Composer Eric Jaques Levisalles was born in Paris in 1955, Eric Levi as he is better known is a French rock musician who has made his home in London, his career in rock music began back in 1975 when he and Fabienne Shine founded the hard rock band SHAKIN STREET, under this name they released two albums which were well received these were VAMPIRE ROCK and SOLID AS A ROCK and at the height of their popularity the band toured as a support act for AC DC and BLUE OYSTER CULT but in 1981 decided to disband. After this Levi decided to re-locate to New York and then in 1992 moved back to Paris. In his career as a composer he scored a number of movies, L’OPERATION CORNED BEEF and also the first in a trio of successful comedies LES VISITEURS being the first of these and becoming one of France’s top grossing movies at the box office. He is also known for being the man behind the musical project ERA and for creating the Latin sounding verses and words of these songs and compositions which is a fusion of Gregorian chant and rock/pop music.
One of his latest projects is the score for LES VISITEURS LA REVOLUTION which was released this year(2016) and directed by Jean Marie Poire. The score which Levi has penned has to be one of his most entertaining if not his best yet. The composer returns to the original material which he wrote in 1993 for the first in the trio of movies and gives it a more upbeat sound making it sound even more original and fresh. We are even treated to a Michael Kamen ROBIN HOOD style at times within the score which is good to hear and certainly rousing even if a little tongue in cheek, the secret is I suppose not to take it too seriously, just go with it and enjoy it. The music is a fusion of synthetic and symphonic with the composer including choral work and chanting to give the work a powerful and authentic feel. The score is filled with tension and apprehension but also has a softer and gloriously melodic side to it, Levi employing harp and strings to great affect to create a luxurious and highly romantic sound. The score I thought contained more than a gentle nod to Rota’s ROMEO AND JULIET in places and also of course is at times a homage to that rousing ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES theme which appears at regular intervals throughout the score. Maybe collectors might look at this release and pass it by, my advice is do not, buy it and you will not be disappointed I promise, this is a score that will entertain for many a listen and also will continue to stay fresh and original upon each and every outing. Highly Recommended.
Released in January 2016, DIABLO is a western/physiological thriller which stars Scott Eastwood(yes he is related) as Jackson a veteran of the civil war. His character awakes one morning to find that his wife has been kidnapped by a bunch of cutthroats, of course Jackson goes in pursuit his aim to rescue his spouse and bring her back home. Along the way he encounters many unsavoury characters all of whom seem to want to put a bullet or two in him. As the story progress’s it becomes more and more difficult to differentiate between the good guys and the not so good to the extent that at times the watching audience begin to doubt if the central character is actually one or the other or neither. The musical score is the work of composer Timothy Williams who has already worked on a number of movies as a composer but more predominately as an orchestrator and additional music composer. Working on projects such as GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, 300, SUCKER PUNCH and WATCHMAN Williams is certainly no stranger to the scoring stage. For DIABLO the composer has created a powerful and hard hitting score, which at times does have influences and sounds that are straight out of the Spaghetti western genre, Williams makes effective use of choir which is mainly male voices that shout in a similar fashion to the barking choir on Morricone’s FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, he also utilises whistling which again creates a style and ambience that is straight out of the western scores of such Italian greats as Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone, Francesco De Masi, Nico Fidenco and their like. The opening track on the compact disc sets the scene perfectly, BLOODLINE is an impressive title song performed by vocalist Zella Day who delivers a killer rendition of her lyrics over an even more impressive musical score which has at its core a percussive backing which is embellished by the inclusion of high soaring trumpet solos, whistling and jangling electric guitar riffs which are all held together by strings and choral support, all of these elements are woven together seamlessly by Williams and hit the spot straight away. Track number two COLORADO TERRITORY opens with a solo whistle which after a short time is joined by a poignant but apprehensive sounding violin or fiddle and is unbeknown to us the listener the calm before the musical storm. Track three ALEXANDRA KIDNAPPED although fairly short lived is a return to the more traditional scoring style of the western with a dramatic and forthright opening from the string and brass sections establishing that something dramatic and disturbing has happened, the cue then seems to tail off into something that is a little more settled but at the same time is atonal with no real thematic base, the music conjuring up an atmosphere of uncertainty and loss.
