Tag Archives: movie score media

Movie score media spotlight reviews.

Just as I finished soundtrack supplement Movie Score media continued to surge forwards and onwards and upwards with even more great soundtrack releases, so rather than wait till the next Soundtrack Supplement, I thought that I would review the releases in this special MSM review article. In my opinion Movie Score Media is one of the very few labels that gives soundtrack collectors what they want, as in great film music but maybe it’s not from the normal well-known composers, or usual suspects as it were, thus this industrious and groundbreaking label are always alerting collectors to composers new. Plus, every now and then they uncover and issue a score that has not been released before by an established or known composer.

Amongst the latest batch of soundtrack superb-ness is Space Truckers a movie that was released back in 1995 with a brilliant score by composer Colin Towns.  Directed by Stuart Gordon (Robot Jox, Fortress, The Pit and The Pendulum, Re- Animator, From Beyond and Dolls) who sadly passed away in 2020 and to whose memory this world premiere release is dedicated. Following his success with Fortress the filmmaker was given a larger budget to work with on Space Truckers, which allowed him to create a compelling and larger than life road movie that just happened to be set in space. The movie features actor Dennis Hopper in the role of a space trucker John Canyon who along with his new bride Cindy portrayed by Debi Mazar and apprentice space trucker Mike (Stephen Dorf) set out on a trip carrying believe it or not a shipment of sex dolls. Their trip is watched with interest by space Pirate Captain Macanundo played by Charles Dance who plans to relieve the trio of their unusual cargo. The score which in my very humble opinion is far better than the movie by Colin Towns is a riveting and entertaining listen, the composer combining electronic elements into a score that is largely symphonic and sounds quite grand in places. Movie Score Media should be congratulated for resurrecting this score and bringing it to collectors, it is now available digitally, but a CD and vinyl release is scheduled soon on Quartet and Svart records respectively. 1995 and 1996 were remarkably busy and productive years for the composer because in the space of less than eighteen months he worked on a plethora of projects for TV that included The Buccaneers, The World of Peter Rabbit and friends, The Crow Road, The Wind in the Willows, Bodyguards, The Willows in Winter and for the big screen on Space Truckers.

Towns is one of the UK,s busiest and in demand composers even today, and has penned the soundtracks to many popular contemporary TV shows, including Doc Martin for the ITV network. Space Truckers is I think an essential purchase and will be a score that you will certainly return to after your initial listen. It is a score that is filled with numerous   action laced cues but it is a case of the thematic not being sacrificed for action here with the composer relying heavily upon the string and brass sections of the orchestra to achieve a vibrantly grand and pulsating sound for the movie. Throughout the score there are several themes or fragments of thematic material that sweep in and out of the proceedings making it not only entertaining but memorable as well, with anthem like pieces complemented by a rich and slightly romantic adventurous style. Towns even including a kind of Ho Down square dance theme which has a Copland-esque musical persona in the track Evacuate the Area. The composer also at times drifting into a comedic and lighter mood with cues such as Do You Mind, which is verging upon easy listening/country sound with a tinge of Opera, but also at the same time having to it a mysterious and dreamlike edge. This is a release that I know is welcomed by many already converted devotees of the composer and is also a release that is long overdue. Highly recommended.

The Syfy TV series Van Helsing has been received with mixed reaction from audiences and critics alike. The series which debuted in 2016 has it seems according to who you are either improved or become steadily sillier. But hang on it is a fantasy/Horror series we are talking about here, so maybe the way forward is not to take it too seriously and seeing as we are now in the fifth and final season of the show you would think that viewers would have kind of worked this out. The fantasy horror series stars Kelly Overton as Vanessa Helsing, a distant relative of famous vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, who is resurrected only to discover that vampires have taken over the world. With the unique ability of turning vampires into humans, Vanessa must fight through an apocalyptic wasteland to fight the Elders, the group of vampires that are now in charge. At last, the dramatic and atmospheric music by composer Rich Walters has been released on a soundtrack album which is representative of the composers work on the series.

It is largely a synthetic realized work, with dark and racing cues that add layers and textures to the action that is unfolding on screen. The score is tense and at times foreboding and apprehensive. It also has to it passages both musical and atonal that are affecting and highly effective within the series, horror is a genre that literally cries out for musical support and in this case I feel the composer has answered those cries providing the series with a score that fully supports yet also has a life of its own, the cue I am Sam for example starts out with a dark and thickly atmospheric drone like sound, but this alters as it gathers some pace and the composer also adds elements to it, finally transforming into a cue that resembles a piece that accompanies a showdown situation. Although an electronic score, it still has to it thematic qualities, the composer developing certain themes and utilizing them effectively. Fighting the Elder is a taught and menacing cue, with sharp and ominous stabs accompanied by an up-tempo percussive background. Certainly, the music from Van Helsing is worth a listen, it is a fusion of inventive styles that evoke both Vangelis and the Carpenter/Howarth partnership. Available on digital platforms.  

