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Atlantis (Stuart Hancock)

December 10, 2015

Cover_AtlantisATLANTIS

Stuart Hancock, 2015, Silva Screen Records
30 tracks, 73:01

Stuart Hancock’s lively and vibrant score for the TV show “Atlantis” is now available on Silva Screen Records.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Starring Jack Donnelly as Jason, Mark Addy as Hercules and Robert Emms as Pythagoras, “Atlantis” was created by Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy (“Merlin”) and Howard Overman (“Misfits”, “Dirk Gently”). The show follows the three main protagonists battling against Greek Gods and monsters. The series aired between 2013 and 2015 in the UK on BBC and in the U.S. on BBC America.

For the show, composer Stuart Hancock has written 500 minutes of music to accompany the mix of Greek myths, heroes and monsters. This original soundtrack album features music selections from the show’s second season. Hancock is a versatile, orchestral composer whose “The Last Belle” received much critical acclaim.

What does it sound like?

The album opens with “Journey to Aegina”, which revolves around string arpeggios, yet has a lyrical and fluid character to it. The solo violin that takes the lead may, superficially, remind listeners of scores like “The Village”. This is followed by several high-quality cinematic tracks; some featuring solemn string performances, whilst others are lengthy action-packed brass-led set-pieces.

For many casual listeners, the score will likely really come to live with “The Deserters Return”, which is a ‘trailer’-like cue for racing strings, metallic percussion and chanting choir. Elsewhere “Telemon vs Jason” combines string arpeggios with lush string chords to dramatic effect. “Approach of the Undead” is an excellent suspense cue for strings and sporadic percussive hits.

“Stymphalian Birds” is but one example of why Hancock’s score is appealing – whilst it partially relies on synths to provide a driving rhythm, the cue is really brought to live through energetic writing for strings, brass and (what I assume is) live percussion. It’d be easy to dismiss this as a ‘standard action cue’, based on its ingredients, but Hancock manages to maintain a ‘live’ character to  his music. This becomes apparent again in the exciting “Forest Fight”, and “Thrown into the Arena”. The latter starts with a synth pulse, which Hancock effortlessly combines with cool strings arpeggios and dramatic brass clusters.

“Atlantis in Turmoil” is a beautiful cue for strings and (almost John Williamsesque) woodwinds, whilst “A Mother’s Love” contains a melancholy and slightly distorted cello performance. “Aeson and Son” may be one of the album’s highlights, as it starts quietly and melancholy, with a solo cello against warm strings. Towards the end, the backing strings become more intense, arpeggios kick back, solo violin takes the lead and it all builds to a powerful, if too brief a climax.

“Rumbled” and “Violation of the Temple” are two cues that rely on a similar syncopated rhythm, with tremolo strings and lush brass bringing the cues to live. In between those two powerful cues, “Pasiphae Confronts Medea” and “Rot in Tauras” provide an emotional counterpoint, before the album closes with the lively and Arabic-infused “Vision of the Future: Title Theme”.

Is it any good?

Stuart Hancock’s “Atlantis” is a magnificent work. Admittedly I didn’t immediately come away humming any of its themes, but that’s not always a sign of quality, really is it? What is impressive about “Atlantis” is its big cinematic feel; along with its large orchestral performance. What makes this a great score is: ‘balance’. Whilst it relies heavily on familiar string ostinati, synth pulses and thundering percussion, it relies more heavily on live orchestral performances. I think there is still a temptation with TV scores to rely on samples, because it’s cheaper and quicker, but Hancock resists it. And despite the familiar techniques, the score sounds vibrant and exciting in a way that many similar scores don’t. There is also a fine balance between exciting action cues and quietly melancholy ones. Both Hancock’s action writing and his dramatic compositions are compelling; drawing the listener into the score. With 30 cues spaced out over 73 minutes, this is a long album; but again… the track sequencing is very well balanced, avoiding listeners’ fatigue. Ultimately though, it’s the clever composition and orchestrations that make this a delightful album.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

1 Atlantis Logo / Journey to Aegina (4.53)
2 Medea Steals the Palladium (4.07)
3 Cyclops! (4.23)
4 I Do It For Love (2.12)
5 Wise Old Eyes (1.41)
6 What Is It We Fight For? (2.41)
7 The Deserters Return (1.42)
8 Lonely Ariadne (1.15)
9 Telemon vs Jason (2.24)
10 Who Is To Blame? (0.58)
11 Approach of the Undead (1.21)
12 Blood Offering (2.58)
13 The Grey Sisters (3.16)
14 Stymphalian Birds (1.23)
15 Medusa Uncaged (1.48)
16 Pythagoras Sneaks Away (1.20)
17 Atlantis in Turmoil (2.52)
18 Making Peace with Poseidon (2.15)
19 The Sacrifice of Medusa (5.54)
20 Pasiphae’s Revelation (0.57)
21 Mission to the Silver Mines (1.41)
22 Forest Fight (1.58)
23 A Mother’s Love (2.13)
24 Thrown into the Arena (3.17)
25 Aeson and Son (3.01)
26 Rumbled! (1.27)
27 Pasiphae Confronts Medea (2.35)
28 Violation of the Temple (3.08)
29 Rot in Tartarus (2.02)
30 Vision of the Future / Title Theme (1.19)

Availability

“Atlantis” is released on 11th December.
For more information visit Silva Screen‘s website.
Synopsis by Silva Screen.

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