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2015 round Up – January (1/12)

February 9, 2015

UnreviewedThe Unreviewed: 2015 Round Up – January (1/12)

In spite of best intentions, it is genuinely unfortunate that some scores are left unreviewed. But unreviewed does not mean unheard. So let’s focus, if only briefly, on those scores that got away this month. Including: Marco Beltrami’s “The Woman in Black 2”, John Frizzel’s “The Loft”, Tomandandy’s “Girlhouse”, Bear McCreary’s “Everly” and Reza Safinia’s “Enter the Dangerous Mind”.


Cover_WomaninBlack2The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” (Marco Beltrami/Marcus Trumpp/Brandon Roberts , 19 tracks, 38:32, Varese Sarabande 2014). It felt like it had been playing for-e-ver, when it was only half-way through. Considering this is only a 38 minute album, that’s not a good sign! Credited firstly to Marco Beltrami, there is little here I would identify as Beltrami. I suspect (and rather: hope) his input was limited. There’s a pretty, but otherwise nondescript main theme that recurs throughout the album. And, buried under thick layers of strings, you may hear some potentially interesting instruments (e.g. a detuned piano) as the only vague sign of the maestro’s presence. For the most part this album consists of typical horror music. Lots of dissonant chords, screeches and stingers – all done without any sense of enthusiasm or creativity. Beltrami is usually able to lift even a mediocre score out of mediocrity with some interesting writing, some hidden details or quirky orchestrations, but there’s virtually none of that here. The scariest thing about it is how bland and boring it is.

Cover_Everly (2)Enter the Dangerous Mind” (Reza Safinia, 24 tracks, 69:11, Lakeshore Records 2015). Right… here we go again. Hans Zimmer, I blame you for this! Dub-step. Headache-inducing, nauseating, ear-splitting sodding dub-step. Opening cue “Enter the Dangerous Mind”… I mean, what is that? I’d rather listen to my washing machine! Maybe it’s just the opening cue? No. Sometimes it’s a little faster, sometimes a little slower. Heck, during one cue it’s like a raggae-dub-step mash-up. Sometimes all the beats and all the granulated, high-pitched ‘pprrrwwwtttzzz” sounds actually stop, and we’re left with long outdrawn ambient sounds. Towards the end, a piano enters the fray. Don’t expect too much from it. According to the press release, a lot of work went into creating this alienating, and downright upsetting, soundscape. Lots of sampling and editing of natural sounds. To some degree, I appreciate the technicalities (because I love playing with my synths too), but when I find the best bits on an album are the 2-3 seconds of silence in between tracks, I know it’s just not for me. But hey… if you like this kinda schizzle, then knock yourself out – there’s over an hour of it.

Cover_Everly (1)Everly” (Bear McCreary, 13 tracks, 54:32, Sparks & Shadows 2015). An odd album that combines weird Christmas songs with a percussion-heavy score by Bear McCreary. Selma Hayek stars in this thriller in which she fights against assassins sent by her ex-husband. Talk about a bad break up! Seeing as the hitmen are Japanese Yakuza, the soundtrack is infused with Japanese sounds. Taiko percussion and bamboo flutes feature heavily against a backdrop of synths (often granular pads). Production values are high and parts of the score are pretty ‘cool’, but it fails to make a lasting impression. The constant barrage of sampled taikos gets tiresome pretty quickly. The quieter moments are pretty, but not enough so to grab (or hold) your attention. The inclusion of Christmas songs is simply bizarre, even if it was still Christmas. I could imagine someone enjoying the nervy rhythms and sampling of Eastern instruments, mashing it all up with dubstep-like beats and grinding noises… but I can’t see those same people enjoying McCreary’s ethereal rendition of “Silent Night” or the quirky tones of “Fa La La La!”.

Cover_TheLoft (2)Girlhouse” (Tomandandy, 17 tracks, 39:43, Lakeshore Records 2015). Horror film about a broke female college student who, being short on cash, moves into a house that streams content to an x-rated website. A deluded fan breaks in and wreaks havoc. The score is by Tomandandy who wanted to avoid clichés, according to the press release notes. Everyone is so desperate to avoid clichés that that in itself has become a cliché. I wish someone would just wrote a good old-fashioned horror score. So… Tomandandy offer a unique and never-before-heard blend of synth pads, bubbly arpeggios and… no, that’s pretty much it. There’s nothing in the way of emotion here. It could be any score for any modern thriller. Sure, the guys know their synths and production values are, of course, good, but that doesn’t make it enjoyable. Luckily the album only contains 11 minutes of score. Unfortunately, it contains 28 minutes of songs. The bluesy “Let It Be Known” and “Love Me So Bad” are alright… but the others are electro/hip hop/R&B rubbish. Maybe I’m just too old to be down with the kids.

Cover_TheLoft (1)The Loft” (John Frizzel, 22 tracks, 46:47, Varese Sarabande 2015). Nice to see John Frizzel’s name again; shame it’s on horror flick “The Loft” though. The “Main Titles” offer staccato strings, timpani rolls, and some understated electronic percussion. There is no theme really, just the strings going through various chords. As such… I dunno, it’s neither promising nor disheartening (though maybe more the latter). However, what follows is an ambient score with long, slow chords for strings, augmented with synth pads and occasional accents from a bass. Frizzel himself describes the sound palette as: “live strings and low brass mixed with a panoply of oddball things. A solo violin plays one of the main tension riffs. Many of the pulsing tonal sounds come from an upright piano that I sawed the keyboard out of to expose the strings and then played with mallets and my hands. There is a good amount of guitarviol in the score which is an instrument that is more or less a cross between a guitar and a cello.” The second half sees the ostinato from the “Main Titles” reappearing in several cues. It adds a tiny little bit of urgency to, what I’m afraid is, an otherwise dull affair.

Cover_Words-and-picturesWord and Pictures” (Paul Grabowsky, 26 tracks, 26:59, Lakeshore Records 2015). Fred Schepisi film about an English teacher and an Art teacher whose rivalry results in a competition where student have to decide what’s more important: words or pictures. I’ve not seen the film, but I suspect those two teacher will end up together as well. The score by Paul Grabowsky is oh so typical for this genre.  It’s a ‘quirky’ little score with lots of plucked sounds. Harp, piano, glockenspiel, plucked violins, some percussion (mostly hi-hats), but also woodwinds and some legato strings. It’s all very light, and dances around you like a feather dancing in the wind. The main theme is playful and has a sort-of European flavour to it. The more upbeat cues contain the slightest trace of jazz. It’s pleasant enough, but it’s just so conventional for this genre. And with 26 tracks in 26 minutes it never has a chance to build any sort of moment. Nice, but no more than just that.

Reviews by Pete Simons

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