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Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.171]John Powell and [c.1620]David Buckley ([m.39488]Jason Bourne), [c.809]Michael Andrews ([m.43169]Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), [c.58]Danny Elfman ([m.46315]The Circle), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 16 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-4-18]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.45455]Elvis & Nixon ([c.301]Edward Shearmur) and [m.41739]The Huntsman: Winter's War ([c.151]James Newton Howard).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.45455]Elvis & Nixon (6...
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.17923]400 Days Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-05-06]May 6, 2016. The album features the film's original music by [c.2012]Wojciech Golczewski.
"This score was created to set the general mood and atmosphere, especially for the first half of the film," said Golczewski. "It's claustrophobic, dizzy and brings all that stuff that can happen while you're locked for so long in small space with few other people to the surface. That is what I tried to underline with the music."
[m.44617]400 Days is currently available on VOD and...
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.17701]Elvis & Nixon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-04-22]April 22 and on CD [da.2016-05-22]May 22, 2016. The album features the film's original score by [c.301]Edward Shearmur, and classic tracks from artists including Blood, Sweat & Tears, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Otis Redding.
"The goal was to set a light and sunny tone for the film, that spoke to a sense of time and place and that hinted at the caper aspects of the story," said Shearmur. "We weren't trying to recreate or mimic an Elvis Presley sound, but music of the seventies, and specifically Memphis was definitely an inspiration."
[m.45455]Elvis & Nixon will be in theaters [dt.2016-04-22]April...
Soundtrack Picks: “THE JUNGLE BOOK” is the top soundtrack to own for April, 2016
Also worth picking up BEYOND: TWO SOULS, THE CAIRO DECLARATION, THE SAINT, THUNDERBIRDS and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) BEYOND: TWO SOULS
What is it?: Good, if not excellent things can come to those who wait, which can be especially frustrating when it comes to a world where instant, visual gratification always comes first before music that can be equally as gratifying (if not more so) than the game it’s attached to. Now finally after three years, listeners will finally get to dive into Lorne Balfe’s terrific score for the 2013’s “Beyond: Two Souls,” Game creator David Cage’s attempt to break down the line between movie and controller by having the player make choices that would creates fateful ripples across the rest of his experience – a la Cage’s seminal detective-themed “Heavy Rain,” as now given a sci-fi veneer. But where the ambition “Souls” ended up being more like watching a movie with some passive play than the fully interactive experience it intended to be, Balfe’s score truly elevated “Beyond” into a spectral, mind-bending musical realm that proved itself to be the genre’s answer to “Inception” when it came to expanding the melodic consciousness of game scoring.
Why should you buy it?: That Lorne Balfe was an essential part of Hans Zimmer’s team with additional music on “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” (a score that he also co-produced) says much for the epic orchestral element that distinguishes “Souls” – not to mention Balfe’s own music for such propulsive action games and films as “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” and “Terminator: Salvation.” By virtue of its length, “Beyond: Two Souls’ just might have had the most complex and involving plot of any of them as it explored the link between hunted government operative Jodie (Ellen Page) and her lifelong relationship with “Aiden,” a seeming alien symbiote closely watched by her scientific father figure Nathan (Williem Dafoe). Cast out of her assassin agency (is there any other kind?) and on the run, “Beyond” took Jodie into the homeless streets, a lab possessed by spirits and a Native American reservation, all leading to her ultimate understanding of Aiden’s true role in her existence – a gobsmacking revelation if there ever was one. While there were no shortage of guns to fire and creatures to fight, “Beyond: Two Souls” was far from the mindless first person shooting fun, allowing Balfe to write an uncommonly emotional score that stands as his best work.
Extra Special: There’s a truly beautiful thematic empathy to “Beyond: Two Souls,” beginning with a mournful, vaguely Oriental theme for Jodie, a little girl lost given a heavenly female voice and lush, assuring strings. It’s a gorgeous melancholy that haunts much of the score, where lullaby bells and poignant strings become her tormented childhood link to Aiden in “My Imaginary Friend.” A somber violin accompanies Dawkins angst-filled theme, whereas the invisible Aiden receives a ghostly theme of suspended strings and the beat of piano lost in some twilight zone, an “Infraworld” that fills with the vengeful force. It’s a determined momentum that drives “The Experiment,” where Aiden’s eerily building, spectral rage has a drum-kicking momentum to rival any of Leo’s dream team (maybe it’s not-so ironic that “Inception” cast member Ellen Page was recruited for this as well). But for the most part, “Beyond: Two Souls” is concerned with death and transfiguration, with Balfe’s theme finally bestowing a profound sense of deliverance. It’s a feeling of one’s place in the cosmic birth chord, and a game struggling beyond that to break the confines of being just mere button-pushing entertainment. At the least, Lorne Balfe’s gorgeous score certainly wins on that boss level.
2) THE CAIRO DECLARATION
What Is it?: Nothing seems to inspire glorious feelings for The Motherland like a flag-waving symphonic score, its citizens’ devotion embodied in majestically swirling melody. But then, you don’t have to open your Little Red Book to appreciate the stirring patriotism that westerner Chad Cannon, along with Chinese composer Ye Xiaogang put into “The Cairo Declaration,” creating the most sumptuous music to accompany a historical event most listeners on this side of the Atlantic have never heard of.
Why Should You Buy It?: The 1943 meeting between FDR, Churchill and soon-to-be overthrown Chinese ruler Chiang Kai-shek decided the who’d get Japan’s occupied territories once Tojo went down in flames – with the Island of Taiwan’s inevitable rule by Kai-Shek a remaining thorn in China’s pride. But here it’s all about future party crasher Chairman Mao guiding his country to glory, marshaling a swaggering epic full of romance and noble fighting – emotions considerably met by Cannon and Xiaogang.
Extra Special: Beginning his career as an additional orchestrator to empower the reptilian force of “The Desolation of Smaug” and “Godzilla,” Chad Cannon’s first major work as a composer is a grandly engaging historical opera, his fluency with Oriental rhythms impressively abetted by Xiaogang (“Shower”). With nationalistic movies of this sort getting a bit more sophisticated since The Cultural Revolution, Cannon and Xiaogang’s bring impact instead of roof-shouting patriotism to “The Cairo Declaration” for an especially smart and melodic score in the genre. There’s a terrific sense of momentum to their here, conveying a race against time as Japan and Nazi Germany’s clocks run out, reflecting both the weight of world powers and the innocents caught within it. The lush, romantic approach of John Barry and Nino Rota can also be heard in “Cairo’s” writing that makes signing a document as exciting, and emotional as possible, militaristic rhythm, pastoral strings, proud brass and tender strings getting equal measure in this impressive well-performed score by the Czech Symphony Orchestra, the album getting an especially lovely end son with “Pray.” But whatever one might think of who got the spoils of a horrible war, let alone Chairman Mao as ac action hero, “The Cairo Declaration” announces Cannon and Xiaogang’s epically humane talents with a consistently engaging twenty one gun symphonic salute to The Supreme Leader that’s universal, and apolitical in its impact.
