There’s a number of film soundtracks released in the opening month of this year, some are from 2021 movies others are taken from films that were released in either 2020 or 2019. The first is from a 2021 release, The Shadow of the Wolf, has music by Sandro Di Stefano, and although this has a quite brief running time it loses no time in establishing itself as a score of great worth and quality. The composer creating two core themes on which the remainder of the score seems to be built. It is at times a delicate and quite emotive and haunting, the composer utilizes solo piano throughout to great effect, at times lacing and underlining this with guitar or strings, and at times a solo performance from violin or cello. It’s a pleasing score and can easily be listened to without watching the movie with the listener still becoming mesmerized by the melodic and subdued content of the work. There are a handful of darker moments within the work, such as track number five, Metamorphosis, which begins slowly and calmly, but soon changes direction and moves into a more driving and sinister sounding piece. It is in my opinion for the majority of duration a subtle work but saying this is also able to move into a dramatic musical persona swiftly and seamlessly. Released on Plaza Mayor records, it is available on digital platforms now. It seems that composers these days are more and more working for streaming channels and TV companies and no matter what your opinion of these companies are, I think we should be thanking them for the interesting and must see shows and films that they have produced during this pandemic and days of what seems to be an everlasting lockdown. Netflix for example, have released so many quality productions in the last ten months or so.
The Midnight Sky is one of these and has a wonderfully lyrical and melodic score by award winning French composer Alexander Desplat. The work is a fusion of symphonic and synthetic, but the way in which these are plied together often leaves the listener not knowing which is which. Electronic compliments conventional instrumentation and vice versa. The composer once again delivering a atmospheric and haunting work.
Joseph Trapanese is a composer who is rapidly building a name for himself both in film and TV scoring, one of his latest works is for Netflix and the movie Finding Ohana, which was released at the end of January 2021. The composer further establishes himself as a composer of worth with the score for this. It’s a work of delicate and affecting qualities, the composer providing the movie with fragile and emotive nuances that are complimented and underlined by more strident pieces that have to them a simplicity but at the same time are overflowing with emotions and poignant sounding motifs and interludes.
I have to say that I enjoyed listening to this score more than any of his previous soundtracks, and I hope that he continues to write and deliver scores such as this, his inventiveness is superbly evident and it’s certainly a varied work, that contains full blown and romantic sounding themes which are integrated and fused with ethnic sounding pieces and robust dramatic compositions. It is one I have no hesitation in recommending.
Gordy Haab is a composer that is also becoming more and more popular with his musical scores for the Star Wars video games, his latest is Star Wars: Battlefront, which I think is probably one of his best thus far for the series. In fact, I would go as far as to say I would love to see how he got on with a feature of the Star Wars series or even a spin off movie. This is a grand sound that the composer achieves and is unmistakably a homage to John Williams, there are so many nods in the direction of the Maestro, windswept strings, flyaway woods, booming percussion, driving strings laced with rasping brass flourishes, its all there, and it is fantastic.
One can even hear the early flourishes of those anthem-like horns in TV shows such as Land of the Giants and Lost in Space, that have since become something of a Williams trademark.
This is a wonderfully robust and driving work, its is relentless in its action cues, sumptuous in other areas and filled with the romanticism and adventure of every Star Wars score. The Imperial Advance parodies and purveys elements of The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back, and that is just one example of just how much this score evokes the sound, style, and majestic power of John Williams. This is just a rip roaring and commanding score and one you should own.
Next up is a score for a Game, Blue Fire is the work of composer Ariel Contreras-Esquivel who is a composer, orchestrator/conductor, and producer. Born in Argentina, he is the founder and director of the Ostrich Orchestra. He has written music for countless professional video games, films, adverts, and concert music. In 2015 he scored the acclaimed viral short film Grasancrem 2, which was produced by Hecatombe! Producciones and directed by Teodoro Ciampagna and received over 1.5 million vies on You Tube. His music for Blue Rider (Ravegan) was published in a physical edition, together with the game, by PlayStation Asia. His score for Blue Fire is a tantalising, triumph of thematic and dramatic styles, it is a soundtrack that I for one listened too through and through, simply because I just loved its style and overall sound. The composer fuses symphonic and electronic styles with female wordless voice to create a haunting and mesmerising work that not only serves the project well but stands on its own as just music to be listened to and savoured by all. Again, a strong and wonderfully melodic score, and another to add to your collection, available on digital platforms.
Neil Marshall is a name that is strongly linked with the horror genre, and his notoriety with the genre is well founded, he was the filmmaker that gave us The Decent, Dog Soldiers, and directed Game of Thrones. He also brought to the screen the re-boot of Hellboy, which was not as successful but still a worthy addition to his CV. His new movie The Reckoning is a British Witch Hunt story, with shades of Witchfinder General but even more unnerving, and one that takes place in 1665 against the backdrop of the Great Plague, it focuses upon Grace, a recently widowed woman who finds it difficult to pay the rent on her farm and when her landlord offers to take the rent in other ways she refuses, this infuriates the landowner who accuses her of being a witch.
As the plague grips the land the country is also infected with another awful sickness a madness that is witch hunting and the practice of subjecting poor innocents to awful tortures and trials to force them to confess. After being accused Grace is arrested and taken to the town where she is to stand trial, a trial which includes several days of unspeakable tortures at the hands of the witch hunter Moorcroft. The film is not the best of Marshall, but it is not his worst, and it contains some stunning scenes of English villages and countryside,
The musical score by Christopher Drake is what one might expect for a horror movie, but it is also surprising in places where the composer unleashes a true melodic and haunting sound, which for me personally evoked memories of both Christopher Young and Ennio Morricone. The second track on the recording is stunning, The Mourning is a sombre but at the same time highly melodic and affecting piece in which the composer employs solo female vocals, these are laced and supported by a rich string presence that is truly beguiling and wonderfully atmospheric.
The composer also utilises organ and solo stringed instruments to purvey a sense of loss and melancholy, it is truly captivating. The cue builds and builds with the composer adding components and the music becomes even more grand and affecting, this is a cue that must be listened to loud, Drake bringing into play more and more instrumentation as it builds to its climax. Track three is on a similar level to The Mourning, but much shorter, Tending the Land contains a sound that purveys a solitude and a feeling of hopelessness with solo violin being performed against a background of strings which introduce and usher in the solo violin performance, it is a brief cue but one that still manages to bring emotion and poignancy to the proceedings. No doubt about it, this is an accomplished score a highly atmospheric work that although for a horror movie is filled to overflowing with a richness and romantic air, these attributes are heard along side just as many dark and sinister interludes that raise their heads throughout the work.
The score is performed by both conventional as in symphonic instruments and these are enhanced and bolstered by imaginative use of electronic and choral mediums. It is romantic, disturbing, and epic. Outstanding and highly recommended. Available on digital platforms, go there now and listen.