Video games music has in the past decade or so certainly come into its own, with many of the score being grandiose and symphonic. There was I believe a certain amount of snobbery within the ranks of film music collectors towards both TV music and the soundtracks composed for video games, but this attitude has altered considerably, because in certain cases the music for video games has become an art form all on its own, often many examples being more developed and also grander than some scores that are being written for feature films.
This I think is the case for STAR WARS JEDI:FALLEN ORDER which has a robust and vibrantly theme laden score composed by Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab. Having not played or even seen footage from the game I cannot comment as to how the music works within it, but on listening to the soundtrack as stand-alone music I found it appealing, exciting and entertaining. It sounds as if it is for the most part symphonic, but these days syths and samples etc can be deceivingly good masquerading as conventional instrumentation.
The score is one that I know you will enjoy, it offers so much diversity and has to it a John Williams-esque style in places, but saying this it also contains a rich and inventive style all of its own. This is one to add to your collection, do not even think about it just go and get it.
From deep space to a more gentile subject and another re-boot of the classic tale PINOCCHIO, music is courtesy of Dario Marianelli, who has created a wonderfully lyrical and touching soundtrack, it is a subtle and emotional work with the composer relaying a poignant and intimate style and sound for the majority of its duration, There are of course a handful of action led cues as in THE NIGHT OF THE ASSASINS, which starts out subdued but alters its path and segues into a driving piece for strings, percussive elements and woods. But for the most part it is an emotive and haunting work that relies upon lilting tone poems that fashion a romantic and affecting persona. The composer also makes effective use of female voice at times, which he combines with harp, underlying strings and plaintive woods giving the score an even greater emotional presence. Certainly, worth a listen.
From a beguiling and emotional tale, we move to a story of horror, THE SHED, which being a horror movie obviously contains very little poignancy. Composer, Sam Ewing, has penned an effective score, it is one that unsettles you when you are listening to it without any images present. The music kind of makes your imagination work overtime and purveys an atmosphere that is thick with apprehension and has to it a foreboding yet alluring sound. The soundtrack is produced by Bear McCreary, so another plus.
It is a soundtrack that oozes a visceral and dark musical persona and has about it the sound of vintage horror movie scores as in Christopher Young and to a degree Jerry Goldsmith, with the layering of sinewy strings being bolstered by brass stabs and an underlying menacing presence of percussion that also acts as punctuation to the proceedings. The harrowing and icy mood is evident right from the get-go in the cue MORNING NEIGHBOR, which contains a striking and jumpy presence, with strings, percussion synths and voices creating a nightmarish atmosphere, the strings being struck and plucked to fashion an otherworldly sound that is chaotic and relentless. At times, the music is very atonal, but also effective as it creates various levels of the unsettling and moments of real surprise and terror. The cue WHATS IN THE SHED is dripping with a thick apprehensive air, it is basically saying do not go in the shed, as I am guessing one will discover more than just a few pots and a lawn mower inside and I am not talking just spiders here. THE SHED is a great horror score, it builds tension upon tension and then adds even more nervous sounds and interludes, this is an unforgiving fright fest of sounds which are both musical and atonal. Worth a listen.
ARY-THE SECRET OF THE SEASONS is another video game, it contains a beautifully written score by composer Marcus Hedges, as far as I can make out it is a largely synthesised work, which maybe has a scattering of symphonic or conventional instrumentation, but it does not really matter as the score is superbly anthem-like and filled with a rich sense of the romantic, we are treated to lush sounding themes choral performances and driving and vigorous sounding action cues, it is simply gorgeous. It is simple but as we have discovered before with many scores it is the simplicity and the thematic content that makes it so attractive. There impish and mischievous pieces that combine with proud sounding themes that have to them the style of Alan Silvestri in places, with rigorous contributions from the brass and string sections which are underlined by percussion and further assisted and supported by choral performances. One for your collection, it’s one of those scores that you will be listening to over and over.