Another score to look out for is Cloudmaker, which is scored by Dutch composer Matthijs Kieboom, and follows his successful scores to the re-boot of the TV series Van Der Valk, plus Pirates down the Street, Bloody Marie and the brilliant score for the documentary Wild, which if you have not yet heard is highly recommended and also available on MSM. Cloudmaker, is an animated short and has two cues available on digital platforms, both being enchanting and haunting, the score will be represented on the upcoming Movie Score Media compilation Short Cuts 2020 which is due for release at the end of May 2021.

Back to full scores that are now available on digital platforms and we go to Sasquatch, which is a documentary that follows investigative journalist David Holthouse as he attempts to solve a bizarre triple homicide which took place twenty-five years ago and was said to be the work of a mythical creature.

The film has music by the talented and chameleon like American composer H.Scott Salinas, (Rust Creek, Cartel Land, The Ivory Game, A Private War, The Banker, Warrior). His music for Sasquatch is interesting as in the composer integrates a varied handful of styles into the score, using acoustic instruments as well as numerous electronic elements Salinas creates an atmospheric and wonderfully supportive work, which enhances and adds greater depth to the story as it unfolds in front of us. Salinas manages to create affecting cues for the documentary, raising the tension but without the watching audience realizing that there is an actual musical score, his music underlines and punctuates the discoveries of the journalist and enhances the scenario without overwhelming it. It is a masterful soundtrack and a worthy addition to the MSM catalogue.

And that is not all, there are so many more interesting and great titles to come, watch the MSM website for upcoming releases there are so many and all quality items.

ENEMY LINES.

 

The genre of the war film has always for some reason been a popular one. During the 1950’s and 1960’s many films had musical scores that at times were indeed as memorable or even more enduring than the memory of the films they were written for. In fact, it was not always the scores but mainly the theme that either opened or closed the movie that was the musical item that made people remember such films as 633 SQUADRON, WHERE EAGLES DARE and their like. In recent years there have been numerous war movies, taking their storylines from true events or fictional ones from many different wars let us face it there have been enough of them. But one thing that has been missing in the more recent productions is a score or a theme that the audience can identify with, a tune or a phrase even that they can latch onto and maybe even hum or whistle as they leave the cinema. The trend being for a composer to write largely a no thematic work, and place drone like soundscapes onto the film, ok in some cases it works as in DUNKIRK which although I have to say I hated the score did bring a sense of tension and a raised mood of apprehension and even hope to the proceedings. But other than the re-working of NIMROD I the closing minutes of the movie ther was no real theme, was there?

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ENEMY LINES is a 2020 fairly-low budget movie, but the small budget has not in any way discouraged the composer Philippe Jakko from producing a stirring and highly emotive sounding work. The films story is set in the frozen war-torn landscape of Poland during the second world war. The story centres on a group of highly trained commandos who are sent into Nazi occupied territory to bring out a rocket scientist. Directed by Anders Banke and featuring in the lead roles John Hannah, Ed Westwick, Jean-Marc Birkholz, Pawel Delag and Vladimir Epifantsev. The music is largely symphonic and has to it a bittersweet sound that is not only inspiring, and action led in parts but also contains a deep and affecting element of fragility and poignancy. Although a war movie the composer fashions a rich and emotionally vibrant soundtrack, strings and brass working together to create tensions and purveying a more romantically slanted or pastoral sound on other occasions within the score. This for me was a wonderful listening experience from start to finish, the composers eloquent and delicate touch in places yielding an affecting sound, plaintive woods also come into the equation throughout and convey a sense of solitude as well as melancholy.

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It is a score that I have to say please go and check out, as because of the COVID 19 situation the films premiere or screenings have for the moment been postponed, it is one of those soundtracks that you go into not really knowing what to expect, but once you begin to listen it is hard to stop and once you have listened through the soundtrack you feel compelled to go back and start again. On this occasion not to hear again what the music is like but to savour and appreciate it even more and appreciate the themes that the composer has created for the work, yes themes, this is a score that has them and they are haunting, effective and welcomed by this reviewer at least. Ok, there maybe not be a strident or bombastic sounding central theme or march that dominates or suddenly jumps out at the listener, but what there is here is plenty of soul and certainly lots of musical heart the composer writing in at times a low key way but this style becomes powerful and commanding because it is not intrusive but supportive. The action led pieces for example: AMBUSH PT 1, is certainly filled with tension and oozes drama, but there is also present an underlying sound that is less forceful and creates a sound that is patriotism and determination personified. THE CHASE too is an up-tempo affair, with strings and brass working together punctuated and supported by percussion to add a greater sense of urgency. The track MOTHERS DEATH, is a wonderfully mesmeric and beguiling cue, filled with so much emotion, so much sadness. Thus, conveying a yearning and a heartfelt sense of sorrow and loss.

