Category Archives: Reviews

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT FORTY TWO.

Welcome to soundtrack supplement forty-two. This time round there is a bumper crop of new releases and all are not only interesting but quite different. There seems to a number that are realized via electronics, synthetics, and samples, which although not a problem because many are effective scores is for me personally a little disappointing being a collector and critic who leans towards the more conventional and traditional. But it is a sign of the times and to be fair some of the electronic scores are at times hard to separate from the symphonic because the technology is so much improved. In this latest batch there are good examples, not so good and some that I will probably avoid adding to my collection. But all are in the film music collective, and it is how the music, or the sounds achieved support and enhance those images and scenarios that is the important thing.

 I am going to begin with the score for the Netflix series Jupiter’s Legacy, I briefly mentioned the theme from the series recently which although brief establishes itself well. Th remainder of the score too has a sound and style that I am confident that collectors and listeners will find interesting and attractive, there is a smoldering and apprehensive persona to this soundtrack, but every so often it bursts into life and yields some brilliant musical moments. The composer Stephanie Economou utilizes an array of instrumentation including a fuzzy sounding almost rock guitar to create an impressive sound and gives the series its own inventive and innovative musical accompaniment. After hearing the short but effective title’s theme I was intrigued as to how the remainder of the score would pan out, I am pleased to say that it is a soundtrack that I enjoyed greatly and has some wonderfully subdued melodic and earthy sounding moments throughout. It is a score that is edgy and vibrantly brooding. Occasionally the score does break into a theme that resembles an anthem but normally these are short lived but saying this these moments are priceless and lift the mood. There is an underlying atmosphere to the entire score that purveys a fearsome and also a foreboding. I would say check it out on digital platforms, I like it but everyone as we know is different.  

Apex Legends is a free-to-play hero battle royale game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in February 2019, and for Nintendo Switch in March 2021. The game is set in the same science fiction universe as Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall series. A movie is due for release in 2022. The score for Apex Legends is the work of composer Stephen Barton, it is an electronic score but has its moments that are proud and filled with anthem like themes, the score is driving and exciting and very rarely allows the listener to relax as in cues such as You are the Jumpmaster, Victory and Lobby Redux, which are both action themed but also has to it an air of melody. I think you will enjoy its relentlessness, and the composer’s obvious talent for creating themes and sub themes that bounce off each other throughout, thus keeping it fresh and vibrant.

Mark Sayfritz has penned a fine horror score for the movie Death of Me, it’s a soundtrack that contains numerous strange and alien sounding quirks of orchestration, the composer conjuring up an uneasy and totally unsettling atmosphere. The score also contains the vocals of Yanin Bandhaya which are distinctive and alluring. Yanin is an independent music artist based in Bangkok. People know her as a singer and songwriter, but she is also interested in being known as a performance artist too. She combines Contemporary Dance and Improvisation Dance in her shows. Her vocals add much depth and create a slightly off kilter mood to the proceedings, the remainder of the score is an effective one and the composer creates a plethora of atmospherics that are not only supportive and perplexing but are absorbing and at the same time complex and evokes his chilling and sinister sounding score for Abattoir from 2016. The score for Death of Me is released by Movie Score Media and is available on digital platforms. And whilst there why not check Abattoir.

Mystic Quest is an Apple TV series with seasons one and two containing a rousing score from composer, Takeshi Furukawa, I love this music it is like swashbuckling superhero material and is relentless in its powerful and tour de force execution. If you were not aware of it you could be forgiven for thinking that it is the work of a composer such as Brian Tyler or John Debney, the themes just keep coming the melodies flow continuously and the composer adds layers and layers of robust and action filled music.

Takeshi Furukawa,

Many of the cues are less than a minute long, but when the composer enters a track which is lengthier, he has a chance to flex his musical muscles as in Ian Fights the asked Man which is dark and foreboding but also has within it a rousing theme and excellent choral work that is underlined and supported by brass, percussion, and strings. At just over twenty-three minutes in duration it left me wanting more and I found myself returning to the beginning more than once. Driving and commanding this score is highly recommended.