There are a number of the more quieter moments with Williams score, but at times these low key interludes suddenly burst into a full on action cue, with rasping brass and thundering percussion being driven along and carried at pace by strings. AMBUSH AT THE RIVER for example and CARTERS DEATH. Track number GALLOP is one of my favourite cues on the score, the composer bringing together a near upbeat percussive backing and fusing it with driving and rising strings that act as support for brass that growls. Overall this is an enjoyable listening experience and although Williams has employed what I call the ITALIAN WESTERN SOUND at certain points within the score, the composer has also created numerous original and innovative sounding passages, which are highly exhilarating, poignant and contain their fair share of emotion and melancholy. I am sure that you will enjoy this soundtrack. Released on Milan records.
THE WITCH, is the directorial debut of film maker Robert Eggers, the movie is an impressive and disturbing piece of cinema that at times is so realistic that one feels as if you are actually witnessing the events that are taking place, it is a dread filled story and although a horror movie at times does not jump out on you as being horrific or indeed gory, it relies instead upon the actions and the scenarios of the central characters evoking a sense of anxiety and fear even at times when nothing menacing is occurring. The horror or the dread that is purveyed by Eggers is controlled with precision with each and every scene teetering on the edge the director utilising the practise of what might or could happen rather than what actually takes place. Set in the 17th Century (WHICH STRAIGHT AWAY GOT MY ATTENTION) it is the tale of a New England family who decide to leave the relative safety of their fellow settlers to set off into the wilderness, the Father plated by Ralph Ineson believes that they have to do this because the settlement and its community are not living close enough to the word of God, he thinks that by going off into the wild countryside he and his family will become one with nature and thus be closer to God.
They decide to make their home next to a dark and inhospitable forest and it is soon established that forest contains something more than Gods creatures and plants, there is something that is malevolent residing within the shadows. The sight of the forest alone sets the tone of the story line and conjures up all sorts of unspeakable situations for the watching audience. It is recognized there is a WITCH residing within the forest, but it is not the sight of this Witch that is the focus of proceedings, the movie works because it ponders the question what will she do next and what is her course of action towards the family. What also makes the film effective is the excellent cast, none of whom are names within the film industry speak era- appropriate English which itself is somewhat unnerving and gives the film credence. The families baby boy is mysteriously kidnapped literally disappearing in front of his sisters eyes whilst she is playing with him, the family become suspicious of her thinking she could be the witch and then in turn become suspicious of each other and begin to argue and disagree about everything, the rest I will let you find out for yourselves, but it is a film that will leave you affected and makes you think, the aura and atmosphere at times being almost suffocating whilst you are waiting for something to happen.
The score is by Canadian composer Mark Korven, and the music I have to say underlines and supports the storyline perfectly, the music is slightly off-balance in places but when you see the movie you will see just how well this works with the images on screen. I don’t think it is a work that one would sit down and listen to on a Sunday morning with your toast and tea, but as film music it works and works extremely well. The composer incorporates strings and also choir into the work and at times relies on very subdued nuances, clusters or snatches and stabs of music to create a suitably unsettling effect/atmosphere.
This is not a lush or lavish soundtrack, it is however a somewhat understated but sophisticated work, a kind of thinking mans horror score and has definite modernistic leanings in its overall sound and construction. The composer resists the need to create lilting or melodious motif’s to express an affiliation with any of the films characters or the situations they become involved in, but there again a love theme or emotive tone poem would be very out of place. Instead he has fashioned a sinewy sounding soundtrack, that is dissonant, atonal and malevolent sounding filled with dread and fear. His musical soundtrack is the chills you feel up your spine, the hairs that stand up on the back of your neck and the half heard sounds and fleeting spectres you see from the corner of your eye, the music in essence takes on the guise of another actor within the storyline because it creates and builds levels of tension, fright and unease which elevate each and every scene that is scored the music becoming integral to the storyline.