3) DICKENSIAN / RIPPER STREET
What is it?: The music of Victorian-to-Edwardian England has never been more interesting given the likes of Hans Zimmer’s “Sherlock Holmes,” Charlie Mole’s “Mr. Selfridge” and John Lunn’s “Downton Abbey.” When given the spirit of such TV dream-team mash-ups like “Penny Dreadful,” the antiquated approach becomes positively hopping, especially as heard on English label Silva Screen’s releases of the BBC soundtracks to Debbie Wiseman’s “Dickensian” and Dominik Scherrer’s “Ripper Street,” shows whose desperation-caked cobblestones ring with exciting, unbuttoned vibrancy.
Why should you buy it?: “Dickensian” is turns the Marvel Universe into the Charles Dickens one as literary superheroes from such classic novels as “A Christmas Carol,” “Great Expectations” and “The Old Curiousity Sharp” search for the clues to unveil just who killed Scrooge’s partner Jacob Marley. It’s a most clever concept that brings out an especially playful side to composer Debbie Wiseman, a composer who’s managed to do impressive work while being corseted in costumes for dire period drama on the big and small screen like “Wolf Hall,” “My Uncle Silas” and “Wilde” Now really getting to loosen up with the mystery that’s afoot, Wiseman employs the quizzical cimbalom playing of Greg Knowles to pokily percussive delight. It’s music that you can imagine hearing if Oliver Twist matched wits with Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective from Baker Street. Yet for all of “Dickensian’s” high concept eccentricity, there’s no denying the melancholy of miserable childhoods and abusive adults that have made the triumph of the author’s heroes so affecting. Wiseman’s beautiful, low-key orchestral writing for The Locrian Ensemble of London gives “Dickensian” the pensive effectiveness of the sad souls that the author rallied for, all while being as fun as this material might allow.
Extra Special: Detective Inspector Edmund Reid and his Whitechapple coppers have investigated all sorts of post-Jack malfeasance in London’s worst neighborhood for this long-running series (with season 4 now to be seen on America’s Amazon Instant). It’s a “Ripper Street” paved with menacingly energetic consistency by Swiss composer Dominik Scherrer. Though he’s scored far-less roughhousing TV representatives of the English law like Miss Marple and George Gently, the no-nonsense H Division gives this music a particular, brute efficiency in combining such period-specific instruments as the cimbalom and fiddle with cool, modern-era percussion. It’s an approach that worked well for Zimmer’s take on Sherlock Holmes, and takes the gentlemanly gloves off here for very good measure in Scherrer’s hands. His “Street” is given a mean fusion of orchestral propulsion and sampled rhythm, music that collectively gives the first three season soundtracks assembled here a riveting sense of drive. But there’s more than rhythmic intensity to Scherrer’s approach as poetic melody also shines under its candle-illuminated spotlight. As played for haunted electric atmospheres and an aching violin, Scherrer lets us feel the high moral price paid to keep “Ripper Street” clean, a mournful lyricism every bit as powerful as a beat that could easily accompany a Yank CSI team investigating a serial killer. That’s all the more reason why “Ripper Street’s” score is effective in conveying the sound of turn-of-the-century England as it is the 21st century detective propulsion that could accompany a Yank CSI team on the trail of a serial killer, though it’s likely those investigators wouldn’t be singing a drinking hall chorus of “Eight Little Whores.”
4) THE JUNGLE BOOK
What is it?: With his father Louis Debney playing his part in the birth of Disney animation, it was only natural that his musically talented son John would get his start at the studio on his way to turning its beloved 1967 toon into an astonishing example of live action flesh and CGI fur. You can certainly hear the love tonight in Debney’s epic valentine to his alma mater, as well as the inimitable tunes of its greatest songsmiths The Sherman Brothers by reading “The Jungle Book” as it scales new heights for the composer.
Why should you buy it?: Debney has done an impressive job segueing from Mickey Mouse to the musical animal kingdom, of wolves (“White Fang 2”), huskies (“Snow Dogs”), cheetahs (“Duma”) and one goofy ursine (“Yogi Bear”) – most species of which join for one giant jam session with an endangered, if crafty man-cub named Mowgli. But if there’s one trick that makes this grandly ambitious “Jungle Book” work is that his frequent filmmaking collaborator Jon Favreau (“Zathura,” “Iron Man 2”) isn’t out to play stupid pet tricks. Instead, his wildly successful toon-to-movie adaptation is done seriously, the humor and affection stemming from the characters with honesty instead of wink-wink hipness. While it’s not as if Debney hasn’t done no small amount of Mickey-Mouse’ing for the younger set in this genre, “The Jungle Book” gives him his biggest opportunity to go for emotional character in a kid’s movie, and he runs wild with it. Vaguely set in the Indian jungle (though it could just as well be Africa), Debney goes with all-purpose exotica from ethnic drumming to Asian winds and percussion, all given a strong, orchestral grounding of strings and brass that’s always made Debney an unabashedly melodic composer. Not only is John Williams his spirit animal, but also John Barry is heard as well in passages that convey an “Out of Africa”-esque grandeur to his rousing, western-style jungle of string, brass and chorus. It’s a place of magical enchantment, but one resounding with the danger of the plenty of not-so-friendly critters who seek to make a meal out of Mowgli. There’s terrific, fun danger to “The Jungle Book” that brings out the roaring fangs of the far more adult, primal scores that Debney has done for the lethal menagerie of “The Relic,” “Komodo” and “Predators,” combining to make Shere Khan, a tiger who’d musically eat Mustafa for breakfast. His threat builds to some of the most flamingly exciting music that Debney has yet written, conveying true, serious drum-beating danger and choral, character-making heroism for the ultimate mano-a-mean kitty that makes no bones out of scaring the little ones. But then, it’s the humanity, jeopardy and warmth that Debney puts body and soul into one of his best scores that makes “The Jungle Book” sing.
Extra Special: While this movie will likely top the cartoon for the new DIsney generation, there’s no doubt that The Sherman Brothers’ tunes will remain eternal. And there’s certainly no bigger fan than Debney. A big joy of this “Jungle Book” is hearing how such classic tunes as “The Bare Necessities” and “Trust in Me” have been incorporated into the score, the themes effortlessly merging with Debney’s own to become hypnotically slithering storytelling, or a honey-sweet moment of floating bliss. The songs first given life by Sterling Holloway, Sebastian Cabot and Louis Prima are given pleasant new shadings here, with Scarlet Johansen’s husky voice making for a particularly seductive Kaa, Bill Murray giving a carefree New Orleans bounce to Baloo’s philosophy of the good life, and the Christopher Walken putting real streetwise menace into King Louie’s desire to be human (you’ll find more cowbell for him in a particularly ingenious sight gag).
