Cast your mind back if you can to the 1980’s to 1982 to be more specific, when Muppets creator Jim Henson surprised everyone with a movie that is still today a popular one for any age group. THE DARK CRYSTAL was at the time and is still a must-see movie, even with all the technical advancement in movie production it remains a film that I can honestly say is timeless. So, when I heard that they were planning to produce a series based upon some of the characters and a prequel to the original movie, I thought ummmm? Well we will see. Any way it happened, and it was screened for first time on August 30th 2019 by the Netflix network who also produced it. I had hoped that the original composer Trevor Jones would be involved on the series, but that was sadly not to be, although composers Daniel Pemberton and Samuel Sim have incorporated fragments of the original central theme at certain points within their work for this series, which is a nice touch. The series as I say is a prequel and it focuses upon the Gelflins and the evil greedy Skeksis, that we were introduced to in the movie. With the Skeksis plotting and planning to dominant the world they inhabited. The look of the series is impressive, and the storyline too holds one’s attention and entertains right from the off. It’s like it is drawing you in beckoning you into a world of magic and mystical goings on, where the evil is real and forces of good are outnumbered.
The score for the series which consists of ten episodes, in my opinion is an asset to the production and brings to it a greater depth of atmosphere and elevates enhances and supports on all levels. The composers colouring and lighting this otherworldly environment with musical nuances and textures that add darkness and also light to the proceedings making them even more chilling or entertaining, this beautiful and exciting storyline cries out for music that is intimate, melancholy, dramatic and alluring and this soundtrack certainly succeeds in all of these areas, and brings to the production epic and grandiose elements. There are a lot more characters within the TV series than there were in the actual movie version, and Pemberton and Sims score is shall we say a lot more complicated than the Trevor Jones score, but the original benefited from it’s simplicity and straightforward sound and thematic content. So, do we compare, no I don’t think so because both works are so different, and each has to it various interludes, passages and quirks of composition and orchestration which are ingratiating and work for both productions. I would say that the Pemberton score makes effective use of a more folky sounding musical persona, but again there are epic and lush sounding moments which are breath taking and stunning.
Pemberton is a composer that I have to say always delivers, I was impressed with the originality of his score for THE MAN FROM UNCLE, which had to it a vintage style but also utilised contemporary ideas and sounds, KING ARTHUR too was an eye opener with the composer underlining the action and also enhancing and supporting an ancient tale with a modern sounding work that lent much to the pace and the mood of the movie. And this score is certainly no exception, on the first CD album of THE DARK CRYSTAL ¬- AGE OF RESISTANCE (yes there are two albums.) he triumphs by combining symphonic sounds and lush lavish themes with fragile and more delicate sounding pieces that are filled with melody and bursting with poignant and emotional musical poems, these literally roll along and intertwine complimenting the darker side of the score and create a beautiful and at times tantalising musical persona. It still however maintains an air that for me anyway evokes a folk infused sound which to be honest is in keeping with the storyline and the unfolding scenarios. Don’t forget this is a prequel so the story is the pre cursor to what happens in the motion picture THE DARK CRYSTAL, it can be a little difficult to take in because if you like I have been used to watching the original and have got to know the central characters, well I suppose its just difficult, but I think one has to view this series with a blank mind if that’s possible, and start afresh getting to know characters etc, and then after the ten episodes re-watch the movie, and hopefully it will all come together. Pemberton makes use of an array of instrumentation, which is cleverly manipulated and fused together to fashion an appealing and interesting soundtrack, the opening cue on the album, begins with what sounds like a lute, that is supported by fleeting wood solo and then the string section begins to gently but firmly rise behind this and gains momentum but is brought to an abrupt halt, only for the theme to begin its build up again, but the strings not being so obvious until mid-way through the proceedings, with the track coming to an end melting away rather than just halting. Track number two, ANOTHER WORLD ANOTHER TIME, is also a slow builder but more melodious and developed than the opening cue, strings again creating a lush but restrained air of romanticism, the composer calling upon electronic instrumentation to bolster the symphonic elements, the romantic aura gives way to a more serious and sinister sound which kind of slides into the piece, creating a tense and quite unsettling mood, that purveys an air that is dark and uncomfortable.
Track number three THE STORY OF THE DARK CRYSTAL, opens with a low and shadowy sound, that is joined by strings for a moment to enhance it, more synthetic sounds are utilised which fashion a fearful and threatening style, but then the cue lifts with a theme building through edgy electronic sounds, and for the first time we hear the familiar four note motif that is the DARK CRYSTAL theme, which I have to say is an effective and affecting few seconds. Track number five, I think is one of my favourite pieces from the score, AUGHRA AWAKES is a delicate piece performed at first by what I think is recorder that is punctuated by harp, the theme then is handed to the string section who give it greater substance, it swells and becomes more developed and grand, oozing with romantic connotations that are filled with emotion and melancholy. This theme returns at certain points within the score and is given a vibrant and fresh sound upon each outing, the first CD comes to an end with track number, twenty-two, THE DARK CRYSTAL THE AGE OF HOPE which again is a haunting and attractive piece. So, CD number one, would I recommend it, yes of course.
CD TWO, which is tracks written by both Pemberton and Samuel Sim, there are twenty six cues on this release which has a running time of one hour and seventeen minutes, opens with AN OLD STORY which is penned by Daniel Pemberton, it is a simple piece, that has to it a simple and subtle sound which does not really develop but is a perfect opener to the album. Track two BREA AND THE LIBRARY is composed by Samuel Sim and has a Celtic air about it, flute the is supported by light strings and later joined by more woodwind is a delicate and pleasing piece. The second album I found a great deal softer and melodic than the first, there are some interesting and wonderfully melodious interludes created here, but of course if you buy the score you have to have both vol one and vol two. It is on this album we encounter the theme for THE MYSTICS and it is as magical and imposing as the creatures it is written for, it has an otherworldly sound and a rich and melodious heart that is surrounded by alluring and ancient sounding orchestration, with solo violin making a heartfelt statement midway through the track, in other words its stunning.
I wont analyse any further, I just want you to go out and add this to your collection, it is a score filled with variety, and bursting with so many elegant themes that you will not be able to resist its charm and its obvious quality.