Its time for another look at recent soundtrack releases alongside items that you may have missed or maybe some soundtracks that have been re-issued. And as we in the UK head into a new lockdown for a month, maybe reviews and recommendations are something that are even more valuable and interesting? Television scores again have come into their own in recent weeks, and the amount of good TV productions on the likes of Apple, Amazon, Netflix and the old favs such as the BBC, ITV and SKY has been noticeably more prevalent. But lets start with a new movie.
HOSTS is a film that will probably make you think twice about inviting anyone over for Christmas dinner, because this is its storyline a family invite their neighbours for Christmas lunch and lets say it does not end well. Ok this is not the greatest movie ever made, but there are a number of highly negative reviews around, I would say go see it and decide yourself, one person’s riveting horror is another’s lack lustre affair I guess. One thing I think that many will agree upon is just how good the musical score is. Benjamin Symons has worked steadily creating music for trailers aswell as scoring independent productions. The music for HOSTS is wonderfully atmospheric and richly dark and unnerving. Just listen to the macabre and off kilter rendition of the sugar plum fairy within the cue SKULL CRACKER SUITE and this I think will give you an idea of the darkness and virulence that is conveyed musically throughout the movie. This followed by further references to classical music from the NUT CRACKER in the track BED TIME with the composer adding layers and textures of foreboding giving the listener chills, this is a horror score of substance and also one that posses great quality. It is inventive and innovative, and although it is a horror score it is also a work that maintains a thematic level throughout, I love the composer’s approach and his vibrant and engrossing soundtrack. This is a fusion of the styles of Chris Young and Marco Beltrami, so with a score sounding like the work of these two horror score giants, I think we can say that Symons is here to stay.
But, there is a lot more to this soundtrack, as the composer also imprints his own musical identity upon the movie, to say this is a contender for the best horror score of 2020 is an understatement. One for your collection, available on digital platforms. Highly recommended.
One score that I was impressed with was the music for the HBO series UNDOING, which has a rather apprehensive and subtle soundtrack composed by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine, this is a score that relies heavily upon the notion of a theme, with many of the composing duos ideas not really developing into full blown thematic properties, with the exception of the cue TO CLEAR MY NAME which although remaining tense and filled with a uncertain air, does build into a more substantial thematic property, but this given the dramatic content of the storyline is perfect for the show, it adds so much atmosphere and purveys a deliciously steamy, moody, dark and at the same time calming aura to the proceedings, it is I am certain a mix of both electronic or synthetic elements which are combined carefully with a balanced and affecting collection of conventional instruments, either way this is a work that is interesting and fully supportive of the series if nothing else, available on digital platforms, another work by these composers that is well worth a listen is RADIOACTIVE, also available from digital sites. They have also scored the TV series BARON NOIR which is now in its third season, again the score is highly atmospheric and dramatic and available to listen to on the likes of Spotify.
Composer Austin Wintory, I would say is somewhat ignored by collectors, he is a Maestro, that can easily adapt his musical styles to any genre and has worked on numerous TV shows, Feature films and documentaries. His latest work is for a video game, AGOS: A GAME OF SPACE, like many of the composers works this is a combination of styles and musical colours which are created and conveyed via a collection of synthetic instrumentation, but does include some charming and affecting piano work which the composer weaves into the background lacing the electronic and creating a more romantic sound, there are many mesmerising moments within the score which are created electronically and at times begin to evoke memories of many of the early works of Vangelis. It is a work that has many textures, with its calming moments being complimented by and an equal number of more dramatic, and up-tempo pieces. One to check out.
Back to a TV series for the next score and ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? SEASON 1, which is produced by Nickelodeon, yes Nickelodeon, but I can tell you here and now this is in no way related to the likes of RUGRATS in content either visually or musically.
The inventive score is the work of Joseph Trapanese and Jason Lazarus, who have produced a highly atmospheric and entertaining soundtrack which is mischievous and wonderfully haunting, aswell as being mysterious and at times foreboding. I must be truthful and say I am not that familiar with the music of either composer, although in recent times Trapanese has been busy scoring movies and TV projects. I enjoyed the quirkiness of this score and its wide and varied musical palette. So, in the words of Tommy from another Nickelodeon series “I GOT AN IDEA”. Why not check it out A.S.A.P.