5) LINK / POWDER
What is it?: Where Jerry Goldsmith was lionized for any number of inventive, mainstream scores like “Basic Instinct,” “Total Recall” and “The Wind and the Lion,” the composer had an equal knack for embodying idiosyncratic characters for movies well below the widely accepted radar like “Under Fire,” “The Salamander” and “The Traveling Executioner.” Goldsmith’s creativity flowed with noticeable enthusiasm for these soundtracks where he could show off his devilishly clever humor and emotional resonance, whether accompanying an orangutan manservant or a mystical albino.
Why should you buy it?: In his follow up to “Psycho II” for director Richard Franklin, Jerry Goldsmith was given the opportunity to play a not-so obviously lethal killer. Instead, “Link” was cute, orange-furred character that makes a terrifying transformation, but without benefit of turning into a reptilian creature in the bargain. Yet in terms of shear, simian-embodying humor, “Link” just might stand tall as the composer’s best comedy-horror score next to “Gremlins.” Likely realizing the goofiness of a homicidal orangutan dressed in a butler’s suit to service Terence Stamp (or put the goo-goo eyes on assistant Elizabeth Shue), Goldsmith instead gave “Link” his version of a monkey grinder theme, as opposed to the avant-garde jungle wind and percussion approach of “Planet of the Apes.” And where Gizmo and company might have had cat-like musical mewls, Goldsmith’s monkeyshines provide wacky ape vocalizations. With the orchestra likewise turned into the kind of three-ring circus that was Link’s previous home, Goldsmith breaks out the trusty fiddle, an instrument that’s provided him no end of sinister delight, whether it be signaling alien invaders from “The Twilight Zone” or the satanic antics of “The Mephisto Waltz.” Done at the mid-80’s height of Goldsmith’s love for electronic syncopation a la “Rambo,” “Extreme Prejudice” and “Hoosiers,” “Link” has synth bounce and sparkling atmospheres to spare, wonderfully blending with the orchestra for an unhinged energy. But make no mistake that for all of its delirious fun, “Link” is no musical joke to Goldsmith, who shows terrific, seriously suspenseful craft and pulse pounding runs in conveying this pursuit between lushly melodic beauty and the percussive beast. Given this eccentric carnival atmosphere, it’s no wonder that “Link” has been released, and subsequently sold out on numerous labels. Now the consistent 11-track presentation lands in La La Land’s lap (a monkey-obsessed label if there ever was one), with clever design by Jim Titus and Jeff Bond’s liner notes nicely detailing Goldsmith’s inventive affinity for playing with apes, of which “Link” stands as his most enjoyably playful primate.
Extra Special: Goldsmith would get to apply one of his most beautifully spectral scores to a lightning-attracting albino teenager for 1995’s “Powder,” surely one of the stranger live action films that Disney put out as it showed a pseudo human E.T. trying to adapt to a distrustful town that sees him as more threat than messiah. The best way to hear “Powder” is to imagine it as a continuation to the humanistic fantasy stylings he brought to Mel Gibson’s man out of time in “Forever Young,” as well as a precursor to the terrans striving to touch the stars in “First Contact,” Bucolic strings bring out some of Goldsmith most gorgeous thematic writing as he conjures a Christ-like figure who inspires a sense of wonder, the music soaring with the breathtaking, yet melancholy beauty of a character not destined for this earth, his persecutors given brass-filled menace.. One of the first major composers to get the electronic bug, Goldsmith’s use of synthesizers here are at their most lyrical in creating a sense of cosmic peace, joining with bucolic strings for long, enchanting passages, while instances of metallic eeriness recalls the approach of Vejur to further enhance to “Star Trek”-ian properties of “Powder.æ But above all, one senses the special attachment Goldsmith had to this film in the poetry it could bring out of his music’s more cosmically romantic reaches. It truly colors one of his most extraordinarily heartfelt scores, which now gets a gloriously complete presentation from Intrada, expanding the score by thirty minutes. Jef Goldsmith, who also provides perceptive liners for Goldsmith’s inner workings to primate’s fevered mind, makes “Powder’s” notes especially interesting by detailing the composer’s determination to make “Powder” light instead of dark.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. THE ARK AND THE DELUGE
Few film genres allow composers to write tone poems in the guise of scores like nature documentaries, their music getting to chronicle the grace, joy and life or death struggles of the planet in all of its infinite musical equivocations of the life force. Gabriel Yared set out to sea to in 1993 to sumptuously chronicle the glorious ballet between ocean and air. Hearing this glorious wash of melodic impressionism, you’re reminded that this Oscar-winning Lebanese composer just might be film scoring’s answer to France’s Claude Debussy, his “Deluge” a cross between the flowing, romantic strings of “La Mer” as crossed with the primal energy of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” At once magical and furious, Yared evocatively conveys a life and death dance of primal beauty. But then, the power of this remarkable “Deluge,” how Yared creates all of God’s aquatic creatures in the listener’s mind for a soundtrack that would be particularly welcome on the concert stage. Music Box’s release adds further bonus tracks to one of Yared’s most impressive works, with the composer explaining his embodiment of the elements in Sylvan Pfeffer’s informative liner notes.
. THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD
Before he became the go-to TV superhero scorer for DC with the likes of “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Supergirl,” Blake Neely was spending much of his scoring time during the first decade of the new millennium in the company of sweet romantic dramas like “First Daughter,” “The Wedding Date” and “Starter for 10.” One of his most delightful scores before he put on his cape was playing the amazing, jazzy mentalist tricks of 2008’s “The Great Buck Howard.” Director Sean McGinly based John Malkovich’s rage-prone mental illusionist on his own stint with The Amazing Kreskin, putting himself in the personage of Colin Hanks’ personal assistant who does his best to handle an outsized personality. While Buck might be on the decline in the sticks, Neely takes a fun, finger-snapping, brassy approach that sympathetically says “has been” with music that dances between nightclub kitsch and sweet empathy. Caught between an ego that still thinks it’s swinging and the wry, innocent humor of a harangued kid trying to look on the bright side, “Buck” impresses with energetic, lounge-lizard montages to a lushly thematic orchestral music. Percussive suspense becomes a magic act that seems like it might go south, yet is always pulled out of the musical mind hat. Played in a jazzy way that’s more old-school “Tonight Show” than with-it “Ocean’s 11,” “Buck” brims over with sympathetic themes that capture the spell of a showman that just might indeed have true powers. A movie and music that deserve discovery, La La Land gives recognition to Neely’s little, sparkling gem of score that continues to brashly enchant.
