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Yellowstone (Edmund Butt)

February 14, 2016


Edmund Butt, 2016, Silva Screen Records
21 tracks, 58:48

Better late than never. Especially in this case. Silva Screen have released Edmund Butt’s score to the 2009 documentary “Yellowstone”. Worth the way? You bet!

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Originally transmitted on BBC2 in 2009 in a Sunday night prime time slot the series attracted the highest rating for a natural history series for the channel in over five years. Edmund Butt’s music won Best Original Score at The RTS Craft And Design Awards with the accolade, “This powerful score matched the visuals effortlessly whilst not being over played. The end result was both bold and epic”. He has had an extensive career as a writer, performer and producer. Film credits include “The Dark” and “24 Hours In London” alongside TV work that includes “Mistresses”, “Ashes To Ashes” and “The Suspicions Of Mr. Whicher”. Previous releases include his fine work on the “Doctor Who” origins drama “An Adventure In Time And Space” and the popular BBC zombie fest “In The Flesh”.

What does it sound like?

“Yellowstone” is a lush score for large orchestra. The album opens with a subtle ostinato, soaring strings and horns. It’s grand, without going over the top; and it helps paint a picture of this vast and rich nature reserve. “Footprints in the Snow” continues this lush style; and is even lusher still. Solo cello and pizzicato strings accompany “Otters Playing”, whilst soft strings, woodwinds and piano take the lead in “The Firehole River”.

“Hummingbirds in Flight” is a delight, as Horner-esque piano flutterings are accompanied by lights strings and woodwinds. Elsewhere, “Diamond Dust” features high-pitched piano, glockenspiel, harp and light strings to create a beautiful, glittering soundscape. “The Elks” seems to reprise some ideas from “Hummingbirds…” though is performed in the lower-to-mid registers (cello, piano and woodwinds) and as such has a slightly ‘heavier’ feel to it.

On an album full of highlights, “New Spring” manages to stand out. It’s a wonderfully soaring cue for strings, brass, even a bit of choir. It’s one of those cues that often make us reviewers lament over the fact that “they don’t write ‘m like this any more”, as it reminds of 90s Horner, Broughton, Williams… you name it.

“Nursery Season” is a playful cue for strings and woodwinds, reminding me off Maurizio Malagnini’s work on “The Paradise” (though that came later). This is immediately followed by the heavy brass and rolling timpani of “Frozen Bison”. “Super Volcano” reprises the main theme from the opening track; with the thick strings and rolling timpani giving it a dramatic spin. “Thermal River” in turn reprises the lush theme from “Footprints…”, with dark brass and tremolo strings adding heaps of drama. “Bears Swimming” is a variation on “Hummingbirds…”, reprising its piano motif and silky string lines.

“Colours of Autumn” is one my personal favourite cues here, reminding me at once of Elfman and Horner. Cello and clarinet seem a perfect musical match for autumn colours, with piano adding a bit of sparkle. The show’s main theme makes a grand appearance in “Old Faithful”, before the album closes with “Flying over Yellowstone”. With a title like that, you just know what’s coming, right? It’s a majestic finale to a splendid score that is rich, lush, big, ambitious… all those words, but is never over the top, never too-in-your-face. It’s perfectly balanced.

Is it any good?

Edmund Butt’s “Yellowstone” is an absolute delight. It’s grand, lush, melodic… beautifully written, orchestrated and performed. Yet, for all its grandeur, it is also beautifully restraint. It’s perfectly balanced and an absolute joy to listen to, over and over again. Nature documentaries have somewhat of a reputation for inspiring wonderful soundtracks – “Yellowstone” is amongst the very most beautiful I’ve heard.

Rating [5/5]


01. Winter in Yellowstone (2.18)
02. Footprints in the Snow (1.26)
03. Otters Playing (2.05)
04. The Firehole River (4.13)
05. Humming Birds in Flight (2.12)
06. Pronghorn Migration (1.55)
07. Diamond Dust (1.40)
08. Yellowstone (1.52)
09. The Elks (2.07)
10. New Spring (4.20)
11. Nursery Season (1.52)
12. Frozen Bison (4.11)
13. Dawn (3.23)
14. Super Volcano (2.44)
15. Thermal River (3.17)
16. Bears Swimming (2.12)
17. Red Fox Leaps (3.57)
18. Colours of Autumn (3.09)
19. Old Faithful (3.22)
20. Elk Fight (2.52)
21. Flying Over Yellowstone (3.41)

For more information visit Silva Screen’s website.

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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