Syndrome K by composer Stephen Edwards who also directed the film is a score you should own, no question. Released on Movie Score Media, it has everything, at least I think so. It is a delightful work filled with wonderful melodies and dark and apprehensive passages a varied work which I have to say is going on my best of 2021 thus far list. Every track has something that the listener can latch onto and enjoy and overall, the work is outstanding and superb. Just check it out you will not be sorry.

Those Who Wish me Dead is the latest offering from composer Brian Tyler. The movie which stars Angelina Jolie is directed by Taylor Sheridan, the story centres on a teenage murder witness who finds himself pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness with a survival expert tasked with protecting him — and a forest fire threatening to consume them all. So pretty tense and exciting material, which is matched by Tyler’s score, the music is filled with a nervous tension and has to it a power and an ominous presence. To be honest it is quite restrained for a Tyler score, although it simmers and at times does boil over into full action themed material. But it is the tense and the underlying mood of apprehension and fear that the composer creates via his score that stands out. There are also a handful of relaxed but still slightly nervous and edgy cues within the score and overall it is a work that works well in the movie but does struggle away from the films storyline and images. But, if you are a Tyler devotee then it is an essential purchase.

The Water Man is a movie that focuses upon a young boy who has a very ill Mother, and he decides to go into the mountains and find The Water Man a mystical figure who in local legends supposedly exists in the woods and mountains and is able to cure all ills. The boy named Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis) enlists the help of Jo Riley played by Amiah Miller who says she knows where the Water Man is, it’s a good movie and a full-on family adventure that maybe years ago someone like Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg would have been involved with. Directed by actor David Oyelowo who also takes the part of Gunners Father. It is a movie that I feel will find its way into the hearts of many and will be a favourite for years to come.

The score is by Peter Baert (Facades and Adamloos 2018) and is an accomplished and finely tuned affair, at times remaining subdued and subtle which I think adds to the tension or underlines the unfolding storyline to a greater degree. The themes are touching and emotive and the composer is never heavy handed or over the top with his scoring. Thus, the score becomes an integral component of the storyline. Giving support and adding punctuation at every twist and turn. Symphonic for the most part the composer also utilises piano throughout which is wonderfully eloquent and graceful. The subdued persona of the score does alter from time to time most notably in the cue Enter the Forest, which is a grand sounding piece with percussion, piano, and strings, taking on the central roles musically. It also has to it a rich dramatic content that is dark at times and has a brooding and malevolent entity.  This is a score that I know I will return to many times, it is one of those soundtracks that when you listen to over and over, one hears little quirks and nuances that you may have missed first and second time around, the mystical aspects of the storyline being complimented perfectly by Baert’s fine score.  The soundtrack also includes two easy-going songs. Recommended. On Lake shore records and all digital platforms.  

The score for the movie Armugan is if nothing else innovative, I have to say this is probably not my favourite score from the latest releases, but there are several moments within it that make one stop and listen more intently. The music is by Juanjo Javierre, who has created an atmospheric and alluring work. The Estonian made movie was released in 2020. It is set in an isolated valley in the Pyrenees and tells the story of Armugan, who is said to wander throughout the countryside clinging to the body of his servant Anchel, where together they share a task that is secret and is as terrible as death itself. The movie is I think an acquired taste, and the music to be fair is also. But please do not let my opinion deter you from checking it out on digital platforms. As I say there are a handful of moments within the score that are worth listening to.

Initiation is an adequate slasher type movie, which has Scream influences, but saying this Scream was a much better movie. Initiation is intended to be a gripping movie but probably belongs on TV rather than the cinema. One of the best things about the film is the driving and inventive score by composer Alexander Arntzen, who’s fusion of electronic sounds and a scattering of what I can make out as being conventional instrumentation serve the picture well, and at times it is the music that creates the terror, the havoc, and the mayhem. However, when one listens to the score away from the images one does find that you do tend to be reaching for the stop button or the fast forward etc, to stop the noise that is coming from the speakers, again effective within the film, remarkably effective indeed but not one to listen to away from the film, which is ok I suppose as it is film music after all.  Because the movie is rather forgettable, I fear that the score too will fade into the mists of obscurity.