. THE INVITATION
A truly versatile composer when not superbly cranking out comedy scores like “Spy,” “Zoolander 2” and the forthcoming “Ghostbusters” reboot, Theodore Shapiro has shown an inventive affinity for typewriter-clicking drama with “Trumbo,” and creepily ethereal horror when ogling “Jennifer’s Body.” But it’s with “The Invitation” that Shapiro proves like never before just how unfunny he can be upon entering a suicide cult’s dinner party, as staged by “Jennifer” director Karyn Kusma. Given a bloody desert as served by hosts straight out Heaven’s Gate, Shapiro’s weapon of choice is a single, overdubbed violin to further ratchet the tension. Where string playing of this sort is usually used to dissonant effect in horror scoring, Shapiro’s handling of the violin is both cautionary and intoxicating, much in the weirdly blissful way of a cultist swallowing the evil Kool Aid, then realizing the awfulness they’ve ingested, Turning slowly-drawn unease into outright paranoia, Shapiro joins with ghostly vocals, and the deceptively strumming hippie-esque songs “Baby You’re Gone” and “O My Child,” written by Craig Wedren (another comedy vet also showing ghastly talents way beyond “Wet Hot American Summer”). Surprisingly thematic in weird structure and interesting in its bubbling, glisteningly hypnotic dread, this grandly unsettling “Invitation” neatly skirts the realm between accessible melody and Ligeti-like experimentation, inexorably building to its final, horrifying course where spare, tonal mayhem breaks out. Not since Thomas Newman took on “The Rapture” with blaring horns and piano percussion has the build to the cult-endorsed apocalypse (if a far more intimate one) been so unsettling, or uniquely interesting as when Shapiro puts on the red light. It’s an “Invitation” that the brave of art-horror music heart will want to accept.
. THE SAINT (1989)
The do-gooding bon vivant Simon Templar has been reincarnated in radio, television and film, as played by George Sanders, Roger Moore and Val Kilmer. However, his grooviest halo is heard by Music Box’s positively heavenly 3-CD release of the jazz-disco heroics that accompanied Simon Dutton over a series of TV movies in 1989. But listening to the swaggering saxes, punchy brass and romantically lush strings of Serge Franklin, you’d think you were back in 1981 spy dancing with Moore to the glitterball action of Bill Conti’s “For Your Eyes Only” (if not doing the Euro-nightclub twist on the moon to Derek Wadsworth’s stylings for the second season of “Space: 1999”). Just as Conti most certainly hipped up 007 for the Winter Olympics, Franklin goes for a heroically cool approach for this Bond-like hero, who’s has all of the Euro jet set accompaniments without the burden of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s a fun attitude that’s every bit about capturing the pop vibe of the moment as Edwin Astley did back in Roger Moore swinging 60 heyday. With his repertoire mainly in the French cinema and TV with the likes of “Hold-Up,” “Danger Passion” and “Eurocops,” Franklin got his English-language shot with this “Saint” revival (as well as his sumptuous work on a “Tale of Two Cities” miniseries – also on Music Box). Blessed with a memorably jazzy theme (complete with Saint creator Leslie Charteris’ angelic end vibes) that’s arguably the best to grace the character, Franklin scored the four “Saint” TV movies (three of which are head in this set) with his Templar motif always in mind, giving a terrific thematic drive that unifies their adventures. Locales are accented from the samba rhythms of “The Brazilian Connection” to the accordion and chorus of France’s “The Blue Dulac,” with silken strings, rocking guitars and stealth electronics creating a confidently calculated aura of suspense for Templar as he undoes schemes of child napping, jewel thievery and killer corporate takeovers. It’s crafty, brassily punchy stuff, composed with an overaching melodic finesse that makes even the kitschiest riffs hugely enjoyable. Had Moore indeed stayed spying to Conti, Franklin’s “Saint” soundtracks are likely the Bond scores we would’ve gotten through that decade, now served up for this slam-bang collection that hits the disco-era spy jazz floor with international aplomb, complete with Gergely Hublai’s liner notes giving a terrific summation of “The Saint’s” long history.
. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO: VOLUME 1
Though the decades of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s classic “Supermarionation” shows, the stirring, grandly thematic voice of Barry Gray made audiences believe that a puppet could fly – no more so then when piloting five spaceships called The Thunderbirds. Now spiffed up with a state-of-the-art mix of modelwork and CGI animation, “The Thunderbirds” has taken new flight on English TV, and soon America’s Netflix instant. Old school fans will likely miss the charm of wire-controlled marionettes and Gray’s straight-ahead scoring that nicely combined British patriotic pomp with hep 60’s pop. This reboot is pitched straight ahead for an adrenalized tween video game generation, with a scoring approach by brothers Ben Foster (“Torchwood”) and Nick Foster (“Rocket’s Island”) that manages to pack about twenty musical ideas into cues where Gray might fit one or two. But if his symphonic-pop approach seems positively slow in an future of ADD kid’s entertainment, the Foster’s definitely pay tribute the big screen musical spirit of what Gray set out to achieve in stirringly heroic, form. Ben Foster’s work with Murray Gold on giving a certain Time Lord a thrilling orchestral approach pays off nicely for listeners willing to listen to these Thunderbirds as their own musical animals. Just as effective as its fuel of strings and percussive sampling is “The Thunderbirds” playful retro approach, with the Fosters bringing a sense of world-travelling fun to their music, including John Barry-esque jazz spy adventure, sand-swept Maurice Jarre exotica, sultry rhythm for Lady Penelope and Daft Punk-ish rhythm. Driven by a strong, trumpeting theme, the Fosters “Thunderbirds” aim to please with an enthusiasm that proves surprisingly catchy, especially given the way its highlights from Season 1 breathlessly spill from one cue to the next over the 57 tracks on Silva Screen’s nicely packaged CD, throwing its kitchen rocketship sink of styles at the listener with the assurance that something will catch. These aren’t your grandad’s musical Thunderbirds to be sure. But the symphonic uplift at bringing a movie score quality to these spaceships is nicely on deck, and certainly no cooler than when the Fosters gives a tip of the hat to a classic Gray Thunderbirds March that definitely needs no strings attached.
. THE WANNABE
A seriously deluded low life couple make the big mistake of thinking they can rip off NYC’s connected Italian citizens, learning big time that crime of any sort doesn’t in this strange-but-true tale – one that previously made for 2014’s far superior “Rob the Mob.” But that’s not to say the following year’s “Wannabe” doesn’t have some mook charms to it, namely Patricia Arquette’s beyond-committed performance and an eccentric score by Nathan Larson. A seriously unsung composer when it comes to scoring hard to love losers in such indies as in “Palindromes,” “Choke” and “The Skeleton Twins,” Larson takes an emotionally similar approach to Stephen Endelman score for “Rob the Mob,” namely that this duo is on a romantic, dream-like carnival ride to a sad end. With fate presenting itself as hauntingly empathetic atmospheres where samples join with chamber strings, Larson creates carousel-like rhythms, unstrung percussion and a calculating bell-filled theme whose notes can barely hold themselves together. Jumbled rhythm drives the duo from one insane mafia hall heist to the next, with a muted, indie rock vibe creating an attitude that doesn’t do much to impress their Gotti-connected victims. Nevertheless, Larson is able to create the sense of a poignant, heavenly payoff of sorts, even if do-or-die attraction between these robbers is seriously off. Small scale in approach, but with oddball rewards, “The Wannabe” pays off far more than its couples seriously misconceived antics than reality did.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Moviescoremedia and Screen Archives Entertainment
[m.46314]Chasing Notes tells the story of the process of film composing through interviews by [c.1957]Jaymee Carpenter, a recovering drug-addict and former homeless man chasing his dream on a journey to become a film composer in Hollywood, while his family teeters on the brink of financial collapse. Set against this dramatic real-life tale are interviews from high-profile award-winning film composers. The film is directed by James Goodwin, a former Emmy Award-winning photojournalist. [m.46314]Chasing Notes will be featured at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Sunday April 24th at 3:15pm at The Island Cinema 999 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
[m.][m.46314]Chasing Notes reveals a year-in-the life of aspiring composer [c.1957]Jaymee Carpenter (who also...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.2349]Andrew Feltenstein and [c.2350]John Nau ([m.45109]The House), [c.50]Patrick Doyle ([m.46283]A United Kingdom), [c.1422]Ilan Eshkeri ([m.46253]Swallows and Amazons), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 43 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-4-11]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.43786]Barbershop: The Next Cut ([c.251]Stanley Clarke), [m.42414]Criminal ([c.1470]Keith Power and [c.361]Brian Tyler), and [m.39502]The Jungle Book ([c.45]John Debney).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking...
