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10 Cloverfield Lane (Bear McCreary)

April 20, 2016

Cover_10CloverfldLn10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Bear McCreary, 2016, Sparks & Shadows
14 tracks, 63:33

Arguably one of Bear McCreary’s higher profile jobs. Hopefully it’ll lead to many more. McCreary has been composing for many years now and (as if he hadn’t done so already) this one really proves he’s ready to tackle the big stuff.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack. The film marks the directorial debut for Dan Trachtenberg, as far as ‘feature’ films are concerned, and stars John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It’s produced by J.J. Abrams and features an original score by Bear McCreary.

What does it sound like?

McCreary’s main theme is an attractive 5-note melody that oozes mystery; but it sounds rather a lot like a James Horner theme (used predominantly in “For Greater Glory”, “The Four Feathers”,  and elsewhere). I happen to love this theme, and I love what McCreary does with it throughout his score, but a niggling little voice in the back of my head can’t help but wonder whether it’s a coincidence, a tribute or a case of temp track love. Which ever (and I suspect the first), it works like a charm. It’s heard straight off the bat, as “Michelle” opens the album with it. It’s subsequently heard in the majority of cues that follow. Another fleeting similarity to the late Horner lies in the track lengths. They’re all of decent lengths, allowing the music to develop. Six cues run for more than six minutes (each, of course).

The main theme returns countless time throughout the score, sometimes right upfront, sometimes more subtly. McCreary makes great use of it; and he cleverly plays with the harmonies that sit behind it. Occasionally the theme is performed on an Eastern-sounding bowed string instrument (my best guess being a sarangi), which makes it sound particularly spooky and alien. McCreary also frequently uses the distorted and faded sound of bells and bowls, which add to the mysterious atmosphere. For his action material, the composer relies on deep string ostinatos (sometimes complemented by synth basses), racing strings, percussive hits and brass clusters. The pitch-bend on the timpani is a cool little trick that sounds a bit like the blaster-beam from the first “Star Trek” movie.

Overall the music is well written, beautifully orchestrated and mixed. It’s a super neat ‘little’ package. Everything feels just right about it. Now, that doesn’t make it an instant classic, but that does make it a very enjoyable listening experience. If anything, I might argue that it’s lacking a little bit of personality. It’s a bit like a John Debney score: incredibly well done, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by whom. One could also argue that some cues during the mid-section meander a little; and that elsewhere the score is almost a little too slick, too calculated, which prevents it from really taking off… but these would be minor criticisms. Towards the end, the composer lets rip and the music is allowed to soar. I think McCreary is applying a Giacchino style of scoring, whereby the composer tries to maximise a minimum amount of instruments. It leaves you wanting more (and bigger) in spite of everything that’s already going on. I can’t quite decide how I feel about that. By being so restraint (in tempo and dynamics) the music is really teasing you, which is really quite exciting in itself and you wouldn’t want that to stop, yet at the same time you can’t wait for the music to explode and sweep you off your feet. I have quite an interesting analogy in mind, but… I can’t bring myself to actually write it down and publish it!

Is it any good?

Bear McCreary’s “10 Cloverfield Lane” is an expertly executed thriller score, with a dense and warm orchestral sound, beautiful orchestrations and an attractive main theme (familiar though it sounds). There isn’t really anything not to like. A vague, and perhaps moot, point could be made about the score feeling too tightly controlled, preventing it from truly soaring. Evidently, it’s a thought that’s crossing my mind, though even I struggle to defend it. It’s a tricky score to review actually, and I apologise for the amateurish ramblings that have preceded this finale paragraph. The fact of the matter is that “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a damn solid, expertly produced score. The composer’s craftsmanship is obvious in every cue. It’s a score I’ve returned to quite a few times over the last couple of months and it’s probably my favourite McCreary score to date; and one of the best thriller scores of the year so far.

Rating [4/5]


01. Michelle (6.08)
02. The Concrete Cell (8.29)
03. Howard (5.00)
04. A Bright Red Flash (2.53)
05. At the Door (2.59)
06. Two Stories (2.46)
07. Message from Megan (3.07)
08. Hazmat Suit (3.01)
09. A Happy Family (3.52)
10. The Burn (6.14)
11. Up Above (3.04)
12. Valencia (6.12)
13. The New Michelle (3.25)
14. 10 Cloverfield Lane (6.23)

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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