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Dark Waves – Bellerofonte (Alexander Cimini)

September 10, 2016

Cover_DarkWavesDARK WAVES (BELLEROFONTE)

Alexander Cimini, 2016, Kronos Records
17 tracks, 58:24

Alexander Cimini showed great promise with the challenging, yet at times gorgeous, Red Krokodil. Will Dark Waves sink or swim… pardon the terrible pun.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Dark Waves is an Italian fantasy/horror film in which Sophiane, an ex French legionnaire, brings his wife Jazira to his new home: an ancient tower on the open sea. Day by day, they have to deal with strange events; and soon the couple has to face a past that both desired to forget. One day, while he is sailing, Sophiane finds three little gold nuggets and gives them to his wife. But they are in fact golden teeth that belonged to three pirates… and they rise from the water (and from death) to have them back. The film is directed by Domiziano Cristopharo, with a lush original score by Alexander Cimini. Both previously worked on the drugs drama Red Krokodil. Those familiar with the lavish, emotional cues on Red Krokodil will have a good idea of what to expect from Dark Waves.

What does it sound like?

What’s most striking about Dark Waves is just how lush and darkly romantic it is. There is little in the way of pure horror and action music here. There is some, but not much. “The Fog” is an eerie cue for wavering strings, faint vocals and distant piano clusters. It’s a highly atmospheric cue, without ever becoming atonal. “The Secrets Revealed” introduced vivid flutes and snares, making this cue feel a little more like a contemporary action sequence. And that’s it really where true suspense and action are concerned.

The album opens with the “Main Theme”, here performed by a small ensemble with a particular focus on piano (Alexander Cimini), solemn horn (Giovanni Lucchi) and female vocal (Monica Boschetti), backed by strings. The use of female vocal, which will return frequently throughout the score, inevitably reminds of Ennio Morricone, one of Cimini’s heroes. The liner notes reveal that Cimini deliberately applied a 1970s style and sound, akin to Morricone, Donaggio and Cipriani. Orchestrations aside, the main theme is incredibly lush. There are fragments that sound familiar, in that it has a few twists and turns (chord progressions) often associated with thrillers. There are 4-5 notes that triggered a memory of Marc Steitenfeld’s Prometheus; and you could argue that there’s something a little Christopher Young-ish about the main theme. That said, Cimini adds enough twists of his own to keep listeners on their toes. Much like waves, there is a certain up-and-down motion to this melody. There are a lot of rising notes here, giving it a romantic and hopeful feeling.

The next few cues follow each other really nicely. I usually apply a slight cross-fade between tracks in my media-player (so to avoid long breaks between cues) and it works particularly well here, as the cues just seem to flow into each other. I was already halfway through the album before I even realised it! Really, this is a testament to Cimini’s emotive writing and great album sequencing. “The Town” and “The Arrival” are atmospheric, but still lush, cues for undulating strings. There is a bassy undercurrent that seems to ebb and flow, like waves crashing on a beach.

“The Tower” starts off quietly with horn, sparse piano and a few eerie notes for strings; but about a minute into it the female vocal returns and the violins begin to swell. The main theme is reprised gloriously with Soprano Boschetti’s operatic vocals accompanied by a rich tapestry of strings. Boschetti continues to shine throughout “Love Scene” and “Hidden Mysteries”, where her voice is accompanied by Cimini’s own lyrical piano performances.

Ever since John Carpenter’s The Fog, I don’t trust this cloudy substance; and Cimini’s cue “The Fog” doesn’t help matters. Eerie strings and eerie piano create an unsettling atmosphere. Unsettling, but still musically pleasing. “Fragments of Memories” takes the listener on a journey of its own. Lush strings, vocal and a virtuous violin performance (by Roberto Noferini) take the lead here.

Elsewhere, in “Follow Me (Film Version)” woodwinds assume a more prominent role, as we hear clarinet (Giorgio Babbini) and flutes (Federica Bacchi) accompanied by strings and horn. Again, there is a beautiful lush theme here that’s simply irresistible. “The Secrets Revealed” is the score’s biggest action cue. Brass, percussion, flute runs, staccato strings and reverberating vocals dominate the first half of this cue. It’s very rousing and powerful, almost swashbuckling at times. It’s a great, pure cinematic cue, though the swashbuckling sound does come as a surprise after such an atmospheric and romantic-sounding score. Also, I can’t help but think it sounds a little different, as if it’s mixed differently (there seems to be a stronger presence of the higher frequencies; or maybe it includes additional samples).  Anyway, it’s a great cue, followed by a lovely “Farewell”.

And as if the score hasn’t been pleasing enough yet… we are now treated to a gorgeous end title cue called “Memories Lost in the Sea”, orchestrated for piano, horn, strings, vocal and cello (Sebastiano Severi). Now, with all due respect to the actual score… the highlights of this album are the two lengthy concert suites “Follow Me (Soundtrack Version) and “Bellerofonte (Concert Suite)”. Of course I’d recommend heading over to the Kronos website and getting the CD, but if nothing else, at the very least head over to iTunes and get these two suites. Cimini reprises the score’s key themes and the performances by the various soloists (especially the cello, violin and piano) are just magnificent – very emotional.

The album (at least: the CD version) finishes with “Love Song” by Marco Werba. Tonally it fits in with Cimini’s score, as it’s arranged for piano, cello and strings – but I struggle to get my head around this piece. There are recurring patterns, but no real melody. It’s quite dense and it’s quite clever in how it builds and builds and becomes more ‘anxious’ as it progresses, but that makes for an unnerving and unresolved ending after Cimini’s wonderful suites.

Is it any good?

Alexander Cimini’s Dark Waves (Bellerofonte) is a beautiful melodic score. Whilst it’s a thriller score with various typical suspense moments, it’s mostly an unashamedly lush and romantic work. Still, the overall sound is quite melancholy, as the orchestrations center mainly around strings, horn, piano and female Soprano. Woodwinds and trumpet are present, but rarely come to the fore. Sonically, it feels as if the score resides mostly in the lower to mid range; and only towards the end does it start to really include those higher frequencies, which make it feel as if the music is really opening up. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but that’s how it feels to me – and just so we’re clear: it’s not a criticism, purely an observation.

There’s something undeniably Italian about this score (if I may be so bold as to make such a sweeping stereotypical statement); and especially the use of female vocal reminds a lot of Ennio Morricone. On the whole, it is a melodic and emotive work. It’s beautifully written and orchestrated, performed with passion and it’s very easy to like. The two lengthy suites at the end are simply sublime.

Rating [4.5/5]

Tracklist:

01. Bellerofonte Main Theme (2:05)
02. The Town (1:56)
03. The Arrival (2:05)
04. The Tower (3:25)
05. Wine Like Blood (1:10)
06. Love Scene (2:33)
07. Hidden Mysteries (3:31)
08. The Fog (3:17)
09. Fragments of Memories (5:09)
10. Dressing (1:29)
11. Follow Me (film version) (3:11)
12. The Secrets Revealed (5:01)
13. Farewell (1:26)
14. Memories Lost in the Sea (End Credits) (3:40)
15. Follow me (Soundtrack Version) (8:26)
16. Bellerofonte Concert Suite (8:55)
17. Love Song (Opening Title Theme) (bonus track) composed by Marco Werba (1:52)

For more information and audio samples, visit the Kronos Records website.


Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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