Soundtrack Review: LOOPER (Nathan Johnson)

looperCDMusic composed by Nathan Johnson 
LabelLa-La Land Records
Catalog: LLLCD 1227
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Rating: ****

Director Rian Johnson has always been prone to bring something quite original to the screen and afterwards leave an overwhelming impression that makes you go home and think over the matter for at least one excruciating week, and that what happens exactly on Looper.

Moving towards the soundtrack the director’s cousin, Nathan Johnson, is a talented and extremely fond of musique concrete, i.e., sampling ordinary objects sounds such as crumbling bricks, broken glasses and turning them to sound musically appropriate and the result is startling to say the least. He gathered a group and went to the streets to record sounds that in the end would comprise the score’s bulk and the overall feeling is this uproar, streetwise, breathtaking in the first act. But do not get the good fellow message wrong, on the background there is still the usual well-crafted synthesised strings that work so well with sci-fi films, plus electronic percussion and textures.

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Soundtrack Review: PUSHER (Orbital)

pusherCDMusic composed by Orbital 
Label: Silva Screen Records
Catalog: SILCD1394
Release Date: October 19, 2012
Rating: ****½

Spaniard Luis Prieto summoned the British duo Paul Hartnoll and Phil Hartnoll (Orbital) to tell Pusher story (originally directed by Nicolas Winding Refn) from a British point of view, and the results are quite surprising to say the least.

Orbital’s take on this story presents the London underground atmosphere and London-boy twang as a recurring motive. They definitely tried some Tangerine Dream every now and then in their acid house on this score, but in the end the contemporary part prevailed anyhow.

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Soundtrack Review: BLADE RUNNER – 30th Anniversary Celebration (Vangelis)

blade_runner_BSXCDMusic composed by Vangelis
Label: BuySoundtrax Records
Catalog: BSXCD-8917
Release Date: September 19, 2012
Rating: ****

At the time of its release, Vangelis’ Blade Runner Score was filled with mystic romanticness, a sense of longing for home, sadness, unfairness, justice by its own hands and inequality. Deckard’s sense of duty is mainly overshadowed by his own doubts towards the Replicants, issue so Vangelis had to come up with themes that sounded dubious and had overlaying strings creating the sense of a “semi-polyrhythmical” track and consequently an unconscious idea that something else was going on on the screen.

For those into music’s technical aspects, that is a must have album, even if not a Blade Runner fan but to compare the original with the reverse engineering process album. On the other hand do not expect something entirely different because as the liner notes say: The goal was never make a soundtrack based on the Vangelis original but re-record it again to make it sound exactly like the above mentioned score.

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Soundtrack Review: THE FOG – EXPANDED (John Carpenter)

thefogCDMusic composed by John Carpenter
Label: Silva Screen Records
Catalog: SILCD 1301
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Rating: **½

John Carpenter is quite unique because he writes, directs, produces and scores his own films, but ticking all the boxes might make the New York-born director sound too repetitive, especially because he tends to make thriller/horror films. If the reader feels uncomfortable with the word “repetitive”, perhaps “minimalistic with ambience” would be more suitable.

Detached from the film, the Fog‘s score tends to be quite overwhelmingly grey making the most sunny day look glooming. That would be the point due to the self-explanatory title, but listening to it closely and deeper, the whole glooming turns to dull and the momentum is quite lost. The synths are good, the pianos could be taken from a Phillip Glass‘ 1983 album but the effects/percussion are definitely cheesy and do not match up the quality mentioned previously.

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Soundtrack Review: LINCOLN (John Williams)

lincolnCDMusic composed by John Williams
Label: Sony Classical
Catalog: SK544685
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Rating: ****

As usual John Williams asks you to close your head eyes, open your mind eyes and join him in the journey whilst he paves and paints the way with majestical colours. Taking a look at Daniel Day-Lewis pictures as President Lincoln is quite touching and is somewhat as if one were looking at the man himself, since Day-Lewis is prone to immersing completely into the characters, going as far as becoming them.