The Invisible War is a movie that relates the compelling and inspiring story of a handful of patients that are in a Mental hospital during the 1940’s. And focuses upon one of the characters Rose Berkeley who is one of the patients who is trying to come to terms with her own situation whilst at the same time attempting to understand the needs of her fellow inmates. The score by Italian born composer Alberto Bellavia is a glorious one, it is a subdued but affecting work, with the composer creating beautiful tone poems via woods and delicate piano performances, the emotive and subtle themes are intimate and elegant and at certain points within the score I was reminded of the style employed by the late Richard Rodney Bennet on some of his movie scores, available on Digital platforms, worth a listen.

Movie Score Media have again been industrious and alongside The Death of Me and Syndrome K have released Paper Spiders, by Ariel Blumenthal, this is an enchanting and delightful score, nothing over the top just wonderful thematic music, performed by strings and piano in the main. It is a score that you should own. Again, available on digital platforms, so what are you waiting for?

PROM NIGHT, MY BLOODY VALENTINE AND THE BRAIN.

Born in Canada in 1952. Paul Zaza, started to take an interest in music from a very early age. From the age of four years old he started to have piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto which is his birthplace and remained at the Conservatory until he graduated, it was not his performances on piano however that got him noticed, he was also a bass player and was picked out by the band The Fifth Dimension whilst he was performing for the stage show Hair. Which led to him touring with the band. He started to become involved with the scoring of motion pictures after he was approached by filmmaker Les Rose who had at times used Zaza’s studio, the director was looking for a composer to write the music to one of his latest movies and the score he had already he thought was not suitable. So, he asked Zaza to write a few themes for the movie which led to him scoring the picture and collaborating with the filmmaker on three other movies. Since those early days he has been involved with well over a hundred and fifty credits, often the horror genre and one does stand out which was for the Sherlock Holmes movie Murder by Decree, directed by Bob Clark.

The score garnered Zaza and his collaborator Carl Zittrer a Genie award which is the Canadian equivalent to the Oscar. The score was a worthy winner being a tense and highly fraught work, it was also symphonic through and through, with interesting orchestrations and a wonderfully lyrical pastoral theme which oozes a rich and lush persona that can be likened to something that Vaughn Williams might have penned.

But, it is three other horrors we turn our attention too now The Brain (1988), My Bloody Valentine (1981), and Prom Night (1980). The latter title in my opinion is probably the better score, but I suppose its all a matter of personal taste. In many ways I feel that Zaza’s music is at times evocative of the scores that were composed by Bob Cobert and Bill Marx, especially the music that Marx penned for the two Count Yorga movies back in the 1970’s. There is a simplicity and a complexity within Zaza’s music, which is why it not only works so well within the films he worked upon, but also has to it an entertaining and appealing persona when listened to away from any images. But the style between both Cobert and Marx is I think noticeable.

Both My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night are available on digital platforms, with both scores recently being released onto vinyl. The films maybe considered as B features or low budget affairs, but the scores are both outstanding. Prom Night is a wonderfully atmospheric work, with the composer employing what sounds to be a medium sized ensemble of layers with the string section dominating the proceedings, but I love the way in which the composer also weaves in a little scattering of percussive elements and utilises woodwind to great effect, but it is the use of sinewy and sharp sounding strings in the form of jabs and stabs and visceral meandering passages that catches one’s attention.

For a small or low-key score, it certainly makes an impression on the watching audience adding much atmosphere and also creating an array of moods throughout. The score even includes a handful of half decent disco tracks, Dancin in the Moonlight, for example which although cliched and cheesy is a true toe tapper. There are a few songs included on the soundtrack release and if you enjoy syrupy disco tracks and predictable ballads you will love these and when listening I was suddenly transported back to the 1970’s when there were so many of these tracks around. I think the composer even sends himself up a little with tracks like Another Disco Funk track and Funk Dat Disco, making an appearance in their great funky, groovy glory.  But look beyond these and focus upon the actual score and you will find a rare gem of a horror soundtrack, the version or edition on digital platforms contains every scrap of gloriously retro music from the movie, with thirty-four tracks and running for over an hour, however many of the cues twenty to be precise were not used in the movie. But its good to have them all here. This is a soundtrack that is varied if nothing else, but you know I really enjoyed it.

