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Trishna (Shigeru Umebayashi)

June 6, 2015


Shigeru Umebayashi, 2015, Caldera
15 tracks, 38:04

Specialist label Caldera releases its ninth album: a sombre, string-driven score by Shigeru Umebayashi.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Michael Winterbottom, the movie (from 2011) is loosely based on the novel “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy which was already filmed in the late 70s by Roman Polanski. Winterbottom lets the story take place in India where a working class girl falls in love with a businessman. Although they have mutual feelings, it seems impossible to pursue their happiness due to their different traditions and upbringings.

What does it sound like?

Umebayashi’s score is orchestrated almost exclusively for strings, with a particular focus on cello. It’s a sombre work with somewhat of a ‘chamber’ quality to it. The writing seems akin to how one would handle a string quartet; except here the composer employs multiple violins, violas and cellos.

The album opens with “Trishna’s Waltz”, which reappears several times throughout the score. Pizzicato strings provide the rhythm, whilst legato strings perform the lush theme. It’s quite pretty, but (on the whole) not really memorable. The opening statement (0:00 to 0:26, which is then immediately repeated) is the most recognisable element; but it is followed by a series of chords that feel rather random (even though, of course, they’re not). The cue feels at once free-flowing due to the legato performance, yet also fragmented due to the particular use of rests and its abrupt ending. Perhaps this hesitation in the music reflects the difficult romance?

“Theme” (and plenty of cues thereafter) also stand out of for its use of rests. Umebayashi introduces a 5-chord motif followed by a rest. This motif is repeated and expanded on throughout the duration of the cue, in an almost modular kind of way. Bridge-notes are added, harmonies are enriched, etcetera. It’s really quite fascinating and more than a little hypnotic.

The composer introduces a new theme in “Trishna and Jay” and also continues to use the ones established earlier. It’s slow-moving music with lots of long drawn-out notes. This slowness, combined with the limited orchestrations, makes the music rather uneventful. The abrupt endings to various cues don’t really help the flow of the music either.

“Her Family Life” reprises “Theme” with its modular approach. The flute is a really nice (and very welcome) addition. It’s the only element in the score that even vaguely hints at an Asian setting. The flute is only reprised in “Trishna’s Cello 3”; though piano makes a fleeting appearance in “Talk About Love” and “Trishna Killed Jay”. I’m not sure how, but the score’s soundscape seems to open a little in “Our Rajasthan”, presumably through very faint synth pads that provide an airy element to this cue. The album closes with “Trishna’s Soul” which reprises “Theme” and again uses soft synths to add an extra dimension to the sound – if only ever so subtly.

Is it any good?

Shigeru Umebayashi’s “Trishna” is quite a mesmerising work – hypnotic almost, through its repeating motifs and minimal orchestrations. The score displays fragments of lyricism, but the composer applies a great restraint. In fact, for the most part “Trishna” is a subdued though elegant experience – befitting the tragic love story. This ninth CD-release of Caldera Records features a detailed booklet-text by Gergely Hubai with artwork by Luis Miguel Rojas. The CD was produced by Stephan Eicke and John Elborg.

Rating [3/5]


01. Trishna’s Waltz (2:32)
02. Theme (3:09)
03. Trishna and Jay (3:23)
04. Trishna’s Cello (1:40)
05. Start on a Journey (1:32)
06. Her Family’s Life (1:50)
07. Trishna’s Waltz II (1:46)
08. Trishna and Jay II (3:46)
09. Talk About Love (1:49)
10. Trishna’s Cello II (1:42)
11. Trishna’s Waltz III (2:49)
12. Trishna Killed Jay (3:17)
13. Trishna’s Cello III (2:06)
14. Our Rajasthan (2:44)
15. Trishna’s Soul (4:03)


For more information visit the Caldera website.

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