Korven utilises some interesting instrumentation, which ranges from scratchy and jagged sounding violin or viola and encompasses the use of a terrifyingly shrieking choir, led by folk performer Christian Duncan, that jars with the lower notes performed by the strings conjuring up a sound and mood that is most certainly nerve jangling. The composer also utilises, Finnish Jouhikko and another stringed instrument in the form of the Swedish Nyckelharpa, he also employs the hurdy-gurdy and fuses these together with Cello and Waterphone, within the score we also hear, cracks, creaks and bumps from the percussion section and a low and gut wrenching growling sound that is produced by the string section in certain points within the soundtrack.
So an interesting work even if it is not an easy listen. This is also an accomplished work, filled with originality and heart-stopping interludes. The soundtrack will be released on Milan records.
Set in modern day New York, MORTAL INSTRUMENTS tells the story of a seemingly ever day teenager Clary Fray, played by British actress Lily Collins (THE BLIND SIDE, MIRROR MIRROR and PRIEST). After Clary discovers her Mother has been abducted by a demon she joins forces with a band of shadow hunters and finds out that she is descended from a line of these shadow hunters which are young half angels who are locked in a deadly battle against the forces of evil and are protecting the world from demons and other creatures of darkness. Clary’s newly found allies introduce her to a dangerous and very different world in the form of DOWNWORLD which is filled with, vampires, werewolves, demons, warlocks and their like. The movie is based on the best selling book series by Cassandra Clare. This is the first of what we hope will be many films from the MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series, in fact the second movie is already in pre-production.
MORTAL INSTRUMENTS-CITY OF BONES opens in cinemas soon and the soundtrack album is released on Milan records on August 20th, the musical score is by one of film music’s rising stars Atli Örvarsson who’s music has aided greatly films such as THE FOURTH KIND, BABYLON AD, VANTAGE POINT, SEASON OF THE WITCH and more recently HANZEL AND GRETEL-WITCH HUNTERS. Örvarsson,s score for MORTAL INSTRUMENTS is a driving and epic tour de force that was written for 90 piece orchestra and choir, it posses a lushness and power that can be likened to film scores from bygone days, but also has to it a sound that is pulsating, vibrant and contemporary. The composer utilizes to great effect a sweeping string section, which is supported by brass stabs and an equal amount of brass flourishes that relay dark and light, plus there are pounding and vibrant percussive elements, which further enhance the work and these are embellished by the use of a scattering of synthetics which push the compositions forward at break neck speed within certain areas of the score. The work however does have its more subtle and poignant side and includes plaintive solo piano that relays touches of melancholy and feelings of solitude at times, which the composer then builds upon and elevates these thematic properties to full blown crescendos that are stunning and breathtaking. Although this is most certainly an action led soundtrack, it also has within its perimeters a real richness of sound that oozes romanticism, and it is I think this underlying romantic and lushness that acts as a foundation to the remainder of the score.
The choral work on the score is also outstanding, at times I have to say it verges on the Elfman-esque in its sound but this is not a derogatory remark or observation, as the choir acquit themselves wonderfully and the inclusion of choir brings a whole other dimension to the work giving it even more emotion and depth plus adding to the mix an atmosphere that is grandiose and at the same time humbling and beguiling. The composer also at times utilizes a solo female voice which is highly effective and mesmerising. The compact disc opens, quietly in the first instance as we are ushered into CLARY’S THEME, as the composition progresses it alters in mood and atmosphere its six note motif theme changing from a mysterious and quite subtle sounding piece into a full and rich sounding cue that is performed by strings, choir and percussion with brass underlining the proceedings as it builds, it then melts away into a melodic piano solo, this itself is short lived but certainly makes an impression, the string section come back into play accompanied by choir and horns bringing the track to its conclusion in a glorious sounding crescendo. The softer side to the score is I think heard for the first time in track number 3, YOUR SECRET IS SAFE, solo piano underlined by strings are joined by a female solo voice, the subtle theme that they create is then taken on by strings and choir, it gains momentum and swells to an emotive and heartrending apex, the cue then falls back into solo piano that is touchingly beautiful and takes the cue to its conclusion. I am not going to do a track by track analysis as I feel this is a score that one should discover one’s self, all I do know is I enjoyed it immensely and have returned to it a number of times in the past three days, for me MORTAL INSTRUMENTS-CITY OF BONES is the best soundtrack released thus far this year, and I am also of the opinion it will take a lot to beat it.
Available on Milan records August 20th 2013.
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