What the John Williams fans are going to find on Abraham Lincoln OST is a very gloomy and misty atmosphere mixed with moments of sunny and western pace, such as the Bonanza-alike “The Race to the House” or as if there was a hovering alien spacecraft, like on the last portion of “The Southern Delegation and the Dream”. “Appomattox – April 9, 1865” is an allusion to Lincoln’s death, the whole piece is full of ghostly imagery that would easily fit a Jack the Ripper or Edgar Allan Poe tale-based film.

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Soundtrack Review: SKYFALL (Thomas Newman)

skyfallcdMusic composed by Thomas Newman
Label: Sony Classics
Catalog: 88765410402
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Rating: ****

Since it was the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Skyfall had a tremendous responsibility to show what the Bond films are made of essentially, and it turned out to be some sort of ode to the British Empire in the end. Allusions to the Hong Kong colony, setting the main action ground in London and going deeper into the story to show that contrary to what many believe, James Bond birth country is Scotland were the primary devices to pay homage to the MI-6 spy British origins.

The main clash point of the film is the right point of leaving the scenery, meaning the right time to retire. The young x the experienced is also there, especially on the Quartermaster scenery at the National Gallery where Q and Bond “collide” with their differences regarding human intelligence and more electronic types of intelligence gathering. There are also loads of nuisance times for Bond when he is requested to perform tests to prove he is still good as he ever was, and furthermore confronting his past dark secrets.

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Soundtrack Review: THE AVENGERS (Alan Silvestri)

Music Composed and Conducted by Alan Silvestri
Label: Hollywood/Intrada
Catalogue: D001759402
Release Date: 01/05/2012
Rating: ****

After years  and having hyped it in all the possible ways through ‘introductory’ stand alone movies, Paramount finally in 2012 hit the screens with its’ The Avengers’ movie.  The movie in itself is as bombastic, flashy and exaggerated as it can be, and that’s exactly why it works: you don’t put together four Marvel heroes into a motion picture without inserting action and explosions. There’s no real thought here, the deepness of the plot sacrificed to the purpose of showing a(nother) battle between good and evil, spiced up with doom and a bit of irony, courtesy mostly of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Surprisingly enough, Joss Whedon is able to give all the team’s members, and even the secondary characters, enough screen time, though it’s obviously recommended to watch the previous movies to completely understand the full plot, because it is the result that all those movies together were pointing to.

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Soundtrack Review: AFTER EARTH (James Newton Howard)

Music composed by James Newton Howard
Label: Sony Masterworks
Catalog: 372547
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Rating: **½

The Los Angeles-born James Newton Howard has an incredible CV, he was involved in many big projects such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Bourne Legacy.  He has also been collaborating with M. Night Shyamalan since 1999, kicking off on the director’s debut The Sixth Sense. Newton Howard has also toured with Elton John and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Either way, the soundtrack writers’ community seems to believe that lately Mr Howard has lost his grip, and he is not able to find what to write and how to write. After Earth is not necessarily a bad job, if one keeps listening the album for five times in a row will definitely find some interesting cues and will start humming them round whilst preparing supper. Nonetheless, it takes a considerable time to understand Howard’s point of view and his approach.

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Soundtrack Review: THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (Cliff Martinez)

Company_you_keep_CDMusic composed by Cliff Martinez
Label: Milan Records
Catalog: 36624
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Rating: ***

The New York-born Cliff Martinez is a household name related to director Steven Soderbergh (Contagion, Traffic, Side Effects). Their partnership kicked off in 1989 with the cult hit Sex, Lies, and Videotape starring Andie MacDowell, James Spader and Peter Gallagher. Martinez is also known for his stint with the Californian band Red Hot Chilli Peppers which led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a drummer due to his contribution in the mid-80’s.

The story of The Company You Keep follows Robert Redford as a man trying to get away from his dark past when a young and aggressive journalist (Shia LaBeouf) uncovers and reveals it. Also starring Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci and Chris Cooper.

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Soundtrack Review: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD & CHROME (Bear McCreary)

BG_Blood_Chrome_CDMusic composed by Bear McCreary
Label: La-La Land Records
Catalog: LLLCD 1246
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Rating: ****

Florida-born Bear McCreary has been involved in projects like Battlestar Galactica, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Caprica, Human Target and The Walking Dead since its inception. Human Target granted him his first Emmy nomination for the series Main Title.