Back to the movies for the next score and one that I have to say I did not think I would like, how wrong was I. RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE, contains a surprisingly well produced score and has to it so many musical elements and styles that the composers Wade Macneil and Andrew Gordon MacPherson bring to the party. It is in now way sweeping, grandiose or indeed symphonic, but it is still affecting and effective within the Canadian produced movie. In his second directorial work filmmaker Jay Baruchel also stars in this film about comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) who becomes popular due to his R-rated comics. The author takes his inspiration from a real-life serial killer who committed gruesome acts of violence twenty years ago. When he, his girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster), and producer Ezra (Baruchel) travel back to the killer’s town, they discover new crimes being committed recently. But what is more unnerving is how the new crimes look exactly like the scenes Todd drew in his comics. The score although at times verging upon pop orientated material is wonderfully supportive of the storyline and because it has a contemporary style and sound that at times is sprinkled with an eerie soprano voice, I think makes the work even more unsettling, and for a film music fan inventive and entertaining, thus making it attractive and alluring in a strange kind of way. Worth a listen.
From one Canadian movie to another which is again a must see, BODY AND BONES. Released in 2019 and directed by Melanie Oates, in her feature film debut, Oates also wrote the story. The movie focuses upon Tess (Kelly Van De Burg) who has withdrawn from her life and become a recluse the one thing that comforts her is listening to the music of Danny Sharpe (Joel Thomas Hynes). When she wakes one day to find him in her kitchen, it ignites a spark of life in her that begins to grow and become out of control.
The very short score is written by Neil Haverty, but in the brief running time of just ten minutes the composer manages to create some poignant and emotive musical phrases and themes via piano and synthetic support, with further enhancement from viola or violin, this is certainly a score that you would listen to via a digital platform simply because it is not long enough to make it worthwhile for any recording label to release it onto compact disc, it is a pleasing work, and one which although simple is also haunting. Well worth a listen.
Another movie released in 2019 has its score released this week, EL CERRO DE LOS DIOSES is a reimagining or retelling of the myth of Faust, in which a documentary film director and her producer investigate a number of celebrities. The dark and ominous sounding score is by Maese Cesar, the music has to it a virulent and richly foreboding sound, with the composer employing organ and choral effects that are driven and enhanced by percussive elements bells and forceful strings, it may not be a grand or fully symphonic sounding work but it has it moments in fact it has many moments that I know will be popular amongst fans of dramatic film scores. I love the classically oriented work, with is fixating dark piano and strings that lace the proceedings and are bolstered by horns and booming percussion. It also contains a scattering of lighter sounding pieces which not only ingratiate but compliment the sound of darkness that prevails within this highly entertaining work. Just go and have a listen.
THE CRAFT-THE LEGACY, has music by Heather Christian and is a mix of lilting themes, vocal performances and a handful of up-beat more contemporary sounding pieces, I have to admit there are some nice moments within the score as in the cue A HARD DECISION, but this is a score I am not a fan of, ok its inventive and as it does have its moments but not that many or enough I am afraid.
It is available on digital platforms so you can try before you buy. This is also something I would suggest you do with the music from the movie OVERTIME as it’s a collection of songs with just two actual instrumental tracks by Rumbellow music that act as opener and closer cues for the release, there is however a nice (if that’s the correct description) cover of I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW which was a hit originally in the eighties for Tiffany, this particular cover of the song is performed by, So Long Until the Séance, and is shall we say not as sweet and innocent as the original. It was the artwork of the cover that attracted me to the soundtrack which had a kind of Italian horror look to it however, I wish I had not bothered as was realy disappointed and a little bit traumatised after listening to it.
BLACKJACK THE JACKIE RYAN STORY, contains an upbeat and uplifting soundtrack from Lionel Cohen, it’s a score that I have to admit being slightly apprehensive of, as with so many sports related movies the soundtrack is sometimes filled with songs. This however is similar to the style that Jerry Goldsmith employed on HOOSIERS or BEST SHOT to give it the UK title, this is a synthetic or electronic score with flourishes of conventional instrumentation which are represented by horns in the main, these give the soundtrack an imposing and proud sound throughout and set a mood which is unwavering and determined, which manifests from the off in the cue THE BIG GAME. It is a work that never seems to relent, its inventive compositions working for the movie and remaining entertaining away from the film. The piano solo version of the central theme is ingratiating and emotive, with the opening titles track setting the scene for much of what is to follow, with its near hip hop backing that is overplayed by horns and strings that convey a sense of the dramatic. Check it out, you will not be sorry that you did.
