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Noah (Clint Mansell)

May 19, 2014

Synchrotones’ Microtones Review… all of the opinion, less of the words.


Clint Mansell, 2014, Nonesuch
23 tracks, 78:31

What is it? A biblical epic by Darren Aronofsky, ’nuff said! Russell Crowe stars as Noah, who is instructed by voices in his head to build a boat and save a bunch of animals before the world is flooded.

What does it sound like? It’s a harsh piece of work. Stylistically it owes a bit to the “The Fountain”, but it’s much harsher and less ‘polished’ than that. Equally, it reminds me somewhat of “Stoker”, as well as “Lux Aeterna” from “Requiem for a Dream”. Certainly not your classical biblical epic (neither is the film). Mansell employs his typically dark, experimental soundscapes; and also utilises Kronos Quartet once again. The style and main theme bear some resemblance to David Bowie’s “Warszawa”. Coincidental, claims Mansell. His main theme (which is first presented in the opening cue) is 9-note motif that rises and falls. Often performed on a synthesized flute or horn-like sound; and it often stands out clearly from the brooding background. The album is quite interestingly mixed. On a few occasions, I can almost imagine the theme segueing into the b-phrase of Horner’s “Braveheart” theme. The score houses actually several recurring themes and motifs, with some clever variations (listen to the percussion in “The Flood Waters…”). Overall, the sound is dominated by dense strings, rasping cello, electric guitars, stark synths, some ethnic instruments and percussion. It is heavy on the bass. Some have labelled the film as sci-fi; and the same could be said about the music. It’s futuristic more than it is historical. It’s not an easy listen. It’s music for a mad-man! Noah’s agony is clearly reflected in this intriguing score. Yet there is also beauty, through string solos and the occasional inclusion of choir (“In Sorrow…”). In Mansell’s unique way the music grows to epic proportions; through ostinati and other repeating motifs; and by cranking up the volume (“Make Thee an Ark”). The score concludes with the wonderful and grand “Day and Night Shall Not Cease”. The album closes with the song “Mercy Is”, performed by Patti Smith. Like the score, the style of the song and the peculiar voice of Smith may be too grating for most casual listeners; yet the melody contained within the song is magnificent.

Is it any good? A brave and challenging score that won’t be to everyone’s taste and that doesn’t come with easy highlights, though has many. Every time I listen to it, I discover new things. There really is quite a lot going on here! There is more ‘width’ and ‘depth’ than a first listen might suggest. The broad orchestral sound combined with Kronos’ chamber-like style and prominent synths create an immersive and rewarding experience – if you’re open to it.

Rating [4/5]

Review by Pete Simons, (c) Synchrotones

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