The same can be said for My Bloody Valentine, as in I really enjoyed it, the soundtrack is split into for sections or suites, all of which are over fifteen minutes in duration, these are 1. The Horror of Valentines bluff, 2.  Pickaxe Impalement Suite, 3. Bleeding Hearts Still Beating Suite and 4. Trapped in the Mines Suite. The score is again a varied one with the composer employing a syrupy sweet Mancini like theme initially, which soon segues into something a little more malevolent and apprehensive, again the composer utilising a relatively small ensemble, but this time embellishing and adding support to this via electronic means, creating icy and chilling effects. There is again an underlying sense of foreboding as in Prom Night, with the composer creating a sinister and virulent atmosphere, this time with a solo piano which picks out a four-note motif and gradually increases its tempo until it reaches a climax of sortsand do not forget this is just in the first cue. Overall, this is a varied and an accomplished work, which gives the action on screen greater impact. I think the reason I prefer Prom Night is because it is more of a symphonic score whereas My Bloody Valentine does bring into play more synthetic instrumentation. But this does not mean that the score is not a good one, on the contrary it is a soundtrack that I would recommend without reservation as Zaza does an excellent job of purveying shock and tension via the synthetic and symphonic elements of the work.

Another film that Zaza scored was the 1988 low budget sci-fi horror The Brain, maybe not the greatest movie or score, but it is still an effective soundtrack, the composer this time creating a soundtrack mostly by electronic means that was supportive of the movie but was I am sad to say not memorable at all, but there again should music for a horror movie be memorable or just effective in the film? The score for The Brain, is eerie, jumpy, apprehensive and certainly atmospheric, but it has very little originality to it and sounds like so many other synth horror scores that were around in the 1980’s such as Xtro, by Harry Bromley Davenport. Again, for The Brain Zaza, includes a disco type of song, which for me sounds like something that was a track on an album from the 1970’s by a band or artist that was a one hit wonder.

But remember Zaza himself released a handful of disco albums or at least disco music themed albums such as Hot in Here, Le Payback and Contact all released in 1977 and all have to them a sound and style that was synonymous with the disco days of the late 1970’s with Chic and Ritchie Family like vocals.

Although effective within the movie the score for The Brain is not as inventive or indeed as developed as Prom Night or My Bloody Valentine. One does still live-in hope that the soundtrack for Murder by Decree will one day see the light of day as it is most definitely the best of Zaza and his long-time writing partner Carl Zittrer.    

COSMOBALL.

Cosmoball, is a Russian sci-fi movie which was released in 2020. also known as Goalkeeper of the Galaxy this 3D Superhero sci fi yarn film is helmed by filmmaker Dzhanik Fayziev who also wrote the story and screenplay, based on the animated series Galaktic Football,  the movies storyline is set in the future in a post apocalyptic city on a world inhabited by survivors of an intergalactic war  that has shifted the planet’s poles. Above the city sits a gigantic alien space craft, but it is more than a spaceship, it is an enormous stadium, where the fast and frantic game known as Cosmoball is played. The planet below having its eventual fate in the hands of the Cosmoball players who are defending the Earth. The fate of the planet depends on the result of the match between earthlings and aliens.

An interesting if not fantastical scenario, but one that is preferable to the alternative of conflict. The musical score is the work of Italian born composer Tony Neiman who is now based in the United States, the score is now streaming on digital platforms such as Spotify and is one that will I know be of interest to many.

This is as one might think because of the film’s storyline action filled and theme led material, which it certainly is, the composer has created a score that is overflowing with wonderful thematic passages and these are not just of the action slanted variety, as there are also a number of really nice compositions within the score that display the composer’s obvious gift for melody and producing rich and emotive pieces. It is a score that I think will be returned to many times after the initial listen, and also a soundtrack that could become on many collectors list of favourites,

I was on a number of occasions reminded of the style of composers such as James Horner, Lee Holdridge, and Craig Safan whilst listening to the release, think maybe The Last Starfighter, and even to a certain extent Battle Beyond the Stars ,and even Splash in certain areas of the score. Even the action material which is at times fast paced remains melodic and that is I think the appeal of this soundtrack, well worth checking out and hopefully a CD release soon.   

