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2017 Round Up Part 2

July 16, 2017

2017 Round Up – Part 2

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 … 3 Generations by West Dylan Thordson, 2:22 by Lisa Gerrard and James Orr, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword by Daniel Pemberton, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 by Tyler Bates, and tv’s Crazyhead by Stuart Hancock.


3 Generations” (West Dylan Thordson, 13 tracks, 26.38, Lakeshore Records 2017). 3 Generations tells the stirring and touching story of three generations of a family living under one roof in New York as they deal with the life-changing transformation by one that ultimately affects them all. The album opens with an odd song by KT Tunstall. It’s indie-pop meets 80s retro meets 70s prog rock. Thordson’s score offers a dozen, short atmospheric pieces. Common chord progressions tie these cues together. There is a very nice sound to them. It’s highly processed, possibly all sampled, and it’s got like a ’boutique’ and somewhat minimalistic sound to them. Most pieces revolve around piano, others around guitar or mallets. I don’t think there’s anything truly memorable here, but I do really enjoy this score.


2:22” (Lisa Gerrard and James Orr, 31 tracks, 93:26, Varese Sarabande 2017). The album opens with a handful of cool, indie pop songs, of which the electro-driven “Like It Or Not” by Bob Moses is my personal favourite. The score is by Lisa Gerrard who we don’t see too often these days, but who of course was mega-successful with Gladiator and The Insider. “The director was very sensitive to sound and tone,” described Gerrard. “There was scope in the score for a main theme for the two principal characters, Dylan and Sarah. This is played briefly at the beginning of the film with piano, and then resurfaces throughout in various different guises, culminating in the orchestra in the finale.” As you would expect from Gerrard, the music is atmospheric with a strong rhythmic drive throughout most of the album. The sound consists mostly of strings or string-like pads, softly pulsing synths, some guitar and piano, a few beats and some vocals. I struggle to identify a main theme as such, but I don’t think that is what Gerrard’s music is about anyway. 2:22 wavers between beauty, tension and mysteria. At 93 minutes it is a bit long, but as ambient scores go… Gerrard is a master and 2:22 has plenty of wonderful moments on offer.


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (Daniel Pemberton, 32 tracks, 91:06, Watertower 2017). A Guy Ritchie re-telling of the classic King Arthur story was never going to be conventional – and as a result, neither is Pemberton’s score. It’s a very nitty and gritty work that, arguably, has closer ties to rock and roll than it has to ‘traditional’ filmmusic. It’s full of drums, guitars, basses, scratchy violins and distorted vocals. To a degree it reminds me of Hans Zimmer when he gets a band together and starts jamming. Except, this is Pemberton on his own, jamming and experimenting and adding his own type of quirkiness to the music. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about Pemberton’s music that is uniquely his; a certain playfulness where others might get too serious. Also there is a transparency to his mix that allows you to hear and appreciate every instrument, every single note and sound, where others might be tempted to drown the sound in basses and reverb. Even when Pemberton employs the oh-so cliche ‘horn of doom’ it feels much more welcoming than it does elsewhere. This is not an easy score. It is wicked and at 90 or so minutes it probably overstays its welcome. But the music is of high quality, mostly intriguing and absolutely totally bonkers.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (Tyler Bates, 19 tracks, 43.34, Hollywood Records 2017). On the importance of the score in the film, which often gets overlooked in a film heavy with popular songs, director James Gunn says, “The one thing that is underappreciated is how important Tyler Bates’ score is to the first film. We still use the score from the first movie while shooting this film and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves because it gets so overshadowed by the soundtrack. There’s some beautiful score on that first soundtrack, and I know that the music we’ve written for the second film is even better. Tyler Bates has absolutely outdone himself, and we’re giving something very special to people with the music in this film, both the pop songs and the actual score.” Sure enough, there are a few exciting moments scattered throughout the score; yet for the most part I find it hard to sit through, even at its 43 minutes run time. To me it sounds like a score that is too simplistically written on the one hand, and over-produced on the other. The saving grace, in my opinion, are the orchestrations as they tend to bring this otherwise blandly written score to life. Especially the brass arrangements are quite imposing at times. The score has its moments of fun and excitement, but on the whole this one’s not for me.


Crazyhead” (Stuart Hancock, 25 tracks, 62:29, Movie Score Media 2017). “As a composer, scoring Crazyhead was a new stylistic departure for me,” explains Stuart Hancock about his 80s inspired, retro cult sound for the show. “I had previously worked with the team at Urban Myth Films to create the soundtrack for Atlantis, which had an epic orchestral sound, whereas Crazyhead called for a grungy, more electronic sound world with a nod to the classic retro horror scores of the likes of John Carpenter. It was a whole lot of fun to explore this style, and to contrast subtle emotional underscoring with a bold, eyeballs-out brutality for the action and horror.” I’ve become something of a fan of Hancock’s since hearing The Last Belle and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. He has a real knack for lovely, whimsical orchestral writing. Crazyhead, as explained by the composer, is a far cry from that style. It’s a fusion of rock and retro electronica. The high-energy grungy side of the score isn’t for me, I have to say; but I do like the electronics which often tends to be more laid back and atmospheric. It’s a very ‘current’ score, very much in line with what seems popular for television shows these days… retro synths, some high octane grunge. If you’re into that, then happy daze!


Reviews by Pete Simons (C) 2017 Synchrotones

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