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Zipi y Zape (Fernando Velazquez)

December 31, 2013

Cover_zipi_y_zapeZIPI Y ZAPE Y EL CLUB DE LA CANICA

Fernando Velazquez, 2013, Quartet Records
23 tracks, 67:14

Whilst Fernando Velazquez’s popularity outside of Spain is growing, he’s still mostly known for his (beautiful) horror scores. “Zipi y Zape” shows a different side to this composer. An adventurous and somewhat comedic one!

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Directed by Oskar Santos (“El mal ajeno”), and based on the popular Spanish comic characters created by Escobar, the film tells the story of Zip & Zap, naughty twins who, after they steal their final school exams, are sent to the Esperanza, a strict summer school where all types of entertainment are forbidden. Their mischief gets out of hand when they form the Marble Gang, the children’s resistance, to defy the evil headmaster. The Gang winds up uncovering a mysterious secret hidden deep within the school. Thanks to their wits, bravery and unwavering faith in friendship, Zip & Zap and the rest of the Marble Gang are in for the most wonderful adventure of their lives.” (- from Quartet Records‘ website.)

Music is by Fernando Velazquez, who’s worked with the director on “El mal ajeno”) and is otherwise known for “The Impossible” and “The Orphanage”. The composer’s popularity outside of Spain is growing, though he’ll still be mostly known for this horror scores. “Zipi y Zape” shows a comedic and adventurous side to Velazquez. One that is most welcome.

What does it sound like?

On the record label’s website it is explained that the music is a deliberate throwback to American adventure scores from the 1980s. It is Velazquez’s tribute to the composers he grew up with: John Williams, Bruce Broughton, James Horner and Alan Silvestri. The inspiration he took from those composers is clearly audible in his score for “Zipi y Zape”, though the score rarely treads too closely to its inspiration, Yet, it is somewhat ironic that the score bears the strongest resemblance to “Mouse Hunt” and “Harry Potter” from the 90s and noughties respectively.

The score opens with its main theme, right from the very start. It’s an adventurous one for brass; and has a certain Wild West feel to it. When backed by racing strings, during the second half of this cue, it sure does bring Broughton to mind. Instantly there’s a fun and innocent nature to the music and it that respect it does evoke memories of an era that seems long since passed. The theme recurs many times throughout the album in all sorts of variations; and as such contributes greatly to a very coherent listening experience.

“La Vide en al Esperanza” combines “Mouse Hunt”-like woodwinds with sprightly Hornerish string writing; whilst “El Club de la Canica” presents the main theme in a more mysterious manner (staccato bassoon), though it gradually builds to become quite playful and defiant. “La Resistencia” returns to “Mouse Hunt” territory overlaying it with a grand rendition of the main theme, before the cue turns quite dark whilst retaining traces of that ever-present main theme.

Virtually every track contains a variation on the score’s main theme. It is commendable that Velazquez does really put that theme through its paces and pushes it, as far as he can, in every possible direction. It may be omnipresent, you’ll not soon hear it repeated like for like. The middle section of the album contains a number of brooding cues as Zipi and Zape’s adventures unfold. These tracks may not be amongst the album’s highlight, but they are certainly expertly written and executed, guiding its audience through all the emotions you’d expect from a film (and score) like this. The performance by the RTVE Symphony Orchestra & Chorus is note-worthy.

Velazquez doesn’t use the Chorus very often, but when he does it is effective. Its brief appearance in “La Casilla de Salida” almost seems to signal the start of the final third of the score. From this moment onwards the score picks up energy again and returns to being outright adventurous. The choir is employed again during the final cue “El Mejor Verano deNeustras Vidas” to provide a classic feel-good ending to the film. Velazquez then rounds off his score with one last rousing rendition of his glorious main theme.

The album closes with a Spanish pop song (“Por Siempre” by Cali & El Dandee”), which is best skipped. I’m not sure which is worse: the rap sections or the over-use of auto-tune.

Is it any good?

It’s an absolute pleasure to hear such a playful score from Velazquez. We already knew he is a master of melody, but outside of Spain he is still mainly known for his horror-scores (“Devil”, “The Orphanage”) and the tear-jerker that was “The Impossible”. If nothing else this score proves he is just as adept at writing lush, whimsical adventure scores. And I sure hope we get to hear more of this. This one appears to be a deliberate homage to the composer’s own favorite composers; and so I’ll assume that all similarities are intentional winks and nudges. They shouldn’t (and please don’t let them) detract you from enjoying this quirky score. Having said that, it is difficult not to think of “Mouse Hunt” when the bassoon starts its 2-note arpeggio. Paying tribute to your childhood heroes is one thing, writing an effective film score is another. Velazquez seems to have resisted the urge to go overboard and has delivered a score that balances effective underscore with crowd-pleasing set-pieces. This balance and the consistent (yet varied) use of the main theme make “Zipi y Zape” an absolute delight.

Rating [3.5/5]

Tracklisting

01. Zipi y Zape (1:35)
02. Prólogo y llegada al “Esperanza” (2:55)
03. Micro (1:38)
04. La verdadera naturaleza de este lugar y sus reglas (2:06)
05. La vida en el “Esperanza” (2:38)
06. El club de la Canica (2:09)
07. La Resistencia (4:44)
08. El hombre del saco (2:25)
09. Aventura nocturna (2:23)
10. El monstruo (2:57)
11. Diamantes (2:36)
12. Una historia de piratas (3:17)
13. El mapa (1:42)
14. Traición (2:39)
15. Reconciliación (1:55)
16. La casilla de salida (2:15)
17. El juego de Esperanza (2:52)
18. Jugar (7:24)
19. Propulsión atómica (3:01)
20. El tesoro de Esperanza (5:46)
21. Esperanza TOYS (1:37)
22. El mejor verano de nuestras vidas (2:51)
23. Por Siempre (Cali & El Dandee) (3:31)

Additional Information
More info on Quartet Records.

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