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The Sand / Sonata (Vincent Gillioz)

November 20, 2016

cover_thesandTHE SAND / SONATA

Vincent Gillioz, 2016, Howlin’ Wolf Records
27 tracks, 71:50

Beware the beach! Beware the sand! For it has a taste for flesh. Your flesh! Don’t even think about dipping your toes in there, or all those piggies will go to the slaughter!

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Isaac Gabaeff, The Sand tells the story of a group of twenty-somethings who are celebrating their graduation on a beach somewhere. It’s best you don’t know where, because I wouldn’t want you to visit this beach. You see, the next morning, some of the party-goers have gone missing, and the remaining are being killed. Eaten, in fact. By whom? Only by the bloody beach itself! Lurking under the sand is some kind of tentacled thing devouring these people as soon as they set foot on the sand. How will they ever make it off the beach? It’s got a couple of pretty girls and boys in it, but it’s otherwise a terrible, terrible movie.

What does it sound like?

So, I happened to watch this movie a good few weeks ago on the Horror channel. And what stood out – the only thing that stood out – was the music. Imagine my surprise when composer Gillioz contacted me to tell me off the release of his score.

“Message in the Sand” opens with various aleatoric effects, but introduces a pounding timpani about halfway through. Gillioz then layers stingers and rhythmic orchestral motifs on top of that steady rhythm. Gillioz keeps adding elements, and the whole thing becomes quite mesmerising. It reminds me a little of how Alan Silvestri builds his action cues, often using a simple, steady rhythm and allowing it to gain momentum. “This F**king Sand is Eating This F**king Bird!” works on the same principle. It’s quite a slow moving cue, but repeating motifs (initially for woodwinds) and a steady clicking rhythm are very effective in creating a sense of dread. There is something ‘inevitable’ about the music. It’s relentless, but not rushed, which makes it all the more sinister. “From Within” is a fast-paced cue with frenzied string writing, percussion and brass stabs. It reminds me of Christopher Young actually; though it’s here that the samples (no matter how good they are) fall a bit short. It’s just missing that bit of gravitas that a live performance might have provided.

There is some relief in “Relieved”, a short cue for mallets and winds. It may be orchestrated using ‘innocent’ sounding instruments, but the notes reveal that this story isn’t finished yet. Via the suspenseful “Crimson Died” (I love that pun) we arrive at the rather lengthy and exciting “Pier Pressure”. Again, it’s a cue that very carefully builds tension and grows into a menacing action cue; but also again it’s a cue that would’ve been more convincing had it been performed live. And I don’t really mean that as a criticism, more like an observation. It’s not like Gillioz missed a trick; he did the best he could on, I assume, a very small budget. The terror continues in cues like “Swallowed”, “Carnage” and the lively “Sand-I-Am”. The latter is quite a propulsive cue with light percussion, and rhythmic motifs for stings, winds and brass. The score concludes with two brass-heavy cues; and it’s interesting that Gillioz never drops the tension, even-though the sandy beach monster appears to be defeated… oh, sorry, spoiler alert!

Moving on to Sonata… it opens with a bittersweet melody for woodwinds accompanied by harp and glockenspiel. It’s a rather hypnotic piece due to it’s see-sawing motion. It’s in a 4/4 metre, but emphasises triplets within it, giving it this ‘back-and-forth’ feeling. “The Diary” is scored for glockenspiel and bassoon only – a bold move. “Clown Waltz” features organ, accordion, pizzicato strings and various comedic percussive effects. Yet, there’s still something melancholy about this cue. Things turn much dramatic during “Painting Outside the Canvas”, where creepy strings and moody woodwinds take the lead.

Title cue “Sonata” is a dirge-like cue for slow strings and dramatic accents in the lower registers. “Innocence” is a pretty cue for strings and woodwinds accompanied by plucked strings and glockenspiel. Brass adds some suspense to the cue. “Pleading Child” is a creepy track for low brooding strings, high screeching strings and various stringers. It also features a heavily reverberated vocal to up the creep factor. The suspense carries on in “An Important Event”, with glockenspiel (and other instruments) adding a false sense of innocence. The music remains tense, until the closing track “Purification”, which feels like a terrible sombre end.

Is it any good?

Vincent Gillioz’s The Sand is a reasonably straightforward horror score. Lots of scary noises, aleatoric effects, stingers, swooshes, screeching strings…, everything including the kitchen sink, as they say over here. It’s all sampled, but Gillioz uses high quality samples to create a pseudo-orchestral score. And it’s got plenty of nice touches. Sonata is a much more dramatic score, showing the composer’s range; though I think that for casual listeners, the sampled performance will stand in the way of truly enjoying this work. Along with his work for the zombie thriller Collapse I think Gillioz is an interesting composer and I’m curious to see what else will come his way. To date, I think he may be a little held back by low-budget productions. Both The Sand and Sonata would benefit greatly from a decent live performance. That said, the album serves as a great introduction to the composer; and it also features extensive and insightful liner notes from Benjamin Chee.

Rating [3/5]


cover_thesandThe Sand (35:53)
01 Sandy Clues 0:55
02 Message in the Sand 3:19
03 This F**king Sand is Eating This F**king Bird! 4:19
04 From Within 2:28
05 A Beach Too Far 4:59
06 Relieved 1:26
07 Crimson Died 0:54
08 Pier Pressure 6:10
09 Swallowed 1:47
10 Sand-I-Am 4:16
11 Carnage 0:57
12 The Early Bird Gets Eaten by the Worm 3:08
13 Sun of a Beach 1:15

cover_sonataSonata (36:08)
14 A Curious Tale 3:53
15 The Diary 0:55
16 Clown Waltz 2:33
17 Painting Outside the Canvas 1:57
18 Happy Enough 0:36
19 Sonata 3:45
20 Innocence 2:08
21 Pleading Child 4:13
22 No Playing Games 3:59
23 An Important Event 2:59
24 In Charge 2:52
25 Almost Too Serious 1:57
26 Frightening 1:32
27 Purification 2:49

For more information and samples, visit the Howlin’ Wolf Records website.

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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