 

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Track 13 LOVE, too is hauntingly beautiful, with harp opening and then passing the piece to the strings and solo piano, which is a combination and performance that you cannot possibly listen to without becoming involved in the moment and emotionally entangled. This I know is a soundtrack that so many collectors will adore, the music has to it a contemporary feel but also contains a sound and style that is from bygone days of movie scores. It is a work that you will return to many times.

 

 

 

 

I have to say I have been following the work of this composer since hearing his score for the movie QUE D’AMOUR, which is also a work you should as a discerning film music collector check out alongside LE COUER EN BRAILLE and ALLIES.

 

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ENEMY LINES is a Movie Score Media release and is available on digital platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify. Recommended.

 

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ON THE PRESIDENTS ORDERS/HEARTBOUND.

Music in documentaries has become stronger and more prevalent in recent years, probably because of the rise of TV channels etc that constantly commission and air such grand films nowadays. There has I think always been a kind of snobbery within the ranks of film music collectors when it comes to TV music and documentary film scores. And it was not until more recently that these soundtracks have become more accepted and included under the same umbrella as music for motion pictures. Just before Christmas in 2019 we saw the release of a 5 CD set entitled ART FILM MUSIC, which was a collection of music for documentaries that were all about art as in Monet, Gauguin, Picasso, Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo. I think that this was the first time that such a set has been issued, showcasing the work of one composer, Remo Anzovino, and his music for documentaries. Amongst the new releases this January from Movie Score Media are the scores for two documentaries, ON THE PRESIDENTS ORDERS and HEARTBOUND, which both have music by Swedish born composer Uno Helmersson, who’s other works for cinema include the affecting soundtrack for THE LION WOMAN, BOBBI JENE and MAGNUS. The composer has an evident gift for creating lingering melodies, but also is able to turn his hand to writing and developing passages of music that maybe are not entirely melodic, but are filled with textures and colours that the composer cleverly weaves into the more melodious section of the scores. Thus, elevating and underlining darker or more dramatic scenarios of the movie but at the same time allowing the thematic qualities of the score to shine through. Listening to ON THE PRESIDENTS ORDERS, is an entertaining experience, as we hear the composer introduce fragments of themes that at times do not fully develop yet remain haunting. The opening cue THE UNDERTAKER’S WALTZ is a bittersweet affair, performed by strings and solo violin, this combination of instrumentation introducing the cue and slowly carrying it forward, purveying an understated but effective apprehensive atmosphere. The score is a mix of electronics and symphonic, the symphonic however seems to be restricted to various solo performances, with the electronic section having the biggest share of the work. The composer makes effective use of the synthetic elements within the score, shaping and fashioning a tense and at times unsettling and sinister sounding work. He also utilises well percussive elements and fuses these with various sounds and a kind of jagged and biting style, which is brooding and dark. Its certainly a score that has various levels of darkness and unsettling factors, but the music is affecting and strangely alluring in places.

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The second score for a documentary film by Helmersson is HEARTBOUND which is completely different stylistically from ON THE PRESIDENTS ORDERS, in fact it’s a good thing that we have two scores released at the same time by the same composer, because this just reinforces what I and others have already said about Helmersson, and that is he is a talented and interesting composer who is able to easily adapt and work on all subject matters. As dark and foreboding as ON THE PRESIDENTS ORDERS is, so HEARTBOUND is in my opinion light and engaging, yes there are a few cues that are more robust in places, but overall HEARTBOUND is an enchanting work, the composer again introducing hints of themes which in many cases do not fully develop, but this is not a criticism in fact it is a ingenious way to use thematic material, tantalising and tempting the listener, grabbing their attention and inviting them in to savour what is on offer, the delicacy and fragility of this score are its qualities. The track DOG DYING is heartfelt and wonderfully emotive, the composer achieving this via a meandering piano solo that repeats the same combination of notes but creates a lasting and highly emotive composition, that tugs at the heart strings, the same can be said for the cue THE FUNERAL, which features solo violin and I have to say reminded me somewhat of the qualities of THE LARK ASCENDING, by Vaughn Williams, it gets right to the soul and is a stunning piece. These two scores are so different, that if you were to listen to them one would probably not realise, they were both the work of the same composer. Both are most definitely worth a listen.

