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2016 Round Up – February (2/12)

March 13, 2016

monthly_roundup2016 Round Up – February (2/12)

Synchrotones presents its monthly round-up: a brief overview of soundtrack releases that didn’t get their own dedicated review. But ‘unreviewed’ does not mean unheard. So let’s focus, if only briefly, on those scores that got away this month. Such as: “La Sorpresa”, “Exposed”, “Forza Motorsport 6”, “Touched with Fire”, “The Other Side of the Door”, “Journey to Mecca” and “Misconduct”.

Cover_LaSorpresaLa Sorpresa” (Kristian Sensini, 15 tracks, 37.40, Kristian Sensini 2016). “La Sorpresa” is an Italian drama that revolves around an estranged father-and-daughter relationship. He is dying, she wants answers, but years of lies have made their relationship difficult. The original score is by Kristian Sensini; and it’s performed by a small, chamber-like orchestra. The titular cue “La Sorpresa” is a lovely piece for a small string section and piano. It reminds me of ‘neo-classical’ composers like Arnalds and Richter. It receives three variations – all differently orchestrated. “Ana Yelena” appears three times, in various guises. A female vocal sings the title, in an almost haunting sort of way. “Devotio” and “Padre” are two different cues that both rely heavily on the mournful sound of a solo cello. Elsewhere, “Come Sospesa” features guitar and organ; “Surprise Me” features retro-sounding synths; “Un Tango” is exactly that; and “Ragnatela” combines strings with organ and guitar. It’s a lovely score with a mournful character. The small string section, and they way Sensini utilises it, gives it this ‘neo-classical’ feel. It’s sparsely orchestrated, but it makes for a pleasant album. For more information, visit the composer’s website.

Cover_ExposedExposed” (Carlos Jose Alvarez, 18 tracks, 41:59, Lakeshore Records 2016). A police detective investigates the truth behind his partner’s death. The mysterious case reveals disturbing police corruption and a dangerous secret involving an unlikely young woman. “Exposed” stars Ana de Armas, Keanu Reeves and Mira Sorvino. Carlos José Alvarez is a Cuban-American composer, arranger, songwriter and producer generally known for his moody, emotional scores. His score for “Exposed” is a very pleasant affair for strings, pianos and soft vocals. This main theme reminds me somewhat of Marc Streitenfeld’s theme for “Prometheus” (yes, Marc’s not Harry’s) but is much more romantic in its execution. The score as a whole also reminds me a little of Craig Armstrong. It’s a very slick score, with the main theme recurring several time throughout. It’s got some beautifully lush string writing, though always with a hint of sadness or tension. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s very easy to love.

Cover_ForzaMotorsport6Forza Motorsport 6” (Kaveh Cohen & Michael Nielsen, 34 tracks, 77:26, Microsoft Studios Music 2016). Cohen has made a name for himself through advertising and trailer music. That background is clearly audible in his and Michael Nielsen’s score for the videogame “Forza Motorsport 6”. String ostinati, swelling brass chords and rocky drumkits are the key elements to this score. It’s all very well done, and quite exciting at times, but at 77 minutes the album does feel rather long. Maybe I’m getting old, but there’s only so much of this that I can endure in one sitting. There are some quieter moments for strings, echoing piano and bubbling synths; and it’s very pretty. Yet, I struggle to get really excited about this album. It’s ‘cool’, but it’s a little too controlled and fails to get me emotionally involved. This is also partially due to the short cue lengths; as the music doesn’t really get a chance to build any momentum. Any time I’m starting to get excited, the music stops. Promises, promises… After a while I just get bored of it. To be honest… I’m the same with most trailer albums. I love ‘m for about half an hour and then I’ve had enough – so it’s probably just me!

Cover_TouchedWithFireTouched With Fire” (Paul Dalio, 17 tracks, 28:32, Lakeshore Records 2016). “I wanted to create the score around the film’s two stylistic elements that to me represented the beauty of bipolar,” says Dalio. “The first being ‘Starry Night,’ humanity’s most beloved image of the sky as seen through a sanitarium window with Van Gogh’s manic eyes, and two, the sun and moon coming together and illuminating each other and in the sky into the image of unsustainable beauty that burns too bright and can only last so long. So I used celestial sounding classical instruments, glockenspiel for Marco, the moon and celesta for Carla, the sun, starting them apart with minor chord melancholy melodies for each and then as they come together, intertwining their instruments and melodies into major chords, adding synths as their mania increases with their love. I made the music in logic using a Midi keyboard with virtual instruments, Komplete, Vienna and East/West. Since I did most of the editing myself over the course of a year before bringing on another editor, I had time to make the music and edit simultaneously. I would bring a Quicktime file of the film into Logic and make the music to match edit and then place the music into Final Cut and re-edit the cut to match the music, which became very organic.” The results is a sparse and quite simplistic score; nothing to get hugely excited about. And if I’m brutally honest, it sounds a bit amateurish (especially where lack of both reverb and quantisation are concerned). And yet, there’s something quite mesmerising about this sparse, and often sparkly, soundscape.