Scores you may have missed.

Not done this for a while but been delving into my collection and online and onto digital platforms looking for film scores and TV soundtracks that maybe we do not play enough, do not return to enough or simply have just not heard them until recently. The first score is from a 2017 movie based upon true events, The Lost City of Z, has a really interesting and atmospheric score by composer Christopher Spelman, the music is a fusion of the conventional and also the soundscape or sound design style, with the composer utilizing a number of drone sounds that although many would say were not musical or melodic certainly do lay down an effective and at times unsettling mood. The style employed by the composer is at times evocative of that of Hans Zimmer, but in this case the composer also employs hints of themes throughout, themes that maybe only just be fleeting or never fully develop but the hints and little trickles of thematic material is tantalizing and affecting. The movie focuses upon an explorer from England Percy Fawcett, and it tells a fascinating story where the explorer discovers signs of an advanced civilization in the jungles of the Amazon, his peers dismiss his discoveries, but he continues to explore more and more in the hope that he will find concrete evidence, the movie is an interesting and alluring watch and displays Fawcett’s determination to find the evidence he so dearly needs. The movie ends when the explorer mysteriously goes missing in 1925, a disappearance that has never been fathomed out. Spelman’s music is subtle and subdued, but it also has to it a brooding dark and powerful aura. Worth a listen.

It’s rare that I come across a documentary score and think to myself why or how did I miss this? Well American Factory (2019) which is a Netflix production contains a score by Chad Cannon, and I have to say if it was something that presented to me for review when it was released, I probably would have left it to later rather than sooner if you know what I mean? Anyway, Cannon’s score is a delight, its filled with nice thematic passages and for me is a score that as from now I will have within my top 100, and I will be returning to it I know. The composer makes effective use of what sounds like a small ensemble of stings, woods, and a scattering of brass. At times I was reminded of the style of Elmer Bernstein, not in a grandiose or Americana sweeping way but in a more reserved and sparse way, the composer creating haunting tone poems and effective and rhythmic passages that underline, enhance and add punctuation to the proceedings, and at the same time are enticing and entertaining pieces of music in their own right. Try and check this one out and watch the documentary too.  

The next score is from 2020 and has a score by composer Dominic Lewis, MY SPY is one of those soundtracks that is filled with both a comedic and a nervous musical energy, the opening theme for example sets the scene for what one would think is a deadly serious movie about espionage and spies, however, that is not the case as the movie is a madcap comedy, where a demoted spy is given the job of watching a family, but is thwarted at every step by a nine year old girl. The composer certainly has some fun with the way in which the film is scored, as at times the music is so deadpan and serious and has to it a 007 style, then it alters at a heartbeat becoming either raucous or sweet and sensitive in a sickly syrupy kind of fashion. It’s an effective work on screen and an amusing and entertaining listen away from the images.  See what you think its on Spotify.

A composer who I have always loved is Christopher Gunning, his music is always wonderfully melodic, he creates beautiful and mesmeric sounding pieces for both TV and Film. I will also say if you have the inclination, please check out the composers symphonies and his work for the concert hall as well as his film work. I also admire the composer for his honesty and his not being backward in coming forward opinions on modern day film and film music, but we will leave this for another time.

His theme for the TV incarnation of Poirot with actor David Suchet in the title role was a triumph and is still popular today. I think the best way to discover his music is by acquainting yourself with the Chandos records release entitled The Film and TV music of Christopher Gunning, which is a great compilation performed by the BBC Philharmonic under the baton of Rumon Gamba, it is literally overflowing with some of Gunning’s most outstanding and entertaining music. It rightly opens with Poirot, or at least a suite of music from the series which has a running time of just over eight minutes and contains variants upon his now familiar and famous opening theme for the series.  But there is so much more within this recording as it has music that will bring back so many memories of past productions and scores if you are already familiar with the composers works and will be an eye opener for anyone who has not yet savored his varied and eclectic musical palette.

