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The Adventurer (Fernando Velazquez)

June 2, 2014

Cover_midasboxTHE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX

Fernando Velazquez, 2014, Varese Sarabande
22 tracks, 71:30

Sometimes great scores accompany not-so-great films. That seems to be the case here with “The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box”. A magical musical journey lies ahead.
Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Jonathan Newman, “The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box” tells the magical story of teenager Mariah Mundi, whose life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and his younger brother is kidnapped. Following a trail of clues, he end up at a dark hotel, where Mariah discovers a hidden realm of child-stealing monsters, deadly secrets and a long-lost artifact that grants limitless wealth – but also devastating supernatural power. With the fate of his world and his family at stake, Mariah will risk everything to unravel the Curse of the Midas Box! The music for this otherwise poorly received film is by Spanish composer Fernando Velazquez – but there is nothing poor about the music! A fantastical musical journey lies ahead…

What does it sound like?

Based on his lavish melodies and his powerful orchestrations (as heard in scores like “The Impossible”,”The Orphanage” and “Devil”) many film score fans have been waiting for Fernando Velazquez to tackle a full-blown adventure film – and here it is! Earlier, Synchrotones reviewed Velazquez’s score for the Spanish adventure film “Zipi y Zape“, but where that one is of quite a light-hearted nature (and a deliberate homage to the 80s), “The Adventurer: The Curse of the Mids Box” is an altogether darker affair.

The album opens cautiously, by which I mean that the composer holds back with his melodies. There are dark chords, string ostinatos and fragments of themes, but nothing full-blown just yet. Not until “Farewell” does a french horn introduce the main theme; and even then only briefly. The theme (a series of rising notes) returns in “The Key” and plenty of tracks thereafter. This cue also repeats a mysterious 7-note motif for bassoon, which was heard earlier during the opening of “Opening”. A menacing three-note motif (which reminded me of Joby Talbot’s “League of Gentlemen”) can be heard in “Otto Luger”.

“Reformatory” offers a lively ostinato, a hint of action music (which will be fleshed out more during subsequent tracks) and the main theme, which grows in prominence with each cue. “Mariah to Hotel” continues in a similar vein, whilst “Inspection” offers a lush string-driven variation on the main theme and expands it beyond its initial form. A series of suspenseful cues follows. They’re all very well written with an emphasis on strings and woodwinds. The opening four notes of “Water Chamber Trick” may evoke a little chuckle.

As the album reaches its final handful of tracks, the action intensifies. Racing strings, flute runs, percussion, ostinatos for various instruments form the basis of “The Children”, with variations on the main theme and the 7-note motif layered on top. “The Box” is a lengthy suite featuring the key themes. It’s a dark, brooding and somewhat slow-moving cue, with choir enhancing the mystery. It picks up the tempo towards the end, when it also states a heroic (yet somewhat playful) theme for brass. It’s been hinted at before, but not quite as clearly.

“Chariots of Fire” is a fast-paced cue with racing strings, pounding timpani and strong brass statements of the main theme. Dramatic dark chords for brass, accompanied by percussive hits rival anything being written in Hollywood today for sheer force. The album closes with the energetic “Finale”, which sees Velazquez reprising the score’s main themes, motifs, ostinatos and rhythms. If it hadn’t already, it now becomes perfectly clear how the score has gradually been building up towards this finale.

Is it any good?

It’s a magnificent piece of work, though one that may require a second and third listen, just to appreciate how Fernando Velazquez introduces and utilises his themes throughout the score. There are plenty of them; and it’s probably an even more melodic score that my review makes it out to be. It’s not until the final four or five cues that these theme really come to the fore and, combined with the driving ostinatos, begin to make a lasting impact. The writing and orchestrations are complex and intelligent, yet fun and befitting the genre. It’s a classy score and a very rewarding album.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

1. Opening (2:37)
2. Mariah And Charity (2:49)
3. Farewell (1:02)
4. The Escape (1:35)
5. The Key (1:47)
6. Otto Luger (1:33)
7. Reformatory (5:18)
8. Mariah To Hotel (4:29)
9. The Hotel (1:16)
10. Inspection (1:55)
11. Sacha’s Father (2:17)
12. The Cave (1:47)
13. Secret Door (1:47)
14. Skeleton (1:28)
15. Water Chamber Trick (2:48)
16. Where Did He Go (1:20)
17. Otto’s Secret Room (2:55)
18. The Diary (2:56)
19. The Children (3:08)
20. The Box (14:18)
21. Chariot Of Fire (2:50)
22. Finale (9:02)

Availability
Limited to 1,000 physical copies; also available digitally.
For more information and soundclips visit the Varese Sarabande website.

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