When it comes to wreaking musical mayhem, film scores from micro-budgeters to multiplex tentpoles have beaten the band with percussive savagery, raging strings and knife-stab samples. But where these soundtracks have tried be even more murderous than the slashing blades, gun shots and assorted blunt instruments they accompany, Brooke and Will Blair have shown that one can effectively conjure brutality by speaking softly and carrying a big ambient stick.
The Blair’s talent for lethally hypnotic minimalism has been an especially potent weapon in the films of Jeremy Saulnier. Mutually beginning their careers with 2007’s humorously sadistic indie thriller “Murder Party,” the trio got major notice with 2013’s “Blue Ruin.” For this devastating moral fable about two family’s endless cycle of lethal retribution, the Blairs’ often barely perceptible, but enormously effective scoring helped “Blue Ruin” create an unsettling mood of suspense with spine-chilling drones and nerve-tingling rhythm, a sampled approach that that carved a unique style for the siblings.
While the Blairs have brought more interesting touches to their intriguingly soft approach in shorts, documentaries and advertising (even getting their song “Slow Burning Crimes” into the positively sunny Disney film “Prom”), there’s still nothing like getting a killer band back together. Jamming with even more brutally beautiful tonality within the “Green Room,” the Blairs unleash mutual punishment between Patrick Stewart’s White Power Men and rockers who make the big mistake of opening their set with “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” – then further compound matters when blundering upon a backstage murder. It’s the perfect location in skinhead northwest nowhere for Saulnier’s siege film, a slam dance of box cutters, shotguns and throat-thirsty pit bulls whose handling is as cleverly unexpected as the Blairs’ music.
As the punk and metal songs rage, the composers provide a restrained contrast, their drifting melody at first as peaceful as can be, even over earbleed songs. Given the more mainstream story of “Green Room,” The Blairs definitely do raise their voice here, if still not within the level of a typical action-scoring scream. Angry guitar chords, suspended percussion and gurgling samples convey a mesmerizing atmosphere of metallic dread, sustains and samples rising with each inevitable assault. It’s grimly effective, exciting, punk-spirited scoring that looses none of its edge for its intellectual approach as the Blairs try to navigate an escape from “Green Room’s” mosh pit of white power savagery.
Do you think being brothers made you have a natural “synch” as musicians?
Will Bair: Yes and no (I bet Brooke answered “no and yes”). We grew up learning music simultaneously. All of our initial discoveries about music, performance and production were shared and so we developed a musical vocabulary that was very much “ours”. We can quickly call on musical devices or approaches that might require a long explanation for other collaborators. This can speed up our process at times. But we’re also different people with different tastes and ideas of things we’d each like to hear. Often the work we are most proud of is a pretty equal contribution of these individual ideas.
Brooke Blair: I do think that we have a little bit of an uncanny ability to know what the other might play or suggest at any given moment. A lot of that comes from just playing together so much over the years. We’re so intimately aware of each other’s musical comfort zones that we tend to push each other into new areas, and this is when we do our best work, when we are both stretching a bit and taking chances. We tend to agree what the ultimate goal of any composition should be, but we might not always agree on how to get there. Great ideas can come from the friction that happens when we have to work to make both of our ideas fit and gel together.
Did both of you become interested in music, and scoring at the same time?
WB: For sure. We’re a little over a year apart, so music in our household took on a new importance for both of us right around the same time. It was something we wanted to explore rather than just listen to, and I think our mutual interest helped push each other further and at times create a little healthy competition.
I think with that in mind, movies and the importance of music on movies became very apparent around the same time as well. We grew up in the early 80′s, a time when film scores were very apparent, dense and predominate in the mix, (relative to some quiet scores today), John Williams, John Carpenter, etc. Scoring however seemed far less attainable at that age, we were interested in just playing music with other people in a room, and eventually recording and performing. I think that’s a great place for any composer to start.
As far as our scoring work specifically, yes this seemed to occur at the same time as Jeremy Saulnier asking us to contribute music to his short films while we were in college. He included us as a pair, and although we pursue creative things on our own, our scoring work has always been a partnership.
When you teamed up, was there any worry that it would have any effect on your familial relationship if you ran into creative differences. And when that happens, who wins?
WB: Absolutely. We’ve been in bands together and on the road together most of our lives. Pretty much always been in each other’s space, so conflict is part of the deal! We’ve gotten pretty good about working around it and getting along great, for the most part. We’re definitely an unusual type of brothers in that we create and collaborate together, we’ve formed a business with our work together, and we spend holidays together. But we make it work and the advantages far outweigh the bickering.
As far as “winning,” I think we rarely let something go until we’ve compromised or found away to let it go and move on. I don’t think either one of us ever wins or loses. We dig a collaborative approach to both music and business, rather than competitive, and I think that attitude spills into our brotherhood.
What was it about minimalism that struck you? Did you have any favorite composers in that style?
WB: To be honest, I don’t know if we’ve consciously gravitated toward a minimalist approach. We absolutely agree that a singular instrument, with the right tone, played within the perfect space, can speak just as boldly as a large ensemble. We enjoy the music of people like Nils Frahm and William Basinski who might share a tendency towards that general approach. We think there’s significant power in restraint and simplicity. But we never have looked at our scoring as, “this is our music, this is our approach, let’s see where we can make it fit.” It’s always been the movie first. The movie itself, and of course the ideas of the director, not only influence, but directly coerce a certain approach out of us. A lot of projects we’ve worked on, perhaps coincidentally, have very lean casts, minimal dialogue, contained settings. We feel the music needs to match the scope of the production and the story. Of course there could be a decision to juxtapose a densely arranged, complex piece of music, with a simple quiet scene, but for us that’s rare. In other words, we’ve yet to score a big sweeping epic period piece, my guess would be we’d score that much less minimally while still embracing a fondness for simplicity.