It takes us on a journey through TV and film, with the composers affecting themes and compositions from Cold Lazarus, Under Suspicion, Le Vie En Rose, Rebecca, Pollyanna, When the Whales Came, Firelight, and Rosemary and Thyme to name a few making an appearance. Each section is superbly melodic everyone having its own unique and eloquent quality, but all being bonded together by the unmistakable and sensitive musical fingerprint of Christopher Gunning. Check it out, in a word stunning.

Another compilation that I can highly recommend if you by passed it or missed it is Something Here by Debbie Wiseman, which includes a mixture of music from TV film and stories that she has written the background music for as in The Ugly Duckling which is told by Nigel Havers. This compilation also contains two tracks from the composers wonderful score for Wilde, and a suite from Haunted both of which have really touching and emotive central themes. But if its emotive, eloquent and poignant you are looking for I must recommend that you seek out this collection either on CD or on digital platforms, other delights included are, Tom and Viv, Tom’s Midnight Garden, Warriors, My Uncle Silas, Judge John Deed and so much more this is a gem of a collection, and a shining example of rich and thematic music. Composer Colin Towns is probably one of Britain’s best-known writers of film and TV scores. He is a composer of ample talents who is able to adapt his style and musical prowess to any situation, whether it be for a commercial, a TV series, a short film or a feature film.

The composer has also written for animated movies and provided scores for theatre and documentaries. He also arranges songs and music for bands and vocalists and is active working on arrangements for a number of big bands. It is something of a mystery to me that although Towns works in so many areas of music, he is not more widely known, his score for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase for example was a grand affair with lush themes and dramatic set pieces, but it is still a score that is not known by as many as it should be. In 2004 Towns worked on the movie Crimson Rivers 2-Angels of the Apocalypse, which was written by acclaimed French filmmaker Luc Besson, and directed by Olivier Dahan.

The film I felt was unfairly overlooked, and so to is the score by Towns which was a dark and brooding affair but also contained a handful of short but memorable pieces which were filled to brimming with a tense and nervous atmosphere. The score is quite a complex one in places, the composer fuses symphonic action music with electronic effects and combines both of these mediums seamlessly throughout, I think once you listen to this score you will want to re-visit it, it is inventive and innovative, and to be honest hardly draws a breath as it hurtles headlong at speed being driven by brass, strings and wild sounding and booming percussion in many of the action laced sequences. Performed by the London Philharmonic this is one for the collection or at least certainly one to look out for, but why not treat yourself right now and give it a listen on digital platforms.

I was surprised whilst scanning through digital sites such as Apple and Spotify that there are a number of soundtracks now becoming available that were nowhere to be seen up till a few months back, one such score is Childhood of a Leader which has a driving and at times Avante Garde like soundtrack penned by Scott Walker, the brash and driving Opening, is a dark and strident affair which is in the main performed by the string section, it has to it Herrmann-esque attributes as it is dramatic and jagged but also has to it a melody or a theme, the composer adds brass flourishes into the mix after approx. a minute or two, with a solo trumpet making its presence felt above both the swirling strings and the brass cacophony.

There is an urgency here and a tense and chaotic mood purveyed by the composer via the combined use of strings and brass, it may not be the easiest opening theme to listen to, but it certainly grabs the attention of the listener and of the watching audience putting them on edge before the film has really begun. Walker was know for his experimentation with music and sounds and was indeed an inspiration to many artistes David Bowie among them, but on listening to this work, maybe Walker also acted as inspiration to contemporary film music composers as well. Again you can sample the Walker wares on digital platforms right now, I think you will be surprised at the strong and powerful compositions.

SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT FORTY ONE.

Composer Joe Kraemar has written a fantastical and mysterious sounding score for the movie Emily and the Magical Journey, released on Movie Score Media this is a melodic and alluring soundtrack that is wonderfully symphonic and highly thematic. The composer utilizing every section of the orchestra to the maximum, combining rich strings with faraway sounding horns, flyaway and wistful woods and delicate and fragile musical nuances that perfectly purvey the magic and fantasy aspects of the storyline. It is one of these scores that literally oozes emotion and has to it a poignant and powerful musical persona. I have to say I do not think that there is one cue on this soundtrack that I would even think about skipping, every track is a compelling and rewarding listen, Highly recommended.  Movie Score Media have been even more industrious than they are normally and have released so many appealing and interesting soundtracks this year thus far. So, for the first part of Soundtrack supplement forty-one, I intend to focus solely upon these new releases. New releases which are all different and contain varying styles and sounds and all which are more than worthy to become part of your film music collection. 

