Time for another Soundtrack Supplement and probably the last one of 2021. A year that has seen many fine film scores and numerous TV soundtracks, it was also a year when the streaming channels such as Netflix, Apple etc, all seemed to step up a gear and start engaging composers to write high quality scores for their respective shows, series, and movies. But before we go any further, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS, and I hope that we all have a better 2022.
WELCOME TO SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT, CHRISTMAS 2021.
Hulu TV have also produced many good films and programme’s, sadly because this is not available in the UK yet, we do miss out on them. One movie that is now streaming is Mother Android, a sci-fi thriller which is filled with drama and tension. I enjoyed the movie (thanks to Hulu and their screener) and because it is still streaming, in fact it only premiered on Friday the 18thDecember, I won’t spoil things for you. I also enjoyed the score and was lucky enough to have a review copy sent to me, whether the soundtrack will get a release I am not sure, I suppose it depends on the film and how well it does. The music is by composing duo Michelle Birsky and Kevin Olken Henthorn, (My Interview with them is coming on FSM ONLINE in January 2022) who have created a subdued but at the same time quite powerful soundtrack.
It is mostly realized via electronic instrumentation, but they add a mood of intimacy with guitar at certain points within the score. They also utilize unconventional sounds which are created by items that they apparently found in a kitchen whilst on a road trip across country in the States. It’s certainly an inventive work, and one that supports the storyline superbly. As I say there seems to be no plans for a CD release yet, but a digital one could be on its way via Hollywood records.
Either way worth a listen even if you have watch, the movie to do this, which is also well worth doing and contains great performances from Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl in the Kick Ass movies) and Algee Smith (Judas and the Black Messiah). It’s co-produced by Matt Reeves who has finished just directing The Batman which is to be released in 2022. Mother Android is a Hulu production directed and written by Mattson Tomlin, who is making his feature film debut as a director.
Composer Anne Kathrin Dern has written so many great scores many of them for lower budget affairs, but her quality music is always superbly melodic and grandly symphonic, The Claus Family 2 is one of her more recent assignments and her score is truly magical and mesmerizing, sweeping and windswept sounding strings frequent the work and are enhanced and bolstered by choral performances both as in by a choir and solo renditions, woodwinds, percussion and brass also play a major part of the work, a work which is vibrant and lush sounding, that for me evokes the styles and sounds of Silvestri, Horner, and Williams, think Home Alone meets The Polar Express and add to this the melancholy and mischievous nuances of An American Tale, or even the mystical atmosphere that is heard in Casper, and there you have it a score that sparkles, shimmers and enthralls.
But there is also a haunting and infectious style present that can only be pure Dern, the movie is streaming on Netflix and certainly worth a watch, the music is superbly engaging as is the film with the score being a warm and entertaining entity on its own away from the images. Recommended.
Another interesting movie is the horror/thriller The Boys from County Hell, which involves a team of road workers trying to survive a night after awakening an ancient Irish vampire from his sleep. The score for the film is by composer Steve Lynch who I think has provided an outstanding soundtrack. It is dramatic and at times verges upon being operatic the composer utilizing strings, brass, and choral sounds to fashion a wonderfully affecting work.
He combines so many textures and musical colours within his score, fusing electronic with more conventional instrumentation to create some chilling and highly dramatic moments. It’s a dark and brooding work in places, but at certain stages purveys a style that could be identified as being from a western as in gunfight music or at least sounds and musical affiliations that resemble it. I found this to be an entertaining score, its vibrant, robust, musical persona adding much to the atmosphere and also depth of the ensuing storyline as it unfolds. Available on digital platforms from those very nice people at Movie Score Media.
Onto another score that I do recommend you at least check out on digital platforms such as Spotify is American Night, which has an atmospheric, menacing, and tense sounding soundtrack courtesy of Marco Beltrami and Ceiri Torjussen, and Buck Saunders. The music is mostly dark and broodingly malevolent, but at times does move into more upbeat and thematic pieces as it progresses and develops. We all know that Beltrami is a master at creating those foreboding, and apprehensive nuances that have frequented and supported past horror, sci- fi, and thrillers.
And the composer has not lost his touch in this department as he demonstrates throughout this work. Along with his collaborators creating, a robust and commanding work for the movie. Released on digital platforms by Movie Score Media.