Cover_OtherSideDoorThe Other Side of the Door” (Joseph Bishara, 20 tracks, 40:22, Lakeshore Records 2016). “The film had its needs grounded in a deep sense of loss, which translated into the musical motives that drive the journey not only into India, but into the supernatural worlds that open up the possibility of facing that loss, as well as creating the opportunity for a potential loss even greater,” said Bishara “The flavour of the film is location specific with it all taking place in and around India,” Bishara described. “This led to the use of figures written for the sarangi and soulful vocal wailings, as well as a string and wind ensemble. The energies behind the score were also inspired by the mythologies of a place which can facilitate communication with the dead.” Most of the score went by without me particularly noticing it. The sarangi adds a creepy sound to it, whilst low strings and piano lend it some emotional gravitas. There are a few stingers to make you jump, but really… for the most part it’s not that interesting as an album. I suspect it’ll be quite effective within the film though.

Cover_JourneyToMeccaJourney to Mecca” (Michael Brook, 22 tracks, 36.06, Lakeshore Records 2016). Brook says of his score: “[I used] many indigenous instruments, such as darbukah, ney, and oud were played by AJ Racy, a wonderful musician and scholar who lives in LA. These were combined with a string section to create a kind of exotic, but familiar result. We used traditional instruments and musicians mixed with some contemporary instruments. He [the director] wanted the atmosphere of the past and present, but we stayed away from actually having the compositions attempt to be ethnically or historically accurate in any way.” I’m still surprised to see Brook writing this kind of ‘ethnic’ music, though his score for “Jerusalem” was very pretty. I know next to nothing about Middle-Eastern and Islamic music, other than the familiar cliches. “Journey to Mecca” sounds rather authentic to my ears. It’s a steady album, all very pleasant, without any real high or low points. Some percussive performance are quite exciting, but never last very long. There are beautiful ‘ethnic’ performances, mysterious soundscapes and some exciting percussion here and there. Various plucked-, wind- and percussive instruments lead this score; though a small string section is also present. Most tracks are short, which prevents any real momentum; and especially towards the end the album starts to feel a little fragmented as the cues become ever shorter.

Cover_EyeInTheSkyEye in the Sky” (Paul Hepker and Mark Killian, 25 tracks, 64.22, Lakeshore Records 2016). There are some Middle-Eastern stylistics mixed in with this score, though there are more of the familiar Hollywood variety, and less of the authentic and  aforementioned “Journey to Mecca” kind. “Stuttering mechanical soundscapes and big rolling pads give voice to the omnipresent drones and the relentless war machine as it gathers pace,” said Kilian. “The score is at times sparse and atmospheric, but as the psychological drama heightens, aleatoric orchestral shimmers and electronic distortions weave together to turn up the heat.” The composers have produced a stylish thriller score, but it’s difficult to get really excited about it. A large part of the album relies on drones and electronic soundscapes – quite interesting, with some interesting manipulations, if you’re into that sort of thing; but most listeners will likely find it too uneventful. Strings and ethnic winds add a welcome human touch to a handful of cues, which instantly become highlights. This probably would’ve make an alright 30-minute album, but at 64 it’s just too long with too much droning.

Cover_MisconductMisconduct” (Federico Jusid, 25 tracks, 65.00, Varese Sarabande 2016). “This is a somewhat classical score, in the sense that it’s built on different leitmotifs, each associated with a character or a narrative line of the plot,” Jusid stated about creating the score. “Whilst the music has a structure mostly melodic and harmonic based – like most old school scores – played mainly by a large string section, there are abundant contemporary sound layers enriching the palette, in an attempt to hear a dialogue between the ‘old and the new’ languages.” Jusid has crafted a dark and quite tense score for “Misconduct”; one that may take a few listens to fully appreciate. At a first glace it may seem rather ‘typical’ for the genre and not particularly memorable, but further exploration reveals a satisfyingly complex composition. The music relies heavily on dark strings with accents from solo violin and occasional piano. Subtle electronica provide the score with a modern undercurrent, though the orchestral elements have a very classical feel to them. It’s not bound to leave a lasting impression, but it’s a score worth exploring.

Reviews by Pete Simons (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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