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An Interview with God and Seed of Terror (Ian Honeyman)

January 7, 2019

I like Ian Honeyman’s music. There.. I said it! Seriously though, I think he’s an underrated and under-used composer. And to be honest, I’m a little surprised I like his music as much as I do. On paper it doesn’t necessarily seem like it’d tick all my boxes (and it doesn’t, that’s the thing), but there is passion, creativity and energy in his music that I find very appealing. You’d be better off not reading my review and just listen to some of his music!

An Interview with God is an psychological thriller in which an up-and-coming journalist finds his world and faith increasingly challenged when he’s granted the interview of a lifetime – with someone who claims to be God. The film is directed by Perry Lang, who’s got a long list of TV credits to his name, such as Weeds, Everwood, Dawson’s Creek, going as far back as Millennium and ER. The score is by Ian Honeyman, whose work continues to impress me. It’s worth checking out his work on Gift and Meister des Todes. I’ve probably said this before, but a quick glance at his filmography reveals a working relationship with Klaus Badelt. Does that mean he sounds like Badelt? No, not really. But it does mean he’s learnt from someone who has worked at the highest level in Hollywood.

The album opens with a haunting cue called “Humanity” which features mysterious pads (strings and vocal if I had to guess) with a melancholy (almost eerie) cello theme, which is “Paul’s Theme”. “Separate Ways” is slightly Thomas Newmany, especially with that little piano twinkle right at the start…. that little motif is immediately taken over by cello; and is then expanded upon. Piano and cello liven up, break into their own separate arpeggios creating a sense of urgency and drive.

Piano and strings (of various kinds) dominate this score. Cello (I assume, but you can never be sure with Honeyman) is nearly everywhere and it sounds like a really close recording, as you can hear every tiny little scrape of the bow. A lot of time the cello is played in its upper registers, giving it a bit of a tortured sound.  Throughout the album there are beautiful, tender cues that remind me of Arnalds, Hauschka, Richter and those type of composers. But there is plenty of darkness too. The cello appears to receive quite a battering as it’s being slapped and scraped to create various unnerving sounds. Elsewhere, arpeggios in the lower registers of strings and piano effectively create a sense of danger and unease.

The album starts off quite introvertive, gradually becomes darker and more aggressive but returns to melancholy in the last third. It makes it feel like a well-rounded album, proper storytelling, and a satisfying listening experience.

Also available is Honeyman’s score for Seed of Terror (or: Saat des Terrors). This German TV film tells the story of a German secret service agent who, during her assignment abroad in Pakistan, recognizes that attacks on civilians in Mumbai are imminent.

Due to the nature of the story it’s understandable that this score is not quite as melodic as Interview with God. Instead it’s much more (or: even more) focused on sound and atmosphere. Fear not though, as Honeyman is quite the specialist. He collects ‘ethnic’ instruments from all the world, and all those interesting sounds are used brilliantly here.

I can’t list the instruments used on Seed of Terror, because I simply don’t know, but there are various bowed string instruments, basses, ethnic winds and percussion. Piano and standard strings are also present, so the overall soundscape is not at all too alien. In fact it’s a really good mix of what you might expect and what might just push some boundaries. (Sidenote: go to Honeyman’s site and you’ll find a video that showcases the numerous instruments that Honeyman has collected. It’s fascinating.)

What I admire about Honeyman here is that he keeps the music moving. I don’t think it ever just drones (or not for too long), which plenty of other scores do. There’s always some percussion ticking, an arpeggio going or… during those brief moments that admittedly are droning, there are still several instruments circling each other, constantly altering that soundscape. I find it quite fascinating to listen to. When Honeyman breaks into action-mode, it’s quite exciting with piano and string arpeggios, interesting instrument effects and (occasionally) driving percussion.

Realistically I am probably more likely to return to Interview than Seed, purely because it’s more melodically pleasing (though I’m tempted to say that Seed may be the more interesting one from a technical viewpoint). Both are very good scores in their respective genres and both are worth checking out.

An Interview with God, Ian Honeyman, HSI Records 2018, 18 tracks, 32m. [3.5/5]
Seed of Terror, Ian Honeyman, HSI Records 2018, 15 tracks, 30m. [3.5/5]

Review by Pete Simons (c) 2019 Synchrotones

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