SHORT CUTS 2019.

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After the festivities of Christmas and new year which seem to have faded even swifter than they normally do, I think we need something to give us a little lift and prepare us for the long month of January, I am glad to say that Movie Score Media have done exactly that with four new releases so far, but it is one in particular that I am drawn to and after listening to it a number of times I can say whole-heartedly that it sounds good and it does you good to listen to it and savour its many differing styles and sounds. SHORT CUTS 2019, is a wonderful compilation of cues taken from short films and these are written by an array of composers who we all have at one point encountered via their film scores, plus maybe a few who we may not be familiar with but I am confident will be if their contributions to this excellent compilation is anything to go by. Pantawit Kiangsiri for example who wowed many of at the end of last year with his score for THE SECRET OF IMMORTAL CODE makes an appearance with music from, WINTER OLYMPIC DREAM, which is a proud and vibrant piece that evokes memories of Jerry Goldsmith, the eight minute cue is not just action led and dramatic but also contains a more melancholy and gentle side, which perfectly complements the more robust opening and conclusion. We also as I have said have familiar names from the world of film scoring in the form of Christopher Young who, s offbeat music for FANBOY is aired here, Rachel Portman too is included in the more than impressive line-up with her music for ARCHIE, which has a somewhat quirky opening that leads into those trademark Portman melodious strings and woodwinds posses a Gaelic spirit and sound. Frederick Wiedmann too is in the line up with his music for BURNING BRIGHT, initially this has a mysterious atmosphere and even for me evoked slightly a James Bond mood, but this soon alters and has a change of direction with the composer building a tense and tense atmosphere via strings and brass that is supported by percussion, the piece builds then reverts back to a quieter but still tense atmosphere, strings being the main stay of the composition. But then the tempo is picked up and we are back to a more sinister and apprehensive configuration, with an almost Herrmann-esque style glinting through.

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Composer Kevin Smithers is represented on three separate occasions within the compilation, each section being different from the other and showcasing perfectly the composers talent and versatility, these sections being from BRUISED, DON’T CROAK and KNITCROMANCER, the latter I think being my own personal favourite of the three, but saying this they are all well written pieces. Joe Kraemer, Bear McCreary, Rob Simonen, Joan Vila, Chad Cannon, Laura Rossi, Michael Nielson and Daniel Alcheh all make an appearance. Each cue is a shining example of great film music, and how talented each of these composers are. I am confident that with composers such as this film music is in safe hands. This is a wonderful compilation, put together with much thought and enthusiasm, it contains fifteen cues which are all entertaining in their own very special way. Certainly, one to add to your collection and because of the variety here there is no danger whatsoever of becoming bored, it’s a collection of themes that will wash over the listener and engage them from start to finish. Soon to be available on Quartet records compact disc.

FINDING HOME (HABET).

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I am always in awe of the industrious ethics of the label Move Score Media, it seems at times that this is the only soundtrack label around, simply because they issue so many film and television scores, and they all seem to be good, as in I am yet to find a bad one. What I love about the label is there persistent and ongoing search to release soundtracks by composers that maybe are unknown or at least not in the limelight that much, by doing this they keep collectors interested and this reviewer intrigued as to what will pop up next, well FINDING HOME (HABET) is the answer to that question. The music for this Danish TV series is the work of composer Nicklas Schmidt, who has worked on fair few films, TV shows and also documentaries as well as working as an orchestrator on the score for THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING in 2014 for composer Johann Johannsson. He is no stranger to the Movie Score Media label as they have released two of his scores previously, these being, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS and A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH. His music for FINDING HOME is stunning, the composer constructing poignant and achingly beautiful pieces throughout and purveying these via largely strings and solo violin to which he adds guitar and at times introduces percussive elements which add an atmosphere of tension. But, the score is predominantly exected via strings, which are at times poignant and emotive, then turn into more apprehensive and edgy performances. The cue A NEW JOB for example has to it a quite jagged and harrowing style and sound, with slow but forthright sounding strings acting as a background to a slightly less dramatic violin solo. The combination is effective and striking. The composer also utilises solo piano at certain points which engages in a lilting melody that is supported and underlined by subdued but rich and vibrant strings, as in MARIE BY THE WATERFALL, this is an engaging score and also an interesting work, it contains inventive orchestrations and is filled with delicate melodies that will haunt and tantalise the listener. Another one for the Christmas stocking I think..