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2017 Round Up – Part 5

February 15, 2018

2018 Round Up – Part 1

Synchrotones presents its first round-ups for this year: a brief overview of soundtrack releases that didn’t get their own dedicated review. Just a short one today, featuring three excellent releases from last year. In this edition: Blue Planet II (Zimmer, Shea and Fleming); The Essential Thomas Newman; All the Money in the World (Daniel Pemberton);

Reviews by Pete Simons

After the phenomenal success of Planet Earth II, David Attenborough now treats us to Blue Planet II. Where PE deals with all things on land, BP dives beneath the surface of the oceans, revealing the most astonishing sights. I adore(d) the score for Planet Earth II so was looking forward to BP II. At first, I was a bit disappointed. Its main theme isn’t as striking, and the orchestrations felt darker and less interesting. However, after several listens, the music started to grow on me. Whilst the score doesn’t literally quote PE II, it does certainly share some of its sounds and style. Jacob Shea worked on PE II and is present here; but Jasha Klebe makes way for David Fleming. I have to say, it’s quite an oppressing soundtrack. Maybe that’s what my initial ‘it’s darker’ response meant. It feels heavy and dense, even during its lighter moments. I suppose it’s appropriate considering the subject at hand. Still, there are plenty of beautiful themes and awe-inspiring moments to be found throughout. And for the techies and aspiring composers amongst us… Bleeding Fingers worked with Spitfire Audio (a sample library company run by Christian Henson) to create a whole new library for this project. It’s called Orchestral Swarm and is commercially available. The idea behind Swarm is that many, seemingly, random notes create an ever-changing but harmonic blanket of sound. Much like how many individual drops make for a splash, a wave and subsequently the ocean. It’s about fluidity and controlled randomness. It works very well in context, but also shows that composers don’t really have to ‘know’ much anymore these days. What ever technique they want to employ, there’s a library for it, so there’s no real need to master any technique. Anyway, that’s a whole separate discussion to be had some other time. The end product, BP II, is an enjoyable work. Not quite as good as PE II but still a very strong album.

Silva Screen releases the 2CD Essential Thomas Newman. For avid Newman fans, it may not offer anything of interest (just to get negativity out the way), but for casual fans or anyone just now discovering this composer it is, indeed, quite an essential collection. All the composer’s highlights are here from his latests Passengers and Finding Dory, to Finding Nemo and Wall-E, to classics like The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, Little Women, The Horse Whisperer, Road to Perdition, to arguably one of his most famous and most influential score American Beauty. Many others are also represented. It’s a solid selection and I struggle to think of any glaring omissions (perhaps Angels in America, perhaps Oscar And Lucinda, perhaps some music from his two Best Exotic Marigold Hotels. If I’m not mistaken, the music is presented in chronological order, starting with his latest work and going back in time. It’s all beautifully performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. I don’t always agree with their performances, but I can’t fault it here. And you know what… even for veteran fans it’s a nice compilation for a quick Newman fix.

Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World got surrounded by controversy as accusations of sexual harassment began piling up against its lead star Kevin Spacey; leading to Scott reshooting parts of the film, replacing Spacey with Christopher Plummer. One of the more pleasant things about this film is the reunion of Scott and composer Daniel Pemberton; they worked on The Counsellor in 2013. Pemberton is proving to be such a versatile composer! Perhaps still mostly known for his somewhat quirky and funky music, he’s perfectly at ease with orchestral (frequently almost operatic) stuff. AtMitW is such an orchestral score that seems to have a strong classical influence, and at times strongly leans towards opera. The main theme is a waltz for baroque-like strings and operatic vocals. It’s surprisingly deviant for a film that, in other hands, could easily have settled for an ominously droning score. Not that AtMitW isn’t without suspense, but Pemberton relies on dissonant winds instead. Kudos to both the director and the composer! I do find myself trying to work out the various influences (Beethoven, Wagner, Mozart?) and at 70 minutes the album does feel a tad long… but it’s great music nonetheless.

(c) 2018 Synchrotones

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