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The Prosecutors and Hidden Patterns (Miguel d’Oliveira)

May 9, 2019

The Prosecutors offers an extraordinary insight into the work of prosecutors tackling an organised criminal gang flying drugs into prisons; and a shadowy network using children as slaves in UK nail bars. The original score sees composer Miguel d’Oliveira venturing into new territory, whilst still offering a few familiar elements.


From the moment you press ‘play’, it immediately becomes clear just how sparse this score is. There are only a few instruments playing at any given moment. And those instruments range from solo violin, clarinet, piano, various synths to a small string section.  If you’ve been following d’Oliveira’s career over the last few years, then it’s the synths that will sound most familiar, as they recall his work on Michael Palin in North Korea and a few Louis Theroux documentaries. The synths provide subtle pads, less-subtle blips and on the odd occasion very obviously contribute a melodic element. Though on the whole, the score is not particularly melodic. The composer told me “[The] directors really like what I do and said: we’d love if you write melodies. I thought: at last! A chance. But the footage and stories did not lend themselves at all to that kind of treatment. So out they came – at my suggestion.

The score does have a few recurring motifs and on the whole reminds me Michael Nyman or Johann Johannsson without ever really sounding like either (well…, maybe the latter a little bit). The similarities lie in the minimalistic composition and the sparse arrangements for solo instruments. The key motifs include an ascending 3-note pattern, a descending 3-note pattern and something altogether more zig-zaggy. Combined with some off-key violin notes, it is actually bang on trend. It’s got that minimal, thoughtful, melancholy and somewhat artistic character that seems quite popular these days. And my slightly sarcastic tone aside, it is beautiful music. A lot of it is rather melancholy, some of it is a bit more thriller-like (as in ‘suspense’, not the Michael Jackson album). There are even moments where d’Oliveira’s experiments with low fluttering clarinet and see-sawing viola begin to resembles Elliot Goldenthal’s style.

The Prosecutors is a mesmerising album. In his usual unusual style and with just a handful of sounds, d’Oliveira brings the stories of the prosecutors to live. The choice of instruments, even the synths, give the music a real human character. The album has been released on MovieScore Media, where you can find more information and listen to samples.

Away from TV and film, Miguel d’Oliveira has also released an electronic album called Hidden Patterns. The composer write about this album: “Between documentary soundtracks of the last 4 years I would try to write a track that was as different as possible from what I had just done. Since each has an unusual pattern (structure, rhythm etc) I decided to release them as an album.“. It’s an interesting concept that has led to an album with 10 individual tracks, but that all share d’Oliveira’s style. And what is that style, you ask? It’s hard to pin down, which is certainly one part of it, but it’s funky, it’s playful, it’s a bit experimental and it’s a bit retro. The composer’s use of synth and effects is quite soft, with lots of e-piano, organ-type sounds… it seems that his choice of sounds comes from old synths or mellotrons, whilst plenty of other composers seem to be seeking out harsher and harsher sounds these days.

The music is largely, if not entirely, electronic with plenty of digital tinkering. At times it’s totally glitch-tastic (“Cosy”)! I already mentioned e-piano and organ, but you’ll also find plenty of really cool rhythms and bass lines (“Eclipse”, “Mercury”, “Magazine”), bell-types (“Social”, “String Theory”), pads and all kinds of weird and wonderful noises here.  I don’t think the album is as far removed from his soundtracks as d’Oliveira wants you to believe, but he’s certainly been able to let himself go. Free from any restrictions or other people’s directions, Hidden Patterns comes across as d’Oliveira having a whale of a time; and there is something really charming and really unique about his music. Do check it out.

The Prosecutors, Miguel d’Oliveira, MovieScore Media, 20 tracks, 28m [3.5/5]
Hidden Pattersn, Miguel d’Oliveira, Entropy, 10 tracks, 37m [4/5]

Review by Pete Simons (c) 2019 Synchrotones.

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