To another video game score next and a composer who I have come across before in the same series of game scores, Yu Peng-Cheng is the composer and the game is GENSHIN IMPACT-JADE MOON UPON A SEA OF CLOUDS, this like the other two game scores that MMI reviewed a little while back is excellent, filled with heady melodies and poignant musical passages and affecting and emotive nuances. I just adore the fragility and delicate auras that are achieved within the score, it is stunningly attractive and mesmerizingly beautiful. I think that is all I will say as this is a MUST HAVE release.
Alex Heffes I know you will agree with me is a highly talented composer, his latest release is from the movie HOPE GAP, which is directed by William Nicholson, it is an intensely emotional movie, The intimate storyline concentrates upon the life of Grace, portrayed by Annette Bening, who is shocked to discover that her husband of nearly thirty years played by the excellent Bill Nighy is leaving her for another woman. The film also focuses upon the emotional devastation and dissolution it has on their grown son Josh O’Connor. The score by British born Heffes is highly emotional, it is filled with lilting melodies that are intensely affecting, the composer colouring and punctuating the drama with a series of eloquent tone poems that add much to the already emotional content of the movie. Recommended.
REBUILDING PARADISE is an American made documentary directed and also produced by Ron Howard, it tells the story of the rebuilding of the state of California after the devastating and consuming wildfires that took place there in 2018. The musical score is credited to both Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe, so your guess is as good as mine finding out who actualy did what on this, Zimmer probably farming the lesser cues out to the lesser talents of Balfe. It’s a soundtrack that is emotional in places but one that really fails to make a lasting impression and I have to say is instantly forgettable as there are no real developed themes, just layered and subtle sounds and soundscapes rather than a score that has anything to say in the way of established themes and compositions. Balfe in my opinion being overrated vastly and at times being given assignments for movies that are far superior to anything he can cobble together that is vaguely interesting. Check it on digital platforms as it is not worth buying to be honest.
Other releases that are worthy of a listen include THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY SEASON 2, by composers Jeff Russo and Perrine Virgile, LET HIM GO by Michael Giacchino, GLI OROLOGI DEL DIAVOLO by Stefano Lentini, DAS SCHAURIGE HAUS by Karwan Marouf and THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF WOLFBOY by Nick Urata, which is a really good score.
DRAGON’S DOMAIN records have once again excelled themselves with three releases in recent days, MUNCHIE by Chuck Cirino, DEMON IN A BOTTLE by John Morgan and FROM BEYOND by Richard Band. The latter title I think being a favourite of mine, but there again I think that Richard Band is such a talented composer.
Chuck Cirino too as written a vibrant score for MUNCHIE and is too a composer who manages to produce great scores for low budget productions. John Morgan who we normally associate with the re-construction of Golden Age scores specifically on Marco Polo records in the early days, has also composed an entertaining soundtrack for DEMON IN A BOTTLE all three movies fit into the low budget category, but this did not stop each composer providing the individual films with soundtracks that are excellent, robust and entertaining.
The label have also released a two disc set of the music of Albert Glasser, which includes two scores, TOKYO FILE 212 and HUK, all four releases are worth checking out and each release contains colourful art work and informative liner notes courtesy of Randall D Larson which as always are a bonus to any release.
Composer Harry Escott has provided a tense and atmospheric score for the four-part TV mini-series ROADKILL, the soundtrack will be available on Silva Screen records soon, as will HIS DARK MATERIALS part two, which airs on BBC one on November 8th. Silva Screen will digitally release the second volume of the successful 2019 concept album as an introduction to His Dark Materials Series Two music. Composed by Lorne Balfe, the album presents the newly composed principal themes from Series two. Which for me sound exactly like the themes from series one, Balfe just regurgitating his rather lack lustre efforts for the second outing. Not a favourite.