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2015 Round Up – July (7/12)

August 26, 2015

UnreviewedThe Unreviewed: 2015 Round Up – July (7/12)

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:


Cover_WaywardPinesWayward Pines” (Charlie Clouser, 14 tracks, 71.53, Lakeshore Records 2015). “The main direction I received was that the score should help with the feeling that ‘something is not right’ in the town of Wayward Pines,” said former Nine Inch Nail-member Charlie Clouser. “For a while, we don’t know if Matt Dillon’s character is hallucinating, or maybe still in a coma and just dreaming, so the score needed to lean toward a ‘malfunctioning’ feel – that meant using sounds that are a little ‘out of whack’. As the series progresses, the score starts to get more and more intense – so we needed to keep raising the stakes while still being able to reference the themes and palette that we established right at the start.” It’s a dark and atmospheric score, often relying on metallic soundscapes. It’s also a rhythmic score, in that there’s almost constantly an arpeggio or some percussion ticking away. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about it, but it’s well-produced and suitably ‘hallucinogenic’. Each cue could be very much appreciated for its complex sound design. However, melodically (or even motifically?) there is little to hang on to, making the 71-minutes album a tough one to sit through, though “Farewell” makes for a heartfelt coda.

Cover_MaxMax” (Trevor Rabin, 17 tracks, 37:48, Sony Classical 2015). A dog that helped US Marines in Afghanistan returns to the U.S. suffering from stress and avoids being put down when he is adopted by his handler’s family. Well, I haven’t seen this film yet, but already many serious dog-lovers have expressed fears that kids will want one of these dogs, whilst most families will not be able to cope with this breed. I can also only hope that the film does justice to the real contributions (both physically and emotionally) these dogs make to the troops. It’s not something to make light of! Speaking of light… there’s little gravitas to Trevor Rabin’s score. There’s a recognisable main theme that harkens back to the 90s when Rabin (along with Mancina and the whole Zimmer clan) was churning these out on a regular basis. However, it lacks the charm of that period. It, and the rest of the score, feel very tried-and-tested. I’m sure ‘it works’ in the film (provided the film’s tone isn’t too serious) and even on album it’s unlikely to offend anyone. It’s just so… six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Cover_TheVaticanTapesThe Vatican Tapes” (Joseph Bishara, 19 tracks, 43:55, Lakeshore Records 2015). “The Vatican Tapes” follows the ultimate battle between good and evil. Angela Holmes is an ordinary 27-year-old until she begins to have a devastating effect on anyone close, causing serious injury and death. Holmes is examined and possession is suspected. Composer Joseph Bishara describes the process: “My entry into the sound was to key into the particular shade of force behind the possession on display, leading into energies of the rite of exorcism. The motives of the score came through percussion writing, as well as a series of figures for a low string and wind arrangement.” The score relies heavily on eerie sound design, often made up from low, rumbling and rattling metallic noises. Strings play a pivotal role throughout the score, and choir makes brief appearances, though in both cases it’s primarily to add unnerving textures to the soundtrack. It’s positively scary music that will surely work miracles (pardon the semi-pun), but on album it’s incredibly (though deliberately) unpleasant.

Cover_EndOfTheTourThe End of the Tour” (Danny Elfman, 18 tracks, 42:42, Lakeshore Records 2015). Soft synths, chimes and piano dominate Elfman’s score. It’s a low-key, but pretty little thing. “I was interested in doing something that would be like 25 minutes of score that’s ultra minimalist, that’s real undertones to the movie,” director James Ponsoldt describes.”I think he was really excited about the challenge of this.” At first listen there may not be much to Elfman’s score, but his mesmerising synths and minimal melodies have a strange appeal. I love the play between piano, glockenspiel and tubular bells in “Going Sour”. There are a couple of upbeat cues, where Elfman utilises strumming guitars. “Intro” offers a sparse main theme that recurs a few times throughout the album, which is filled out with songs from REM, Brian Eno, Tindersticks and others.

Cover_WildHorsesWild Horses” (Timothy Williams, 14 tracks, 39:36, Lakeshore Records 2015). Not surprisingly, guitars feature heavily on this soundtrack. Timothy Williams’ score is limited to six score cues (and eleven minutes), the rest of the album is made up from Country songs by the likes of Kelly & James Adams, Roy Gaines, Caitlin Eadie, Billy Joe Shaver, Michael Hodges and Justin Young. Even Robert Duvall contributes a song (though I don’t think he should give up the day job). The score by Timothy Williams is very subdued. Clearly, it only has a minor role to play in the film. Guitar and some moody synth patches are all that Williams employs. It’s well done, but it’s little more than filler music. A bit of a shame really, because I think Timothy Williams is a real talent to look out for. Who ever buys this album though, buys it for the songs.

Cover_GrandmaGrandma” (Joel P West, 15 tracks, 32:36, Lakeshore Records 2015). “In a lot of ways, Grandma is a road trip movie even though it just takes place in Elle’s neighborhood,” explains composer Joel P West. “Paul [Weitz, writer/director] wanted to capture that energy in the moments that Elle and Sage are connecting in the car, so we incorporated a lot of folk music elements to capture that fun, rollicking feeling of driving around with a friend.” Guitar and piano play a pivotal role, alongside harp and cello. It’s an atmospheric album, almost hypnotic at times, but in a harmonically pleasing way. The cello adds gravitas, whilst synths provide a retro sound. I know the title and the album cover aren’t at all appealing, but it’s actually quite a nice little score. If anything it’s a little anonymous.

Cover_TheWomanAstronautThe Woman Astronaut” (Penka Kouneva, 14 tracks, 48:07, Varese Sarabande 2015). “With this album, I wanted to show how passionate I am about growing my craft, my vision as an artist, and that I can definitely do the job,” explains Penka Kouneva. “I’ve aimed to create a piece with a universal resonance – tackling the themes of perseverance, love, hope, destiny.” “The Woman Astronaut” is an original concept album composed in cinematic orchestral-electronic style. The album was recorded with the Hollywood Studio Orchestra, top LA soloists and choir. A Kickstarter campaign raised $35,000 and provided the funds for the orchestral recording. “The Woman Astronaut is a personal, autobiographical journey of an ambitious, self-determined woman who has chosen a very unusual profession,” Kouneva says. The composer has put together a wonderful, cinematic album. Though Kouneva makes great use of woodwinds, synths and (towards the end) choir, it’s quite an oppressing sounding album which drags a little in the middle, but offers quite an exciting third act.

Reviews by Pete Simons

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