McCreary has a very unusual style for a television composer; he tends to be more cinematic and expansive, even though, constraints of timetable would tell him he should craft smaller themes in order to develop a rather more fluid narrative point of view. On Blood & Chrome score, created for another BSG‘s spin-off,  there is a variety of sounds that reminisce Blade Runner and Skyfall.

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Soundtrack Review: EMPEROR (Alex Heffes)

EmperorCDMusic composed by Alex Heffes
Label: Lakeshore Records
Catalog:  Digital Download
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Rating: ****

Buckinghamshire-born Alex Heffes is used to intricate stories and backdrops, he has worked in projects like IB, State of Play, Touching the Void and One Day in September. The story of Emperor deals with the question of whether or not the Japanese Emperor should be punished for his war crimes, taking into consideration that he is highly revered by the Japanese people. General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee-Jones) assigns the expert in Japanese culture, General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), for the hard and ultimate task of determining the Emperor’s future. The film is based on the book His Majesty’s Salvation by Shiro Okamoto.

Although Heffes belongs to the new age of composers he would not be categorised as such, his style is way more classical than other contemporary composers such as Brian Tyler, Lorne Balfe and Paul Leonard-Morgan. The reason why two of the mentioned composers are Scottish is simply because Heffes has a very distinctive sound, that could be compared to great contemporary classical score composers that come from Scotland, such as Patrick Doyle and Craig Armstrong. Particularly, Heffes combines the effect of Doyle and the exposition of Armstrong but with a tad of sensibility.

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Soundtrack Review: SNITCH (Antonio Pinto)

SnitchCDMusic composed by Antonio Pinto
Label: Lakeshore Records
Catalog:  LKS 343202
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Rating: ****½

Brazilian composer Antonio Pinto is not a newcomer to the film score business, he has worked on projects like Lord of War, Perfect Stranger, Love in the Time of Cholerawhich was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Original Song category, Get the Gringo and The Host (2013).

Snitch tells the story of a father played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose completely clueless son is caught with a package of narcotics. To save his son from a 10-year jail sentence, he makes a deal to infiltrate a drug cartel. The overall atmosphere is thriller-ish due pretty much to the beats and percussions used which are pretty well mixed and engineered. If one feels like going deeper into the technical analysis should ask oneself who was the sound engineer for the project and what sort of library was used, because the result is simply superb.

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Soundtrack Review: MUSIC FROM THE HOBBIT & THE LORD OF THE RINGS (Howard Shore)

SILCD1397Music composed by Howard Shore. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nic Rayne, Evan Jolly
Label: Silva Screen
Catalog:  SILCD 1397
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Rating: ****

Long-time David Cronenberg collaborator, the Canadian Howard Shore knows how to diversify his dynamics and when it comes to this, there is no-one like him. His work can be found on Seven, The Silence of The Lambs, Gangs of New York, Edge of Darkness (US) and The Departed.

As mentioned above Shore’s main outlined characteristic is dynamics and he also tends to layer things up so you need to listen the same track a few times to grasp all elements, even when you expect something there is slightly something on the edge that can turn a small piece into a rather lush track full of colours and brightness. Needless to say that if you analyse the track graphic there will never be a flat line all along but rather lots of “mountains” that seem quite fit for The Rings purpose. Continue reading “Soundtrack Review: MUSIC FROM THE HOBBIT & THE LORD OF THE RINGS (Howard Shore)”

Soundtrack Review: ARGO (Alexandre Desplat)

ArgoCDMusic composed by Alexandre Desplat
Label: WaterTower Music
Catalog:  WTM39382
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Rating: **½

Frenchman Alexandre Desplat tends to be the most balanced of the great film composers out there and on Argo he went to the opposite direction, but the effect is not the best cut, as some would say. The complete bulk is quite chaotic and it reflects the period of time and country, which is completely acceptable since this is a film about a heist to rescue people from a hostage crisis in Iran in 1979. Nonetheless, the performance leaves a sense that something is missing.