THE EIGHT HUNDRED, is a Chinese produced Historical drama, which focuses upon the defence of Sihang warehouse which took place Shanghai in 1937 during the second Chinese/Japanese war. Directed by and co-written by Guan Hu, the movie stars Oho Ou, Du Chun, Huang Zhizhong, Vision Wei, Wang Qianyuan, Jiang Wu, Zhang Yi, Li Chen, Yu Haoming, Tang Yixin, and Zheng Kai. It is an epic war movie which has music by Rupert Gregson Smith and Andrew Kawczynski, the latter composer providing the lion’s share of the main score for the production. It is an imposing work, which features numerous powerful pieces, the composer fashioning a soundtrack that is above all else supportive of the production and lends itself well to the action-packed storyline that is the movie. Kawczynski worked with Hans Zimmer on CHAPPIE back in 2015 providing the movie with additional music cues.
He also scored HOTELS in 2018 as well as writing the superbly vibrant score to SKY HUNTER in the same year, and more recently worked on THE CORRUPTED in 2019. THE EIGHT HUNDRED is probably the composers most developed work to date. But I am certain we will be hearing more from him in the not too distant future.
FEARLESS is an animated movie, it is the story of a teenage gamer who has to basically look after three superpowered infants from his favourite game are dropped into his back yard. The score is by Anne-Katherin Dern, and is an entertaining work, overflowing with so many themes and filled with great set pieces this is a score I recommend that you try to lisen to, there is a sound here that evokes the proud and noble compositions of the late James Horner, it is certainly something that the composer would have been involved with if he were still alive. Large scale symphonic sounds boom out and fly around in this well crafted and highly absorbing work, yes, its recommended. The release contains five songs, which to be fair are also entertaining, but the original score is in the last three tracks on the soundtrack recording, at this stage I am not certain if there will be a full score release, but I certainly hope so.
We got a preview of Hans Zimmer’s theme for WONDER WOMAN 1984 recently, and I have to say I like it, it for me contains a Morricone sound, or at least has elements that evoke the style of Morricone as it builds. Maybe a tribute to the recently deceased Maestro? All I can say is I look forward to the full score being released, and you do not hear me say that about a Zimmer soundtrack that often.
To Television for the next score and the 2020 series THE HEAD, which has a soundtrack penned by Federico Jusid. The series is set at the South Pole, which is moving into its winter months, the sun is son to vanish for the next six months. The initial focus of the story is the Winterers, which is a team of scientists who are at the Polaris VI Antarctic Research Station, where they will continue to carry out research even in the grip of winter. The work that they are doing is important and is crucial in the desperate fight against climate change. When the summer returns to the region the summer team go to relieve the winterers, but when they arrive discover that most of the team are either dead or missing. The score is dramatic and commanding in places, with the composer utilising strings, percussion and solo piano at key points within the score. Jusid is in my opinion one of the most accomplished new generation of film composers, and this atmospheric and engrossing score displays his evident talent.
Talking of talent, John Williams, has a new compilation out, recorded in Vienna it is entitled, JOHN WILLIAMS IN VIENNA (strange that). It is basically a collection of the composers most loved themes or at least some of them, performed by THE WEINER PHILHARMONICA with accomplished soloist Anne Sophie Mutter, who brings new vitality and life to THE DEVILS DANCE from THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. there is nothing new here shall we say, but there is greatness and a collection of enduring and beloved themes from many of the composer’s cinematic encounters. From HOOK to INDIANA JONES and STAR WARS to THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, but surprisingly no SCHINDLERS LIST? The themes and suites here maybe familiar, but this is a stunning recording of them and one you should add to your collection.
Other scores that are deserving of a mention released recently include, BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC by Mark Isham, CRUSADER KINGS ll by PARADOX INTERACTIVE, GRAND FRERE by Ding Ke, and composer David Long’s epic score for the BBC TV series THE LUMINARIES.