It’s also Movie Score Media who brings us, Johan Soderqvist’s beautifully crafted score for the movie Betrayed or to give it its original titled Den Storste Forbrytelsen. This is a superb soundtrack and one that every self-respecting film music fan should own. The film which was released last year, focuses upon one Jewish family and their experiences as they are arrested and then deported from the prison camp Berg and their journey down river in a ship to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. It’s an emotive and perplexing watch and the composers score reflects these emotions alongside others such as desperation, frustration, and hope.
The score is an emotional listening experience, the composer providing the movie with music that is sensitively placed, and passionately performed. Strings feature as the foundation and foreground of the score as well as including solo performances on violin, it is a delicately woven work that is overflowing with a plethora of senses and emotions. Please do take the time to check this out. Highly recommended.
The dark and romantic story of Diabolik focuses upon the first meeting between master thief Diabolik and Eva Kant, so I suppose we could say that this is a prequel to Danger Diabolik which was directed by Italian master filmmaker Mario Bava in 1968. The new version of the tale is set in the fictional state of Clerville towards the end of the sixties. Inspector Ginko (Valerio Mastandrea) is on the hunt for the criminal portrayed by Luca Marinelli, attempting to put a stop to his evil plans.
The music is by Pivio and Aldo di Scalzi who have fashioned a varied and up-tempo score, which at times pays homage to the classic sound of Italian spy and thriller movies that were released in the sixties, the music at times having a retro flavour as if it could have been written by Morricone, Nicolai, or Fidenco.
If you are a fan of the sixties sound achieved by Italian composer’s as in pop/jazz sounding pieces fused with big band slanted compositions and full throttle drama, then this will certainly appeal to you, its inventive, interesting, and entertaining, with every track containing something that will attract. I enjoyed it immensely, released on Curci records Italy available via digital platforms. Recommended.
Ils Etaient Dix , (They Were Ten) (2020) is a French made TV series that is a modern-day adaptation of the world’s best-selling detective story (Ten Little Indians, And then there were None) Ten people, five women and five men, are invited to a Luxury Hotel on a Caribbean island. They quickly become aware that they have no way of contacting or reaching anywhere that resembles civilisation or a place where there are people. Why these ten? Well, it soon becomes apparent that all of them have committed murder at some point in their lives.
And they have been gathered there to pay for their crimes. I suppose it is a mix of Fantasy Island, Lost and Poirot. The musical score is incredibly inventive, with composers Anthony D’Amario, and Edouard Rigaudiere providing the twelve-episode series with an innovative and outstanding soundtrack. There is interesting use of voices within all twelve episodes, the music becoming increasingly menacing, and harrowing as the series moves forward and develops. For example, at times the instrumentation can be subtle or sparce with solo piano and woods taking the lead, these are then underlined and given depth by spidery sounding strings or solo violin, with half heard voices that call or whisper, sing and moan. There are like full stops and commas of percussion that punctuate the proceedings which add an even more unsettling aura to the music.
It is at times a beguiling and almost hypnotic work, there are of course more foreboding and forceful pieces within the soundtrack, but the atmospherics and mood are mostly achieved via the use of less rather than more and the imaginative use of voices. Which is particularly effective in the track Spectre Suite. It’s a score that I found to be compelling and attractive, but rather unsettling at the same time with very few relaxing interludes, but as I said totally effective and supportive.
See what you think, it’s on digital platforms now. Recommended.
Quartet records in Spain have released the enchanting score for the short O Night Divine, the music is by Alberto Iglesias and is wonderfully thematic and rhythmic. The composer successfully combines electronic, with symphonic and choral textures to create an interesting and also an poignant work in places. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, and written by Michael Mitnick it stars John C Reilly, lex Wolff and Hayley Gates.
The score is sentimental and emotive at times which is demonstrated in the track Lucia meets Santa but also has to it a more edgy and even sombre side to it that occasionally raises its head, solo piano features at times and there is a particularly haunting piece O Night Divine which appears midway through the score, that introduces a vocal of Santa Lucia, the score is available on digital platforms as well as being available from Quartet.
One score and film that did catch my attention was La Panthere Des Neiges,or The Velvet Queen which is a superb documentary. High up on the Tibetan plateau. Amongst unexplored and inaccessible valleys lies one of the last sanctuaries of the wild world, where rare and undiscovered fauna lives. Vincent Munier, one of the world’s most renowned wildlife photographers takes the adventurer and novelist Sylvain Tesson with him on his latest mission. For several weeks, they’ll explore these valleys searching for unique animals and try to spot the snow leopard, one of the rarest and most difficult big cats to approach.