 

Following Aurora and Nightshift, MSM once again treat us to a gorgeous release as they team up with director Yam Laranas and composer Oscar Fogelström on the release of the score for their latest collaboration, Death of a Girlfriend. The film tells the story of Alonzo (Diego Loyzaga) and Christine (AJ Raval) who fall in love with each other during their walks in the forest. However, the appearance of an elderly farmer and an obsessed warden lead to a tragedy with a Rashomon-inspired investigation as each participant has his own version to explain what happened to Christine in the woods… The score although dramatic in all the right places is also luxuriously theme led, with the composer creating rich and vibrant musical passages throughout the scores duration, it’s a score that will I know be of interest to many and is a fusion of both the conventional instrumentation and the electronic. Like the previous score there are so many great cues within it that it something that demands the listener continues to sample its delights without reaching for the skip or fast forward button. It is darkly foreboding in places and also has to it an apprehensive yet romantic air. Again this for me is an essential addition to the collection.  

Charlatan, was the official submission of Czech Republic for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category of the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021. The album which is released at the same time as the film in both Germany and the Netherlands, but precedes its release in USA and the UK. Directed by Oscar-nominated Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, the films focus is upon the life story of well-known Czech healer Jan Mikolášek portrayed by Ivan Trojan who was responsible for diagnosing and healing people using his intuition and his familiarity with herbs. As he healed not only poor but also many well-known people, including Czechoslovak President, Antonín Zápotocký, his methods got a thorough investigation by the Communist regime. The film recently won five Czech Lions and its director was nominated for the European Film Award. The score is a tense and dramatic one, with the composers Antoni Komasa-Lazarkiewicz and Mary Komasa creating not only an innovative sound but remaining inventive and fresh throughout the proceedings. This is a subtle but affecting score, which underlines and also mirrors much of what is occurring on screen. This is my kind of soundtrack, as it is in no way grandiose or sweeping, which at times I love, there are so many highly original phrases and passages with the soundtrack, that it kind of becomes something of an obsession for the listener to return to it many times to discover new sounds and the brilliance of the orchestration and the restrained quality of its lingering and sparse themes.

Twist, is a modern day reworking of the classic Charles Dickens tale Oliver Twist, the movie features Raff Law as Twist, Lena Headey as Sikes, Rita Ora as Dodge and Michael Caine as Fagin. Director Martin Owen’s movie is set in modern-day London where Twist is a parkour enthusiast tagger. Fagin is a criminal mastermind organizing a heist against one of his wrongdoers and Sikes is an enforcer who is willing to sacrifice the crew to have things her way. Their dubious adventures are underlined and supported by an action led heist score by composer Neal Athale, which features not only lilting melodies but also has great use of percussion, the composer mixing the more established sound of film music with a contemporary and upbeat collection of compositions. The cue What does Oliver See is a piece that oozes melancholy and contains a fragility that is purveyed via woods and subdued strings and it its probably true to say that the composer bases much of his more melodic material around this piece or at least extends and develops this style as the score opens up more.

I love the variety of this soundtrack, Fagin in Disguise for example is a very Yiddish sounding piece, with woods, strings and percussion creating a dance like track that shall we say would not be out of place in Fiddler on the Roof and has to it a comedic air but at the same time should be taken deadly seriously. Again, this is must for your collection.