What do you think is the key to making minimalism interesting?
WB: The human texture of an instrument. Sonic byproducts of an instrument being played, breathe, f noise, air, mechanics. Unless overdone and distracting, these elements become as big of a part of the overall sound as the tone of the instrument itself. As far as synthesizers go, we build almost all of our sounds and patches ourselves, from a real world sound source. So although the sounds might get significantly manipulated, we try to preserve any performance noises we’ve captured.
How did you first come to Jeremy Saulnier’s attention with “Murder Party,” which is far more of a black comedy than his following films?
WB: We grew up with Jeremy! Our older brother was friends with his sister- our parents were friends. He was the kid in the neighborhood with the Super 8 camera and cap guns as we formed our first bands. I think this is a common story with long-term director/composer relationships. We were sketching music together for his early (even darker/funnier) short films long before “Murder Party.”
Jeremy’s next film “Blue Ruin” might be one of the most powerful micro-budget dramas I’ve seen. Was the musical approach to that film necessitated by how indie it was, and how do you think it played into “Blue Ruin’s” strengths?
WB: Again, to continue on the idea that the film itself (not necessarily the budget), dictates a certain direction to take the score, “Blue Ruin,” the picture, wouldn’t allow for much more music, or volume, or layers than what’s there. We tried an early rough draft score that was much more thick and moving, much more percussion. It wasn’t working. It was distracting and obvious. A big part of the “Blue Ruin” scoring process was having Jeremy in the room with us, reducing. Just removing layers and cues until it seemed to breathe a bit more.
What was it about “Blue Ruin’s” violence that struck you musically? And how do you think Jeremy’s taken on bloodshed enhances his films in general?
BB: The violence in “Blue Ruin” definitely comes out of nowhere in a very brutal, shocking and realistic way. For the most part, the score helps maintain the overall atmosphere and mood of the film, and even when the violence ramps us, the score never fully peaks alongside those moments. We found it far more effective to keep the score restrained and simply let it be the atmosphere of the film, as opposed to having big moments scored tightly to picture. The sound design in “Blue Ruin” did a lot of the heavy lifting in that respect. Those violent moments work so well because you can hear EVERYTHING , and that’s very uncomfortable. We basically tried to stay out of the way of that.
Jeremy’s approach to bloodshed is so realistic and unsettling, and it’s done in a way that’s the opposite from how bigger Hollywood movies tend to deal with violence. There isn’t anything cartoonish about it and it ’s not perfectly choreographed, it’s sloppy and it’s messy. Jeremy’s use of violence is so effective because it feels unbelievably up close and personal.
Were you ever into punk rock before entering the “Green Room?” And if you played in bands, did you ever have a particularly intense experience that you could apply to this score?
BB: I was never fully into the punk scene, although one of my favorite all time bands is Bad Brains….go figure! It was a pretty exciting thing for us to have a track directly after Bad Brains in the end credits for “Green Room,” We tried really hard to include them on the soundtrack release, but no dice.
I can’t say that throughout our years playing in bands that we had any intense, awful experience that might inform the score, and I’m grateful for that. We did get paid in chicken wings one time after playing a show in West Virginia. Most of the folks at the bar didn’t seem to be enjoying our music as well, so maybe that’s our closest “Green Room” moment. There weren’t any machetes, boxcutters or pitbulls at that show, just blue cheese stains on our shirts and not a lot of gas money after the gig.
Given the savagery of “Green Room’s” punk songs, did you want the sparseness of your score to serve as a contrast, especially in one effective musical scene where the song dips out and is taken over by the score?
BB: A big part of what dictated the size of the score was how much space it was going to be able to take up. We did our best to write around the space that the punk songs were taking up. It was important that the score didn’t fight with the punk tracks. A large portion of the score is in the low end of things, which worked well in lots of areas. In the first third of the film however, there’s a lot of music coming through the walls of the venue in to the green room, which translated as a lot of muffled bass sounds. In those moments we wrote parts in higher registers and used sharper sounds that could cut through some of that.
Overall, a fairly stripped down score was what worked the best in this world. It’s not until a very pivotal scene underneath the venue that the score really becomes heavy and dense, and that was a moment that the score had to carry the tension for a long period of time. We got to go pretty big in that moment.
The sparseness of the score also was dictated by how much sound design was going on in the film. Sonically, it’s a very dense mix, there’s tons of music, yelling, guns, fighting, snarling dogs, and a lot of dialog, so we had to keep things simple in order to fit in with all of that. The mosh pit moment where the score takes over is a really special moment for the score. It’s not at all what you’d expect, but once Jeremy explained the intent of that scene, it really made sense to go with something very beautiful, ethereal and peaceful. Everything is in perfect balance, which is the calm before the storm!
How did the far “cleaner” look of “Green Room,” and the presence of such major stars as Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin leveled up the film, and the score?
WB: If anything this score got much dirtier, relative to “Blue Ruin” at least. Again, this was an effort to compliment the story and the setting itself. The stakes seem a bit higher, the body count more, the aggression and claustrophobia and tension feel more constant, and all of this is framed by a gritty punk rock aesthetic. So we maintained a dirtier edge to the sounds we used in general. Although there’s bigger names in this film, their characters are dark and grizzled, as is the setting, so we aimed for the score to reflect that.
Given so much hardcore punk in “Green Room,” did you want the score to have an ephemeral, at some times Zen tone to provide a contrast to the mayhem on screen, especially given how peacefully the score starts?
I think the opening of the score captures a band on the road. The freeing, nostalgic sense of travel and camaraderie and music. We lived that life, together for years on the road in bands, so it was amazing to see Jeremy capture that so accurately. That portion of the score came very naturally as we’d literally experienced what we were watching. Fortunately we’ve never been through the latter 80% of the movie, those cues were a bit more challenging. But again, our aim was to weave through the on-screen punk, maintain tension and suspense and claustrophobia, and raise blood pressure without being noticed. Becoming meditative at times wasn’t an initial goal, just where we ended up.
How did you want the instrumentation of punk rock to play into “Green Room’s” score, especially when it came to its guitar chord elements?
BB: We wanted to maintain the aesthetic and feel of punk rock without actually having anything overtly punk in the score. It had to co-exist with the punk music playing in the club speakers for much of the film. One thing Will and I talked about was capturing some of the energy in the space just before a count off of a punk song, right when the guitar player might let go of the strings and catch a few seconds of feedback, hands sliding on strings, a kick drum pedal squeak…. the sounds that fill up those few seconds in pause, that was our focus.
We wanted a roughness and rawness in the sounds, and even though much of the score was laid out keyboards, it had to feel very organic and of the punk rock world. We used a lot of feedback and guitar sounds pitched way down to create bass synths. After turning in a few early sketches of cues that Jeremy used as temp music, we re-delivered new mixes that were “cleaned up” a bit too much and Jeremy had us revert back to the rougher, “demo” sounding tracks. We kept that approach intact as we mixed the rest of score as well. We left things very rough around the edges and imperfect.
