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Gamba (Benjamin Wallfisch)

November 7, 2015


Benjamin Wallfisch, 2015, Varese Sarabande
22 tracks, 62:16

Don’t look at the cover. Don’t look at the cover! Just listen to the music, which is so much fun! Benjamin Wallfisch pulls out all the stops on this on.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Gamba, a town mouse with a brave, adventurous spirit decides to go on an adventure to discover the ocean. On his way, he meets a troubled child mouse, Chuta. He says his family and other mice have been killed by a clan of weasels living on a nearby island. Chuta asks a group of ship mice, the bravest of their kind, for help, but when they find out that the villain behind this event is the terrifying weasel-leader Noroi, they give up on helping Chuta. However seeing the hopeless Chuta, Gamba promises him to save the island, his family and the other mice. Gamba and his friends team up to go on their adventure to defeat the evil Noroi and his clan.

What does it sound like?

Though “Gamba”is well-known in Japan, the story is hardly known in the West,” said Wallfisch. “The director and producers were keen the movie has a universal appeal. This helped me make the decision not to use any Japanese instruments in the score (except for one ritualistic scene with onscreen music) – the score focuses on the universal messages of the film, through the medium of a large orchestra.

The album opens with “Gamba’s World”, a colourful and lively piece for large orchestra, indeed. The way the strings, woodwinds, brass and percussive accent dance around each other resembles John Williams’ style. And this notion of ‘it’s a bit Williamsy’ recurs throughout the album.

Around the 1:10 mark Wallfisch introduces one of the main themes, and it’s rather close to the classic “Battlestar Galactica” theme, though that probably shows my age, whilst the target audience won’t ever have a clue. The composer offers another beautiful melody, best heard around the 3:00 mark, which is lush and really soars.

Even though this is a children’s movie, there are some moments of real tragedy in the story, followed by plot shifts which are quite deeply rooted in Japanese traditions,” Wallfisch described. “The idea that you must avenge the death of a loved one, a friend or simply someone who loses their life fighting for a cause you share.

“Stronger Together” is a particular highlight, a big soaring piece for strings, brass and choir. This is reprised, equally gloriously, in “Noroi Returns”. Elsewhere, cues like “Sunrise” and “Shioji” are beautiful, lush and dreamy cues. This really is a very nicely balanced album.

There are so many layers to Gamba’s story, but the one thing that is consistent throughout is the sense of a child’s wonder at the world, and that anything is possible,” Wallfisch explained. “His personality is larger than life, and it was important to the director that the score helped reflect that; but at the same time there is a fragility to his character – he is only really as strong as the friends he has around him. Once you go beneath the surface of the story you find strong messages of hope in the face of adversity, all in the context of a faced-paced, visually stunning and often action-led movie.

Wallfisch flexes his action-muscles in the powerful and energetic (and again Williamsy) “Island Battle” and the lengthy “Gamba Fights Noroi”. Towards the end, “Death of Bobo” is a heartfelt cue for strings, before “Norois Returns” and “Victory” conclude the album in a celebratory fashion.

Is it any good?

Benjamin Wallfisch’s “Gamba” is a rich, colourful and adventurous score. It may be a kids’ movie, the composer doesn’t hold back, whether it’s with his action-music or the emotional cues. Stylistically it often resembles John Williams’ adventure scores, whether intentional or not. And one of the themes sounds rather a lot like the original “Battlestar Galactive”, which some may find off-putting, though I personally don’t mind, because… “Gamba” is so much fun!

Rating [4/5]


01. Gamba’s World (3:33)
02. Party Mice (1:48)
03. Boss Fight (2:01)
04. The Clan of Noroi (2:24)
05. Stronger Together (3:50)
06. The Map (1:34)
07. Sunrise (1:47)
08. Exploring The Island (1:17)
09. You Can’t Defeat Noroi (1:32)
10. Shioji (2:17)
11. First Fight (1:22)
12. The Plan (3:46)
13. The Weasels Have Come (1:53)
14. Goodbye (1:15)
15. Island Battle (4:14)
16. Hope (2:35)
17. That’s It (2:05)
18. The Water Changes (3:02)
19. Death Of Bobo (2:18)
20. Gamba Fights Noroi (6:30)
21. Noroi Returns (6:48)
22. Victory (4:25)

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