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Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson)

March 10, 2018

I can’t remember* the last time I heard a score like Black Panther by Ludwig Goransson. It’s pure fun, inventiveness, stark raving bonkers at times, a bit odd but very clever and it has a killer main theme. It’s the kind of score that at first listen you don’t quite get; it almost feels as if something’s wrong, yet after a few listens all those oddities make perfect sense and the score is all the more memorable for it.

 

This is a rousing superhero score and an outlandish ethnic score rolled into one. It opens with mysterious guitar-play and soon turns to African chants and percussion. Interesting, the score introduces the ethnic elements first. Even musically we’re starting with Black Panther’s origin, his roots. The main theme is introduced in the second cue, albeit in a deconstructed variant. To me, the first two cues feel like a prelude; and it’s the next track, “Wakanda”, where the score really starts with African vocals, percussion and then that glorious brass fanfare. Initially it feels more like a motif, but then they key changes and a proper theme emerges… it’s glorious!

The album is full of highlights. The chanting and percussion in “Warrior Falls”, the passionate cello and dramatic string performances in “Ancestral Plane”, the ultracool beats in “Killmonger” and “Outsider”, the beautiful “Wake up T’Challa” and “A New Day” and “Spaceship Bugatti”. Other nice touches include the tongue-drum whose three notes represent the name T’Challa; and Killmonger’s theme which is achieved by shouting his name into a flute. Also, Goransson’s love for Horner’s danger motif does not go unnoticed and is much appreciated by this reviewer!

“Waterfall Fight” is in a class all of its own. It opens with harsh percussion and odd electronic groans (perhaps electric guitar). Someone means war, you can hear it. A bad-ass brass motif paves the way for an epic rendition of the main theme; which in turn makes way for a brass-and-choir fanfare of biblical proportions. To be fair, it feels a little out of place, but it’s just too much fun to complain about it.

Another one of such class-act cues is “Busan Car Chase”. For the most part it’s an insanely energetic action piece; but halfway through Goransson offers a magnificent rendition of the main theme. It’s not loud, but instead it’s very clever. Three horns start the theme a beat or two apart from each other, creating a cascading effect, for lack of a better way to describe it. It sounds ominous.

The lengthy “The Great Mound Battle” and “Glory to Bast” both offer a dazzling mix of orchestra, choir, chants, ethnic instruments and electronic sounds and effects. Both are ridiculously good fun, with the latter being more heroic. “United Nations End Title” is a great suite offering all the score’s highlights. It is brilliant, but does suffer from at least one dodgy edit that I now can’t unhear.

Black Panther (not to be confused with Tesco’s own Dark Panther) is so much fun, so inventive, so energetic and so clever, but it’s not entirely without flaws. It is a little repetitive, and I don’t think the mixing is consistent throughout the album. You could also argue that Goransson, perhaps, tried to put too much into the score. There’s a lot going on at any given time. But that said, Goransson’s enthusiasm can be felt in every single note, and it’s infectious! It sounds like a kid in a candy-store, and that’s kinda how I feel whilst listening to it. It’s a bit schizo and at times I think it lacks a little in finesse, but it’s all the more charming for it. For me, even at a whopping 95 minutes, the score does not outstay its welcome. In a word: awesome! [4.5/5]

Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson, 28 tracks, 95m, Marvel Music/Hollywood Records 2018.

P.s. I lied. * I do remember the last time I heard such a lavishly outlandish score: it was Mark Mothersbaugh’s Thor Ragnarok only a few months ago; still… it feels like a rarity.


Review by Pete Simons. (C) 2018 Synchrotones

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