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Red Krokodil – Alexander Cimini

February 21, 2015

Cover_RedKrokodilRED KROKODIL

Alexander Cimini, 2014, Kronos Records
13 tracks, 46:43

I’ll be honest — I hadn’t heard of this movie until, fairly literally, I was handed a copy of its score. It proved a magical surprise. So much beautiful music is written everywhere in the world. It is genuinely impossible to keep track of it all. So, it feels really special when you discover something like this. Something that could’ve quite easily passed you by.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Domiziano Cristopharo, “Red Krokodil” is an Italian film set in Russia about a man addicted to drugs (‘krokodil’ being the drug). This man suddenly finds himself alone in a post-apocalyptic city, a bit like Chernobyl. The decay of his body runs parallel to the decay of the world around him. It’s a film about destruction, both outwards and inwards. Krokodil is a codeine-derived drug that became popular, and attracted a lot of attention, several years ago. It has severe effects on the skin, leaving scaley sores (hence its name) and it is often referred to as a flesh-eating drug. The impact it has on the body is downright mutilating and horrifying. It is beyond my comprehension as to why anyone would ever want to submit themselves to it – even for the highest of highs.

The films stars Brock Madson, Valerio Cassa and Viktor Karam; and is based on an unpublished story by Francesco Scardone. The original score is by Alexander Cimini, who is not only a composer, but has also directed and edited several films himself.

What does it sound like?

The album starts a little deceivingly with “C_age”, which is a rather unsettling, sound-designy kind of piece. There’s a lot going on though – deep metallic clangs, whispering, frantically plucked strings, glissandos, etcetera. It wasn’t written for this film, but it’s easy to understand why Cimini included it, as the uneasy atmosphere seems a perfect fit for the drug-induced hallucinatory scenes. However, in combination with the horror-like poster (which is timid and abstract compared to stomach-churning real-life images), my initial thoughts were that this was going to be an avant-garde horror score.

But then Cimini presents his long-lined main theme, entitled “Red Krokodil Main Theme” – and it couldn’t be further apart from the opening cue’s harrowing sounds. Warm strings, soft horns and an achingly beautiful theme for solo cello. It’s a noble theme, almost like an anthem for this new post-apocalyptic work, but the cello gives it a deeply personal, and somewhat lonely, touch. As the track progresses, the cello makes way for a virtuous piano performance. Strings continue to dominate in “My Wounded Body” and “My Little Green Crocodile”, with the latter featuring another beautiful cello performance.

“Endless Roads” is a cue tracked in from Cimini’s own 2010 film and score “M.A.R.C.O.”, a film in which people’s lives spin out of control as a result of drugs. The desolate atmosphere of the cue (through soft synth, piano and a “Twin Peaks”-like bass) is a perfect match for the hopeless position the characters find themselves in. The slow, desperate mood continues in “My Mind”. Synths continue to set the tone, though strings are added for a richer (and more unsettling) sound.

The score’s heartbreaking emotional side makes a reappearance in “Reflection in the Water”, where cello and violin give virtuous performances, backed by rich-sounding strings. The melody carries over into “Prologue” where is performed on a glockenspiel, giving it an almost child-like nature. The cello is never far away; neither are the darker chords to remind us of the destruction (to the body and the world). “W(t)omb” is a slow, depressing, but beautiful cue for strings, cello and choir. It contains equally sombre fragments from Cimini’s score to”W(t)omb”. Towards the end of the cue the composer splendidly reprises the “Main Theme”. Its closing notes would’ve made a wonderful end to the album, but there is more.

The CD features “Capucetto6” by G. Verdinelli, an avant-garde cue for bandoneon (or similar sounding instrument), strings, winds and various percussive instruments. Sounds seem to fade in and out, never hanging around to form any coherency. It’s a fascinating piece. It sounds like you’re walking through a city (the glissandi basses do sound like cars going past) and there are lots of different sounds coming at you from different angles, but you never stop to really listen. It is at odds with Cimini’s lush score though, and doesn’t really fit in.

“The Window” is a gorgeous reprise of the main theme for strings, piano and some choir. And if that’s not enough, we are treated to a bonus track; though “Passion and Love” actually originates from “Hyde’s Secret Nightmare”, a 2011 film from the same director as “Red Krokodil”. It’s a passionate, vibrant cue for strings and piano. It fits the overall sound of the album very well, but seeing as this album represents the score for “Red Krokodil” I wish it had ended with a track from that score. Personally I would have placed various tracks in a different order and save cues like “Reflection in the Water”, “Prologue” and “The Window” for last.

Is it any good?

It’s tempting to say that there are two side to this score, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. There is only one side to “Red Krokodil” and that is a beautifully lush, heartbreaking score dominated by strings. Particularly the cello (Sebastiano Severi), violin (Roberto Noferini) and piano (Alexander Cimini, Denis Zardi) play virtuous roles throughout the score. I haven’t seen the film, but generally speaking it may be all too easy to be harsh on drug users, to ignore them and proclaim that it’s all their own fault anyway. Cimini’s music brings a human, emphatic touch to the story.

The album does have another side to it, as “C_age”, “Endless Roads”, “W(t)omb” and “Capucetto6” bring a dissonant, avant-garde sound into the story; presumably to represent the effects of drugs and the general theme of destruction. They are effective cues, but it is worth noting they were tracked in from others works (mostly still by Cimini). They are excellent cues in their own right, but I think do they do detract a little from the beauty that “Red Krokodil” has to offer. I can understand their function in the film, but I don’t think they add much to the album experience. Away from the film, as a stand-alone listening experience I would stick to the “Red Krokodil” cues only – and then you’ve got yourself a truly beautiful and heartbreaking listening experience.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

1. C_age * (3:50)
2. Red Krokodil Main Theme (5:53)
3. Alone (2:37)
4. My Wounded Body (2:15)
5. My Little Green Crocodile (2:21)
6. Endless Roads ** (3:16)
7. My Mind (2:00)
8. Reflection In The Water (2:16)
9. Prologue (2:51)
10. W(t)omb *** (5:14)
11. Capuccetto6 – (Music by G. Verdinelli) **** (3:33)
12. The Window (2:58)
13. Passion And Love? ***** (7:08)

* music from the Videoart C_age
** music from the motion picture M.A.R.C.O.
*** some fragmets of the music were taken from the VideoArt W(t)omb
**** music by G. Verdinelli
***** music from the motion picture “Hyde’s Secret Nightmare”

Availability & Samples

For samples and more information, visit Kronos Records‘ website.
You can hear more of Alexander Cimini’s music on his SoundCloud site.

 

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