The music is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who combine music and vocals to accompany this journey and the images that Munier captures. The score is a calming and spiritual listening experience, Cave performing vocals and co-composing the score. Well worth checking out.
Composer Felipe Ayres has written a haunting score for the movie Private Desert, which is released on Plaza Major records, for me it was the subtly and the intimacy that the music projected that made it even more attractive. The composer realising lilting and touching phrases that are created via electronic instrumentation, but also utilising guitar to great effect. I was somewhat surprised at the impression that this made upon me, its poignant and affecting musical poems being delicate and entertaining. I was reminded of the style of Vangelis from time to time whilst listening to the score. Available on digital platforms.
Spider Man-No Way Home is the latest offering from ever busy Michael Giacchino, and as always, he does not disappoint, its fairly typical super-hero musical material, but its great fun and filled with exciting and powerfully charged compositions. In fact, every track is interesting and entertaining, there is not one cue that I thought I am going to skip this on, there is that epic sound present that we have all become accustomed to in superhero movies, but there is also a handful of cues that have an upbeat almost rock foundation to which the composer adds dramatic sounding strings, brass, and up-tempo percussion. Its not just powerful though as we have the more melodic and melancholy cues present, which Giacchino does so well. Yes, it’s one for your collection.
There seems to be a lot of Lorne Balfe around at the moment, now I am no fan of this composer, as every score I have ever listened to seems to fall short of the mark somehow. But saying this I am rather partial to one of his latest offerings Silent Night, which I thought contained some nice themes. The film is a dark Christmas tale, and stars Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Roman Griffin Davies. Nell, (Knightley), Simon (Goode) and their son Art (Griffin Davies) host a yearly Christmas dinner at their country estate for their former school friends and their spouses. It is gradually revealed that there is an imminent environmental catastrophe, and that this dinner will be their last night alive. Balfe’s score is I have to say fantastic and displays that this composer can write quality music for film. I think Silent Night must be one of his best scores if not his best. Available digitally. Whilst there if you are so inclined take a listen to Rumble and Wheel of Time which are also recent works by Balfe.
Quartet re-released Zulu by John Barry a few weeks back, and I did mention the release in a previous Soundtrack Supplement, but I thought I would expand on my thoughts for this pre-Christmas look at soundtrack releases. I am all for re-issues if they contain substantially more music than the original, this however has just over a minute of extra music included, I say just over a minute and new music because it has never been issued before, and when you take into consideration how many re-issues there have been of this soundtrack on various labels, this I suppose we should welcome and be grateful for. The Quartet release contains the soundtrack and the selection of Zulu stamps arranged by Barry for the John Barry Seven, in Mono mixes, then in Stereo mixes, then we have the main title theme without the Richard Burton narration and the VC roll at the end of the movie minus narration, and there are two alternate mixes of Zulu Stamps. (Zulu Stamp and Monkey Feathers). I got this album back in 1964 on Ember, then there was a re-issue in Stereo on vinyl in 1971 and a CD release on Fat Boy records in a box set that also included Four in The Morning, Elizabeth Taylor in London and John Barry plays 007, all of which were originally released on Ember on LPs .followed a few years later Then there were a few more CD re-issues on other labels and Silva Screen released the Stereo mixes of the soundtrack on a CD with various other Barry compositions for film, TV and for vocal artists.
So, I ask the question, do we really need this release, well I for one do not think so, the sound quality on the extra music is not that good to be honest, it has distortion and a chatter on it. I suppose if you do not have the score, it is well worth having as it is one of Barry’s early triumphs and is now regarded a classic. One collector I spoke to about the re-issue referred to it as a cash trap for film music fans. But that is a matter of opinion, because one can always say no, I won’t be buying this.
What I will say is if you already have Zulu the original that is and not any of the re-recordings, (sorry Silva but they are not good) then save your cash to spend on something you don’t already have. As for the extra one minute or so of music, well we have managed without it for over fifty years, haven’t we? And if you are that desperate to hear them well, that’s a good excuse to watch the movie again. (which part are you playing this time)? Also of interest in this recent batch of releases are,
Chere Lea by David Sztanke, Called Upon by Nir Perlman, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by John Paesano, G.Storm by Anthony Chue, L’Invitation by Thomas Cappeau, The Novice by Alex Weston, The Matrix Resurrections by Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer and Segun Akinola’s atmospheric score for 9/11:Inside the Presidents War Room. Check them all out on digital platforms. Happy Holidays and enjoy the music.