Movie Score Media joins forces with director William Brent Bell and composer Brent Detar, releasing their fourth collaboration following Paramount’s exorcism surprise hit The Devil Inside (2012), Wer (2013) and Brahms: The Boy II (2020). Separation concentrates upon an 8-year-old girl Jenny played by Violet McGraw, who must contend with her mother’s death in a spooky house surrounded by puppets called “Grisly Kin”, based on the works of her artist father. But when her grandfather (Brian Cox) sues for custody, and babysitter Samantha (Madeline Brewer) tries to be the new woman of the house, the puppets come to life with a dark ulterior motive. Brent Detar’s atmospheric score is an all-consuming work, filled with eerie sounds and icy fragmented themes, the order of the day here is apprehension and tension, with a whole bunch of the uneasy and unsettling thrown in for good measure. Again, this is not grandiose or full on symphonic, but it does a wonderful job at creating a dark musical world to enhance and accompany the horrors that will unfold, sinewy and cold strings act as a background to a lilting piano theme, on which the composer builds his score adding choral effects that slip in and out of the proceedings, low and ominous strings too play a major part with guttural woodwind rising every now and then. Wonderfully jumpy, decidedly chilling, and superbly atmospheric and malevolent.

The next release will mark Movie Score Media’s eleventh collaboration with the highly talented and gifted composer Christopher Wong and  another score for his long-time directing partner, Victor Vu, co-written by Wong’s associates, Ian Rees and Garrett Crosby. Their latest presentation is for the Vietnamese supernatural horror Thiên Thần Hộ Mệnh (The Guardian) which tells the story of Huyen a backup singer to a successful Vietnamese pop superstar Lam Phuong. When her best friend gifts the girl with a doll called Baby Na, Huyen gets sucked into a cultlike behaviour, praising the toy for all her successes. When Lam Phuong dies of an apparent suicide and Huyen becomes a key suspect in the eyes of the police, she must uncover the secrets behind Baby Na to escape her strange and powerful hold. The score is a varied one, and has some upbeat cues in a disco vibe, that are both vocal and instrumental. The score itself as Wong’s original music is genius, with the composer utilising a rather macabre and dark variation of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, but with the Star in the title being substituted with Suicide. This is in many ways a beautiful score, as the composer realises some truly rich and luxurious sounding themes, which are performed on piano, with strings and voices to bring it to its full potential. This well worth checking out.

Directed by Hanna Maylett, Piece of My Heart deals with childcare workers and the impact that their work has on their personal lives. Social worker Rita (Lotta Lehtikari) returns to work after a suspension and  paired up with a new partner the young and inexperienced Laura (Niina Koponen). As the boundaries between work and private life begin to become obscured, things also get complicated in the dark side of society. The score by composer Pessi Levanto, is a subdued and affecting one which contains a darkly romantic heart, with the composer employing strings as the main stay of the work, at times I have to say I was reminded of the style of Ennio Morricone, the lilting and subtle thematic content of the score being emotive and poignant. There are also a handful of moments which are more shadowy and dramatic, I think that this is one of my favourite scores thus far this year, at least it is a score I will be returning to a lot. Recommended.

From Movie Score Media to another well established and respected soundtrack specialist label, Varese Sarabande, who this week announced two worthy additions to there CD club catalogue. Lionheart by Jerry Goldsmith and Knowing by Marco Beltrami.  Lionheart was originally issued in 1987, and the score was so well thought of that it was released on two long playing records, which I am glad to say I still have in my collection. As the compact disc began to become more and more popular the score was re-issued but the single CD release did not contain the entire soundtrack just a representation of it, this new edition contains all twenty-two cues from both LP record’s, and it is magnificent. The soundtrack in my opinion is one of the composers best from the 1980’s and contains the unmistakable stamp of Goldsmith throughout. A style that he returned to later in movies such as First Knight (1995) and to a degree in his unused score for Timeline (2003). Goldsmith combines sweeping symphonic passages with synthetic sounds and support to realise a sound and style that is certainly Epic.

Knowing too was originally released as a single CD, by Varèse Sarabande at the time of the film being in cinemas. This latest release of Beltrami’s atmospheric and driving, tense soundtrack, is a 2-CD Deluxe Edition and nearly doubles the playing time of the original release. It also features new liner notes by film music journalist Daniel Schweiger incorporating interviews with composer Beltrami and his collaborators, Buck Sanders and Marcus Trumpp. Well worth adding both deluxe editions to your collection.

I must again make mention of Shadow and Bone the new Netflix Series, which has a powerful and mysterious sounding score by composer Joseph Trapanese, the full soundtrack is now available on most digital platforms, so do not wait any longer go and check it out.