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Cluster Reviews #01

July 11, 2018

I’ve been listening to more soundtracks than I’ve been able to review. So here is an attempt to catch up with at least a few of them. You’ll see more of these so-called Cluster Reviews over the next few weeks, as I’ve got soundtracks coming out of my ears with very little time to write extensive reviews for each and everyone of them. So, included in this Cluster are scores like The Titan, Life of the Party, The Sinner and Pickpockets.

Let’s start with Fil Eisler, he’s got two new scores out. The Titan is a sci-fi flick about a military family that partakes in an experiment to accelerate man’s genetic evolution. Eisler’s score is synth driven (if not entirely synthetic) and as such has a suitable futuristic sound to it. On the whole it’s a pretty sombre score. It resides largely in the mid-to-low registers, so expect it to sound quite dark and oppressing. There’s little in the way of recognisable themes or motifs; instead it relies heavily on slow-moving chords and softly echoing synth patterns. I wouldn’t want to go as far and say it’s ‘droney’, because it does have a harmonic quality. Strings and piano add a touch of humanity; whilst percussion and synth pulses add tension and urgency. To be fair, it’s very well produced and most cues are interesting enough to grab your attention, with the second half of the album is marginally more exciting than the first. Still, the album as a whole feels understated and will only appeal to those with an affinity for moody synth scores. (20 tracks, 49m, Lakeshore Records 2018.)

Eisler’s Life of the Party is, not surprisingly, a much lighter affair. The score has an indie feel to it, with its gently strumming guitars, feel-good chords, simple melodies, light percussion… and the occasional outburst into jazz, pop or rock. It’s very pleasant, inoffensive and well put together; but it’s also forgettable. Both of these albums sound like very functional scores, doing what they need to do for the film, but feeling a bit unremarkable out of context. (24 tracks, 41m, Varese Sarabande 2018.)

RIght then, more synths! The Sinner is a tv series about a woman who, in a fit of rage, commits a violent crime but can’t remember why. The music is by Ronit Kirchman and she too relies entirely on synths. It too is dark and oppressing, but it’s much more in-your-face than The Titan (it’s probably not entirely fair to compare the two, but what are you gonna do about it). The Sinner uses a lot of punchy arpeggios and does venture into the higher registers on occasion. During those moments it’s easy to like. That said, when the score is ‘droney’, it’s very droney. So, in a completely unfair comparison to Eisler’s work, The Sinner has the better highlights, but The Titan has better…lowlights? Make of that what you will. (23 tracks, 49m, Lakeshore Records 2018.)

You know what? Let’s stick with synths and sample-based scores. Pickpockets by Alex Heffes is a reasonably lively one. With its exotic percussion and sultry basslines it has a ‘heist’ kinda feel to it. Bells (I’m assuming gamelan) also feature prominently. It’s quite a dynamic score that moves from melancholy pieces for electric piano and synth strings to high octane cues for all kinds of percussive sounds and grungy synths. Pickpockets is well produced, very slick. To some degree it reminds me of a Harry Gregson-Williams score and Spy Game did come to mind at some point, though on the whole it’s more low-key than that and leans more towards that ‘heist’ sound. It’s a neat little score, but again, in the longer term, not hugely memorable. (18 tracks, 42m, Lakeshore Records.)

Reviews by Pete Simons (c) Synchrotones 2018

From → Film Soundtracks

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