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2015 round Up – February (2/12)

March 5, 2015

UnreviewedThe Unreviewed: 2015 Round Up – February (2/12)

In spite of best intentions, it is genuinely unfortunate that some scores are left unreviewed. But unreviewed does not mean unheard. So let’s focus, if only briefly, on those scores that got away this month. Including: “Debug”, “Dying of the Light”, “The Boy Next Door”, “Playing it Cool”, “Reach Me”, “The Rewrite”, “Merchants of Doubt” and “Outlander”.

 


Cover_DebugDebug” (Timothy Williams, 21 tracks, 41:4,9 Lakeshore Records 2015). “Debug is a sci-fi horror set on a prison ship in space,” says Williams. “I knew that the score was going to be primarily electronic, but I loved the idea of using an orchestra for its organic quality, and then mutilating the pristine recordings, through reversing, pitch shifting, filtering, unusual delays and falling reverbs. I suggested ‘reversed orchestra’ for some of the score with electronics and ‘processed brass.” It’s a well executed score, with an interesting soundscape. The trouble with processed acoustic sounds is that they then sound synthesised, so everything sounds sampled, because… it is. “Debug” is less obviously melodic than some of Williams’ other recent works; though it does try to infuse some emotions through strings and some interesting instrumentations. Overall it talks the talk, but doesn’t quite walk the walk (or is the other way round?). It sounds good, clearly a lot effort went into the sound design, but it’s missing a memorable element.


Cover_DyingOfTheLightDying of the Light” (Frederik Wiedmann, 21 tracks, 47:07, La-La Land Records 2015). Latest film by Paul Schrader about a CIA agent who, when an illness threatens to end his career, goes rogue to track down a terrorist who tortured him many years ago. Wiedmann provides a slick, if predictable thriller score. Mysterious strings, some percussion and some Eastern instrumentation. I believe Schrader likes his scores fairly low-key, so don’t expect too much acrobatics here. It reminds me of Craig Armstrong’s style, but it’s lacking the appeal that Armstrong has. There’s nothing wrong with this score, in fact it’s quite expertly put together. It’s just so ‘half a dozen, six of the other’.


Cover_BoyNextDoorThe Boy Next Door” (Randy Edelman and Nathan Barr, 18 tracks, 36:18, Varese Sarabande 2015). Directed by Rob Cohen, this is a psychological thriller that explores a forbidden attraction that goes much too far. Marketed as a ‘historical’ collaboration between Edelman and Barr, this is another ordinary thriller score that offers little beyond its cinematic effectiveness. Fans of Edelman will struggle (if not fail) to recognise the composer’s hand in here, not even in the melodic cues – and there are very few of those. For the most part this is an atmospheric score, relying on echoing bass and familiar metallicy/guitar-like soundscapes.


Cover_PlayingItCoolPlaying it Cool” (Jake Monaco, 18 tracks, 22:31, Lakeshore Records 2015). Sort-of a love story about a man who falls for an unlikely girl and stop at nothing to get her. “The score is centered around a small rhythm section for a smaller, intimate feel, but there are always a few elements that have been manipulated to make it feel a little more contemporary,” says composer Monaco. Guitars and bass add to the quirky/indie feel of the score. It’s pleasant enough, though on its own it feels a bit thin. Cues are short; there is little melodic coherency; and it all sounds as if something is missing. It sounds like quirky indie pop without vocals. The result… a very long 22 minutes of snappy percussion and bass lines.


Cover_ReachMeReach Me” (Tree Adams, 38 tracks, 55:58, Lakeshore Records 2015). “The film features a large ensemble cast: you’ve got gangsters, bloggers, a priest, a rapper, an aspiring actor, an ex-con, a violent cop and a stuntman.  They’re lives have all been affected by this book that has been published anonymously.  Their stories all converge and eventually come to a boil in the end,” says composer Adams. “Director John Herzfeld is a fan of traditional ensemble recording (which I love) and so there are virtually no samples or synths involved in this score.” And so we got an indie/pop sometimes jazzy, then bluesy kind-of score. It makes for pleasant background music, but I’m not easily enthused about these kind of scores. Away from the film, they too easily sound like snippets of unfinished songs. So does this one. What is the point of adding a 15-second cue that offers just one chord? There may be 15-20 minutes of reasonably interesting music here (if you like this pop/rock/jazz type of sound).


Cover_OutlanderOutlander” (Bear McCreary, 13 tracks, 50:29, Madison Gate Records 2015). The “Outlander” series follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. McCreary was ecstatic about the chance to head to the Highlands for musical inspiration. “From the beginning, I wanted to draw predominantly from Scottish instrumentation and folk music,” he explains. “Instruments such as the fiddle, bagpipes, accordion, penny whistle and bodhrán (a type of frame drum) form the backbone of the score, supported by orchestral strings, haunting vocals and larger percussion.” The score features vocal performances by Raya Yarbrough and Gillebride MacMillan. It is a gorgeous score, filled to the brim with celtic instruments (vocals, flutes, fiddles, bagpipes, percussion) and lovely, lush melodies against wonderful harmonies. It feels both traditional and quite modern (the percussion is quite strong at times). A stirling effort from McCreary.


Cover_MechantsOfDoubtMerchants of Doubts” (Mark Adler, 32 tracks, 44:14, Lakeshore Records 2015). Composer Adler says of the score: “[the director] always felt that the subject of the film (global warming and the disinformation campaigns surrounding it) was so dire that there was a danger of losing our audience under its weight, and he told me a number of times that one job of the music would be to help keep that from happening.” In turn, director Robert Kenner says: “Mark helped create an irony and humor that were essential to the film’s ultimate message. Not only was his score a fantastic addition to the film, but it stands alone as a truly evocative and entertaining collection of musical pieces.” So we get a light-hearted score, that plays with many of the ‘snooping around’ clichés that we’re all familiar with through various (comedic) spy films. Organs, slapped bass, finger snaps, mallets and woodwinds are all present, accompanied by quirky rhythms and waltzes. It’s good fun and never takes itself (too) seriously. That said, the constant comedic plucking, ticking and twinkling does make for a hyperactive listening experience.


Cover_TheRewriteThe Rewrite” (Clyde Lawrence and Cody Fitzgerald, 29 tracks, 57:07, Lakeshore Records 2015). “The thing that made this score somewhat unconventional, and a very conscious decision I made with the director [Marc Lawrence], was the instrumentation,” says composer Clyde Lawrence. “It seemed fitting, since the film was largely about the importance of some of the more understated and unglamorous aspects of life that Keith comes to appreciate, from the modest college town to the feeling of teaching something to one of his students.” I’m not sure how that statement translates to indie- and jazz- inspired piano, organ, percussion and slapped bass, but it does. It’s one of those scores, similar to “Reach Me” and “Playing it Cool” (reviewed above), that makes a point of being light-hearted and quirky… but that in itself has become so cliché. Again, it’s very pleasant, very stylish – it’s probably the best one of those reviewed here, as it seems to have a little more substance to it. It work as music on its own, where the others didn’t. In fact, it doesn’t even sound like a filmscore. And that’s the whole thing about these ‘indie’ scores: they are designed to sound like incidental music and as such display very little emotion, there is no dramatic arch or anything like that. So, if you’re happy with a few dozen quirky, jazzy cues, “The Rewrite” will not disappoint.


Reviews by Pete Simons

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