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Cosmos Vol.2 (Alan Silvestri)

April 18, 2014

Cover_cosmosCOSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY (VOL. 2)

Alan Silvestri, 2014, Cosmos Studios Music
15 tracks, 41:34

Will “Cosmos” volume 2 deliver more of the same or present something radically different? Will it worth the additional purchase?
Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

The long-awaited sequel to Carl Sagan’s popular 80s series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”, “A Spacetime Odyssey” offers a view of the universe and focuses on mankind’s pursuit of knowledge. A second volume of the show’s music by Alan Silvestri has now been released. Whilst it continues in the same style as “Volume 1“, it has plenty of new ideas to offer.

What does it sound like?

Majestic chords for horns open the second album. “SOTI” continues with a soaring theme for strings, interspersed with brass and electronic flourishes. It’s very typical for the composer and it’s a lot of fun. That theme seems to continue in “You And Me And Your Dog”, a lovely little cue for strings, woodwinds and all things twinkly. “Interspecies Partnership” is a low-key but menacing-sounding cue with rhythmic celli and a sinister motif for horn. Sounds like it came straight out of “The Mummy Returns”. Woodwinds and violins do take over, but the cue’s ominous nature remains. The mood lightens up again, a little, with “Artificial Selection”. Staccato strings and woodwinds dance around each other whilst violins play a whimsical melody. For the most this cue is constantly moving, highlighting Silvestri gift at writing these fluid tracks.

“Living in an Ice Age” opens with a solo horn, creating a feeling of loneliness. Strings do join in a little later, adding some depth. In the cues that follow, synthesized arpeggios play a key role. “Genetic Alphabet” is very low-key, mostly filler really. “Natural Selection” has one or two lyrical passages for strings and horns, but largely consists of arpeggios for guitar-like sounds. “Family Tree” is quite a sweet little cue but its reliance on arpeggios and delay effects comes across a little cheap; scientific though it does sound. In “The Eye” Silvestri combines electronic patterns with piano, as well as some strings and horns. The synth sounds are aesthetically more pleasing and the whole cue sounds slicker and more professional than some of the previous ones.

I will have undoubtedly written before that I’m never too keen on Silvestri’s use of electronics. It often sounds a bit cheap and cheesy, as if he’s still going through the presets of last decade’s software. “Cosmos Volume 2” does suffer a little from that, though overall I find it reasonably well-balanced. I think it’s better than the first volume in that respect.

“The Theory of Evolution” initially continues with synths and militaristic-sounding percussion (the inclusion of a sampled trombone is an odd choice), but at the halfway point this makes way for a playful passage for staccato strings, pizzicato and woodwinds. It’s bordering on “Mouse Hunt” territory, though not for long. Slow strings and noble horns finish the cue. “The Permian Period” offers dark chords that weave in and out, combined with high-pitched synth chords; another Silvestri trademark. Indirectly, this cue reminds me somewhat of his 1989 score to “The Abyss”.

“Tartigrades” is lighter in mood with its twinkly arpeggios. “Titan” is an understated, but melodic cue. It’s pretty standard underscore, though the synthesised guitar sound that sits in the foreground is bugging me, as it’s just a little too sharp. “The Story of My Life” too is understated. Soft chords with a 4-note rising motif for piano. The album concludes with ‘joke’ track. “4 Billion Years of Evolution” is a baroque-sounding cue for sampled banjos. I’m sure the cheap sound is deliberate here. At the very end, Silvestri ends it with a few heroic chords for strings, brass and choir.

Is it any good?

I believe “Volume 2” feels a little more personal, the themes a bit more lyrical and the synthesizers better balanced than the “Volume 1“. It’s a pleasant listen that offers plenty new material to warrant a purchase. I do feel that “Volume 2” opens stronger than it ends. It has a few excellent tracks during the album’s first half, but then seems to stagnate. Some of my criticism of the first album is true for this one as well. It’s all very nice, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It just is. It’s still not picking up any real momentum, as all the really nice bits are cut short. I do think it’s a little more coherent and consistent than the first album, but I’m still waiting for this music to really take off. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but from Silvestri and “Cosmos” I’m expecting… more.

Rating [3/5]

Tracklisting

1. S.O.T.I. (1:31)
2. You and Me and Your Dog (2:28)
3. Interspecies Partnership (2:25)
4. Artificial Selection (3:10)
5. Living in an Ice Age (1:10)
6. Genetic Alphabet (2:44)
7. Natural Selection (3:06)
8. Family Tree (3:50)
9. The Eye (3:55)
10. Theory of Evolution (2:53)
11. The Permian Period (5:12)
12. Tartigrades (1:54)
13. Titan (2:59)
14. The Story of My Life (3:11)
15. 4 Billion Years of Evolution (1:05)

Availability

Digitally on iTunes (no digital booklet).

Related Reviews

Cosmos (Vol. 1)
Cosmos (Vol. 3)
Cosmos (Vol. 4)

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