First off, if I were to give this job to anyone, Desplat would not be on the list. Simply because his music tends to be overly dramatic rather than tense; since running out of time is the main problem, someone else should be scoring this film. A temp score that would perfectly fit here is Harry Gregson-WilliamsSpy Games and he is a great pal of Mr. Ben Affleck. Therefore, the question is posed: Why not Gregson-Williams? Answering that is completely irrelevant so let us get on with some factual analysis.

Instead of pursuing the way of a psychological thriller and action movie, Desplat tried to go through an ethnical way and the result is not a “greatest-hits”. Some would definitely say Argo’s music sounds more adventurous than life-threatening-wise and Alexandre Desplat should try playing his own Syriana score, which was a tremendous job, throughout the whole film. All and all, Argo OMPS has its clarity moments on “Scent of Death”, that starts with lots of imagery, evoking memories of the good spy films from the 70’s.

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Soundtrack Review: TRON: UPRISING (Joseph Trapanese)

TRON_uprising_CDMusic composed by Joseph Trapanese
Label: Walt Disney Records
Catalog: D001405902
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Rating: ****

Joseph Trapanese can be called the bloke who makes a tremendous job but does not appear much, that can be said because Mr Trapanese worked on Tron: Legacy from scratch to the final product and arranged the new orchestral version of Moby’s Extreme Ways for The Bourne Ultimatum, that sums up his qualifications. The reason for Joseph Trapanese to be the fella who does not appear much are rather uncertain but the fact is that he pulled out a terrific job of mixing and editing on Tron: Legacy, and was called to be a crucial part for the Tron: Uprising television series project. The difference here lies essentially on the source, music for cinema tends to be more surface-wise, on the other hand, music for television tends to be rather more synthetic and background-ish. Nonetheless, Trapanese managed to bring some balls-to-the-walls moments to light, as the Americans would say.

For the technical fans, all the patches from Tron: Legacy can be found on Tron: Uprising, which sort of leads to a continuum movement towards the stream of the story so the viewer can evolve from the previous experience but with familiar aspects, overtones and music excerpts. Trapanese goes sort of deeper on Uprising, the melodies are harsher and the harmonies tend to be more intricate, mysterious, some might call them leery-ish. Furthermore, he plays a lot hide and seek and the dynamics have improved considerably, so those who were not very into the previous work might think this one is for the film and the other is for the television series. Continue reading “Soundtrack Review: TRON: UPRISING (Joseph Trapanese)”

Soundtrack Review: HITCHCOCK (Danny Elfman)

HitchcockCDMusic composed by Danny Elfman
Label: Sony Masterworks
Catalog: 541707
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Rating: ***½

It has been a long time since Danny Elfman big projects showed any signs of greatness and not only mere balls to the wall brass. Elfman is recognised for his flamboyant style but on Hitchcock he had to work more on the sidelines or inner lines, if you will. Hithcock is a drama, and not only a drama; it is a drama about the master of thriller’s life. With that in mind, Elfman had to pull his socks up and try to suss out what palette would make sense in a drama set in the 1960’s, which is not his usual “typeset”.

The obvious choices for creating a credible atmosphere are piano and heavy use of strings to show the classical aspect; nonetheless, therein lies the rub. Oddly enough this is where things get more interesting, since this is a score by Danny Elfman. He approached the score as a mix of a myst film and drama and in the end his work turned out to be an ode to Bernard Herrmann’s brightest moments, paying homage to the whole category of classical composers in the history of cinema.

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Soundtrack Review: LIFE OF PI (Mychael Danna)

Music composed by Mychael Danna
Label: Sony Classical
Catalog: SK 547725
Release Date: November 19, 2012
Rating: ****

Canadian composer Mychael Danna treaded a very exotic path on this score. Danna is already used to allegory, gathered from works like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and his usual tendency to mix up electronic/orchestral minimalism with non-Western sounds, which makes him a pioneer in the field. For those who are not very fond of his work, it might be due to lack of exposure rather than lack of skills.

Regarding the soundtrack itself, a very distinctive phenomenon happens: from the composer perspective, it seems über exciting to flavour and spicy things up whilst playing with a different song palette but on the other hand, the outcome might not be exactly the same for the listener and things can go west or east (the pun is intended). It goes without saying that this is tremendous technical work, superbly done and it will certainly only kick in for the new age or world music fans out there.

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