What are some of the other elements that give “Green Room” its sound?
WB: Feedback. That moment when you plug in a guitar or microphone and you’re met with a hideous squeal. That’s where the score started. We needed an unpredictable and harsh enough group of tones that could cut through and exist alongside the on screen punk rock, but be harnessed in a way that could be played melodically. Strings or pianos wouldn’t cut through nor match the aesthetic of the film. So we recorded a days worth of feedback in the studio, microphone feedback, guitar feedback, we hyper mic’d a drumset and cymbals and a trombone and a xylophone and got them all to create feedback. An obnoxious tone you would normally try to avoid in a live or recording environment. But here we tried to encourage and create and harness that. These raw samples were then made into playable, chromatic virtual instruments. When under a microscope, they squeal and shift pitch in all sorts of random directions, and to us they read as violent and rebellious sounds, although they’re played delicately at times. Maybe a dozen or so, of these custom feedback instruments make up about 85% of the score. They’re supported by deep bass synths, percussion and a little strings and pianos.
Giving its brooding synth sustains, do you think there’s a “retro” electronic quality to this score that recalls such other classic old-school siege movies as “Assault on Precinct 13?”
WB: The movie itself seems to recall that sort of film, so yes! We can see how that comparison could be made. Jeremy is a big fan of Carpenter’s scores (as are we. However, we all tend to simplify a little bit these days. We’re hesitant to let moments of the film start to play out like a music video. We always want to accompany tastefully, unless we’re directed to write something intended to jump out at you.
Was it particularly tricky to find a tone to the score that wouldn’t turn it into an outright horror soundtrack?
WB: Well with the feedback synth sounds we built- we designed a handful of them to almost read as strings (but with a dirtier more electrified origin of course), so they could do the emotional heavy lifting of strings. High-pitched tremolo and sharp stabs, etc. So by not using what could be considered a sound (high strings) specifically associated with classic horror, we got in that similar range, so we could use them to frighten, in the way that they’re played or arranged. The sounds and tones themselves come from source more associated with rock n roll, guitars and such, so perhaps they don’t make you think of horror as directly when you hear them. That was the intention at least.
How did you want the score to build up the tension, especially when it came to spotting where it would come in, and how layered the score would get?
BB: We wanted the score to feel like something was always about to happen, always moving forward, but it rarely explodes into something. There’s a lot of restraint and bubbling energy in the score, and more often than not, the imagery on screen serves as the eruption. We had to decide when to move out of the way and let the sound design take over. There were two main ways in which we built tension in the score. One was the claustrophobic and abrasive feedback sounds that only let up every so often, almost to the point of having the audience feel like, “I’m not sure what I’m hearing, but I wish it would stop”. The other was the presence of heavy, deep bass and low end that always there, pushing along the procedural type of assault being mounted by Darcy (Sir Patrick Stewart) and his crew on the trapped punk band.
The score starts out as very light and atmospheric, and slowly grows into moments of layered chaos and bursts of distorted impacts, and then it all retracts into low pulses and percussion, over and over again, getting bigger each time. In the beginning of the film, the score has to blend in to the punk rock music that takes up a lot of space in the mix, but once the film moves into the second act, the score begins to grow and evolve and takes up more space, without ever becoming too musical or over the top. Jeremy has always encouraged us to keep the score fairly “invisible” and to blur the lines with sound design. I think this is why people react to his “brand” of tension. It’s super realistic, because Jeremy makes you forget you’re watching a movie. All of the moviemaking magic is kept very subtle and seamless, and that allows for very gritty and raw experience, and the score is a part of that approach.
In general, do you think the hardcore violence in “Green Room” is even more effective when the music is doing less over it?
WB: Yes, less is more. If you watch someone getting sliced apart with a sharp object, in real life, there is not an accompaniment other than the sounds of the attack itself, and emotions. (I would imagine, at least.) So we allow room for Jeremy and his sound team to totally freak you out with the sound design, then we just want to layer in the grossest emotion you might feel while watching that. It’s not melodic or scary or too musical. The intent for those scenes was just to make music that felt entirely disturbing. However, whenever the violence incorporated a chase aspect- quickly fleeing or escaping – we had to take on a different role. We used much more momentum and percussion and relatively steady tempos, again without ever becoming too rhythmic. If someone is chasing you and you’re scared for your life, you don’t feel a four/four electro beat. You would probably “feel” something much more chaotic and random. We hope we helped keep the violence grounded in reality, perhaps making it more effective by not over scoring.
Is there ever a point when this kind of stuff becomes too much for you to watch, or does the very act of watching violent scenes over and over numb you to them?
WB: A little of both. Always seeing it for the first time is a shock, and like anything else there’s a process of desensitizing. But again, what’s amazing is the multiple layers and teams of people that come together to make certain gruesome scenes feel so real. It’s really a collective effort of not just amazing practical effects, but sound (which plays a huge part in grossing you out!), post visual effects, music, color, etc., Keep in mind, that sometimes we start working on a version of the picture without these final elements and we have to use our imagination a bit. The gore factor is not fully there when we first see it. The final experience in the theater, among people you don’t know, after having had a break from it for a bit, is always pretty disturbing all over again.
Do you think there’s a violence in general society, particularly at Donald Trump rallies, that makes “Green Room” particularly nightmarish when it comes to “liberal” punks being attacked by angry white rednecks?
WB: I think watching that sort of violence, fueled by real hatred and ignorance, is far more horrifying than anything we’d see in “Green Room.” Sorry, Jeremy! Maybe in that sense, “Green Room” could be perceived as scarier, because it really happens.
You’ll next have “Live Cargo” opening. Could you tell us how you played human trafficking? And what can we expect with your scores for “Backcountry” and “Diverge?”
WB: The human trafficking aspect of “Live Cargo” is one piece of its sonic puzzle. There’s an implied religious undertone, and a very diverse cast set in a black and white version of the Bahamas. So there’s a lot going on. We looked at more, I’m reluctant to say, “world” elements, but with a much wider range of sounds and instruments than “Blue Ruin” or “Green Room” for example. You’ll hear church organs, and a choir, acoustic guitars, and gritty “sandy” synthesizers.
“Backcountry” was an entirely different approach we hadn’t really done before. (I’m reluctant to go into too much detail in the score as it could be spoily…) But we were encouraged to write from an internal perspective of a certain character. It’s a musical inner monologue that allows the score to develop as this particular state of mind evolves. (Or devolves ). Our instincts were to first start to detail what we see in the setting; winter, snow, vast, lonely wilderness, but our director Rob Connolly kept encouraging us to get back into so and so’s head. We used some very bizarre sounds, I’ll say that.
