfection. The fragility of the boy’s situation is reflected in the touching and delicate music, the composer painting a picture of the harsh reality of their existence via his light yet richly coloured musical brush strokes. Adding texture, emotion, and a sense of humanity to the proceedings. This is one that I must recommend, your collection will be so much poorer without it.
As a footnote other soundtrack releases worth mentioning are, 1 BR by Ronen Landa, SANTUARIO by Fernando Velazquez and Alfred Tapscott, PHOTOGRAPH by Peter Raeburn and THE QUARRY by Heather McIntosh.