2017 Round Up Part 1
2017 Round Up – Part 1
Synchrotones presents its monthly round-up: a brief overview of soundtrack releases that didn’t get their own dedicated review. And sorry we missed the March edition. So let’s focus on those scores that got away. In this article Tyler Bates’ Belko Experiment and John Wick 2. Beltrami’s Logan, some xXx action from Brian Tyler; and Reznor/Ross remember Patriot’s Day.
“The Belko Experiment” (Tyler Bates, 18 tracks, 40.38, Lakeshore Records 2017). “I read the script several years ago when James Gunn wrote it, but once Greg McLean showed me a cut of the film, it sparked an interesting approach to scoring it than I had previously imagined: disturbing and emotional, yet non-orchestral,” Tyler Bates described. “Greg kept the incredibly dark sense of humor beneath the violence, which in turn kept me focused on the narrative.” The music is entirely electronic. It’s dark, aims to be suspenseful or terrifying, and consist mostly of drones and pulses. Regardless of how well this may or may not work within the film, as an album it’s boring and unpleasant. It’s like listening to a demo for one of those ‘cinematic’ sample libraries that are popping up left, right and centre. The album also contains Spanish versions of “California Dreamin'” and “I Will Survive” … no, I don’t think I will.
“Logan” (Marco Beltrami, 25 tracks, 57:33, Lakeshore Records 2017). “Logan was an extremely demanding but very inspiring film score to work on. Jim distilled the innovation of an indie within the framework of a tentpole,” Beltrami explained. “He played me scores he liked and which inspired the tone of the film for him — Taxi Driver, Paper Moon, The Gauntlet. He liked the directness and rough edges, the unpolished tone, the energy. Somehow I had to capture this while simultaneously creating a modern score. It did not need grandiose thematic music and verbose melodic statements. It was all about vibe.” Beltrami’s score for Logan is dark, quite obscure at times, and generally does not make for a great stand-alone listening experience. It’s interesting at times, when it seems influenced by 70s action movies (some crazy percussion/piano/brass stuff going off in “El Limo-nator” for example). More often though, it’s unpleasant with droning and distorted textures. Every now and then there’s some quintessentially Beltrami action-writing, but again… more often it’s disappointingly anonymous.
“XXX The Return of Xander Cage” (Brian Tyler and Robert Lydecker, 21 tracks, 70:47, Varese Sarabande 2017). “xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a wild movie and it needed a score to reflect the vibe that Xander Cage and his team has: attitude, skill, and a sense of humor about oneself.” said Tyler. “The music features an amazing orchestra which captures the emotion and epic qualities while the rock elements of the score reflect his hardcore attitude of the entire team in the film.” If you like Tyler’s action music, and I mean really like it, then you’re in for a treat. Seventy minutes of hyperactive string arpeggios, pulses, risers, stingers, etcetera. Production values are high; and each cue on it’s own is by no means bad (and for synth fans there are a few neat sounds and ideas on display). But the album as a whole is incredibly tiring. It’s an onslaught on the senses; one that I personally can’t tolerate for more than a few cues.
“Patriot’s Day” (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, 12 tracks, 68.33, Lakeshore Records 2017). Patriots Day is the powerful story of a community’s courage in the face of adversity during the Boston Marathon bombings. Says Director Peter Berg: “Trent and Atticus are a dream team. Stunning taste and vicious work ethic. I am humbled by their talent and passion.” Personally I wouldn’t go as far and say I’m humbled, but I guess the duo deliver an effective thriller score. The score relies heavily on unpleasant sound design juxtaposed with gentler sounds and piano. It’s a familiar recipe. A part of me doesn’t want to like this album. It’s too harsh, too distorted, too unpleasant, too much sound design and not enough ‘proper’ composition. Yet… Reznor and Ross are really good at what they do; and they manage to make their droning and pulsing quite interesting. And so, against my pretentious judgement, I find myself drawn into their musical world. And once you’re in there…it’s very addictive (at least for a little while).
“John Wick: Chapter 2” (Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, 23 tracks, 73:48, Varese Sarabande 2017). “Chad [Stahelski, director] wanted an Italian influence for the Rome storyline which inspired the use of cello, mandolin, operatic vocals; and in one instance the incorporation of elements from Vivaldi,” Richard described. “It was a matter of finding instrumentation and a musical language that alluded to Italy’s rich musical history while working within the gritty and modern sound of John Wick.” So for the most part that’s distorted synths, pulses, electric guitars and percussion. How very Italian of them! “The new film pulls no punches, weapons, or fighting techniques, which required the music to change gears and tone at every turn. It’s completely insane,” said Bates. “Joel introduced an element of opera to the score that really makes the dark sense of humor (buried in the floor with John’s weapons and coins) rather apparent.” You know what, I don’t care if there’s a pseudo-operatic vocal in one or two tracks… this is an all-out modern action score. Same old noise, nothing memorable or ‘humorous’ about it. If you enjoy these high-tech synth-driven action scores, then knock yourself out with this one, but let’s not pretend it’s anything more than that.
Reviews by Pete Simons (C) 2017 Synchrotones