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High Rise (Clint Mansell)

April 5, 2016

Cover_HighRiseHIGH RISE

Clint Mansell, 2016, Silva Screen Records
12 tracks, 42:01

We need someone like Mansell to keep pushing the boundaries, to keep kicking Hollywood’s shins and to show that there are alternate ways of scoring a movie.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller, “High-Rise” is a visionary tale of human society slipping into extreme violence. The once-peaceful residents of a desirable apartment block quickly spiral into a world ruled by primal urges in which elevators become vicious battlegrounds and cocktail parties degenerate into brutal raids on ‘enemy’ floors. The film’s original score is by Clint Mansell.

What does it sound like?

The album opens with “Critical Mass” a busy little piece full of choppy strings. It’s a strange cue. The layers of strings seem to clash occasionally; and there is something quite comedic (or perhaps: sarcastic) about it. If this were a nature documentary I’d imagine it to accompany pictures of ants crawling around the nest (probably quite apt for a film about people living in a tower block). These choppy strings return in “The Circle of Women”, though it’s slowed-down significantly and features a sparse (and possibly sampled) trumpet over the top of it. It’s the odd whistling tune at the start of this cue that really grabs your attention. It feels almost like a haunted lullaby; and this is reprised in the next track. The busy string also feature in “Danger in the Streets of the Sky” and the militaristic “A Royal Flying School” (and are transposed to harp in “The Evening’s Entertainment”); while the eerie whistling also returns in various cues.

“The soundtrack sounded incredible in the cinema. I was very f**king happy indeed… Revel in the sound of a bombastic and hubristic 70s that was doomed to failure…Enjoy.” — -Ben Wheatley.

The slow, broody strings of “Silent Corridors” feel much more familiar coming from Mansell. And elsewhere, the oboe in “The World Beyond the High Rise” has an air of Thomas Newman about it. “The Vertical City” combines strings with analogue synths (reminiscent of John Carpenter) and melotron flutes. It’s the sort of hybrid, slightly off-kilter sound that you’d expect from Mansell, and it carries on through the rest of the score. It’s a score frequently reminds of “Noah”, but I don’t believe it’s ever quite as harsh, nor as impressive, though “Danger in the Streets of the Sky” comes within a whisker.

I am a fan of Mansell’s work and I’m pleased to see so many other reviewers rating “High Rise” very highly. However (and surprisingly), I fail to be impressed. There are several great cues, and a few more great moments, but on the whole I find “High Rise” a somewhat disjointed listen. To me it feels like Mansell created several really cool individual blocks and then assembled the score by placing and layering the blocks as and when necessary. What I’m missing is a sense of fluidity. I’m also taken aback a bit by the actual sound of the music. I don’t know whether the score was performed live or whether it was sampled, but (for the most part) it certainly sounds the latter. It sounds fake and at times even amateurish – and as a fan, I feel terrible for writing that.

Is it any good?

I am glad that there are still film-makers out there who allow this sort of musical experimentation. We do need someone like Mansell to keep pushing the boundaries, to keep kicking Hollywood’s shins and to show that there are alternate ways of scoring a movie.

As you would expect from Mansell, “High Rise” is quite a unique listening experience. It’s broody and mysterious. It’s kinda cool, and probably sarcastic, but it is uneasy – and that’s exactly its point. However, in contradiction to my own fan status, “High Rise” just doesn’t do it for me. To me, the music sounds fake and the composition feels disjointed; though it’s entirely possible that that is exactly the point. I’m sorry that, on this occasion, I like the idea far better than the actual result.

And still… I’m intrigued. Still I want to keep listening and find out what happens next. It’s not winning me over, yet I’m unable to turn it off. Mansell has crafted a score that I really want to like, don’t like, yet can’t let go. What the f**k dude?!

Rating [3/5]

Tracklist:

01. Critical Mass (2.18)
02. Silent Corridors (3.09)
03. The World Beyond the High-Rise (4.04)
04. The Vertical City (2.44)
05. The Circle of Women (3.27)
06. “Built, not for man, but for man’s absence” (3.29)
07. Danger in the Streets of the Sky (6.07)
08. “Somehow the High-Rise played into the hands of the most petty impulses” (3.16)
09. Cine-Camera Cinema (2.36)
10. A Royal Flying School (3.03)
11. The Evening’s Entertainment (4.07)
12. Blood Garden (3.41)


Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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