BB: The score for “Diverge” might be one of our most melodic scores so far. It’s a sci-fi thriller, so we were responsible for a good amount of tension, yet we were also able to explore some really tender, beautiful and ghostly moments throughout the film. The majority of the score features atmospheric synths and organic pads balanced with pianos, bowed guitars and mellotron. One of the more unique and interesting virtual instruments we built for the score was made from four layers of bowed piano strings, all played at different speeds and in different octaves. It gave us this really frantic, jittery sound that felt electronic and organic at the same time. It’s abrasive at first, and then becomes sort of hypnotic as it grows and evolves, so it pulls you in a couple directions. It became an important sound that we kept coming back to for specific moments in the film.
We also had the opportunity to score the end credits, which is always such a fun way to tie a lot of the score elements together into one piece. We were also able to do this for “Live Cargo” and “Backcountry”. It’s always the last thing to get done and it feels like putting a huge period on the score. It’s a great device to leave the audience in the world and mood of the film, rather than cut to a song. When a director is open to it, we like to push for it.
Can you imagine Jeremy’s films getting even more intense in the future, and your music along with it?
WB: Absolutely – I think he’ll make very powerful movies for sure. We’d like to see how our music changes and evolves as his films do. I have a feeling he’ll also shift into new territories and genres perhaps. He’s a very funny guy, with a very dry sense of humor that could work well in dark comedies. More laughs, less blood. We’d like to see that happen and see how we could help support that musically.
In the same way that Jeremy’s broken out of the “indie” world, would you both like to go Hollywood with a more “mainstream” score? Or do you think there’s more freedom with scoring lower budget films where the scoring can be present in different stylistic ways?
BB: We joke that we’re not sure if we ever need to do a big, superhero movie, but who knows? It is a goal of ours to work on projects where the scope of the score is a bit larger. We’d love to add in more string arrangements and possibly some soloists depending on what type of film we’re working on. It’s always fun to be given the opportunity to score moments in a film where the music takes over and moves upfront.
There might be a bit more freedom in scoring indie films simply because we’re beholden to a smaller number of people. We’re usually just working with the director, and maybe a producer or two at the most. It’s hard enough to get a small group of people to all agree on 40-50 minutes of music for a film, and although we haven’t had any big Hollywood experiences I’d imagine that it might be harder to satisfy a larger group of producers and executives. We’ve been very fortunate that all the directors we’ve worked with have had a lot trust in us and protected the creative process. As long as that dynamic is intact, we could see ourselves working on bigger films, for sure. Bigger budgets wouldn’t be a bad thing, that translates into having the freedom to try new approaches stylistically and push the envelope a bit.
Beyond being brothers, what do you think makes you an effective musical team?
BB: Even though we’re brothers, and we agree about many things in music, we have very different approaches to making music. In a very practical sense, we’ve each gravitated to playing certain instruments that the other doesn’t. In a broader sense, Will tends to focus on the bigger ideas, the over arching themes, the big picture stuff. I like the small details; the sounds we use, the mixes and the production of our music. Will tends to map things out and to take his time with his ideas, whereas I like to hit record and jump in and experiment. When things are really flowing for us, all of the differences tend to compliment each other nicely.
Every now and again these different approaches to music making can be in direct conflict. We usually have to push through several ideas to get back on the same page. There are also times where we simply present a few differing approaches for a scene to the director and see what speaks to them. That can put us back on track to focus our efforts on one idea. Ultimately, the director gets a unified vision from us, but what makes us effective is that we can approach the film from many angles, and sometimes they can be polar opposite ideas. One scene in a film can work with a dense and heavily layered cue just a well as a single, thin and brittle sounding instrument. What makes scoring so fun is seeing how drastically music can alter the feel and pacing of a scene, and there are so many ways to do it.
“Green Room” opens on April 15th, with its soundtrack available on Milan Records HERE
Buy the “Blue Ruin” soundtrack HERE
Visit The Blair Brothers website HERE
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the global leader in music rights management, will present the BMI Icon Award for outstanding career achievement to prolific composer [c.151]James Newton Howard at the Company's 2016 Film & Television Awards. In addition, [c.147]David Newman will receive the Classic Contribution Award for his advocacy of film music performances in concert halls, most notably through his work with the American Youth Symphony. The annual ceremony will be held Wednesday, May 11, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. The private event will also honor the composers of the past year's top-grossing films, top-rated primetime network television series and highest-ranking cable network programs.
BMI will bestow the Icon Award to [c.151]James Newton Howard for...
ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records
If it’s true that two heads are better than one, then hard-ass, high-tech action scoring might offer no better proof than Keith Power and Brian Tyler’s collaboration on “Criminal.” Truly fusing a teaming that’s taken Power from Tyler’s technical assistant on such scores as “Tokyo Drift” and “Bangkok Dangerous” to co-composing for “Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” (while keeping up his own work with the likes of “Convict” and “I Hate Valentine’s Day”), “Criminal” marks a big Hollywood step up for the prime enabler of Tyler’s blockbuster approach to rhythmic excitement – as taken to a new, darkly mesmerizing realm.
Directing an even more elaborate killer after “Iceman,” Ariel Vroman’s film has the DNA of a deceased CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) injected into the brain of a death row psychotic (Kevin Costner), with the world at stake in what this meeting of the good and bad guy minds might reveal.
Given the strong music personalities of composers with singularly prolific careers, Power and Tyler mainline harsh trip-hop beats with hypnotic electronic atmospheres, vocal samples and organic strings creating the emotion of a lost family and and the emotional rescue they represent in a chase to avoid nuclear annihilation.
The relentlessly cool result is a sci-fi centric, state of the art action-suspense scoring, as today’s often familiar rave-beat approach to guns, fireballs and bad behavior pushes the envelope. It’s a score that might just mark the mostly distinctively offbeat score for two rhythmically aggressive musicians, fusing their talents to new heights of creatively futuristic adrenalin. Now on a new episode of “On the Score,” Keith Power and Brian Tyler talk about getting inside the multiple, hard-edged thoughts and outwardly explosive actions of the “Criminal”
Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to DownloadBuy the Soundtrack: CRIMINAL Buy the Soundtrack: NOW YOU SEE ME Buy the Soundtrack: FURIOUS 7 Visit Keith Power’s website Visit Brian Tyler’s website Buy tickets for Brian Tyler Live in London
Lakeshore Records will release [a.17912]The Girl in the Photographs Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-04-29]April 29, 2016. The album features the film's original score by [c.1739]Nima Fakhrara. This is the final film executive produced by horror legend Wes Craven.
"The idea behind the music was to create something with a very classical horror score in mind," said Fakhrara. "We wanted to capture something of a throwback to the horror genre and the classic horror movies."
"One of the most important things about this movie was to make the killers human, feel their emotions, and have the audience care for them," Fakhrara explained. "The opening kill captures their dread and their hunt. For me it was important to capture their environment and...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.151]James Newton Howard ([m.41253]Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), [c.237]Hans Zimmer ([m.46246]The Last Face), [c.752]Alexandre Desplat ([m.46242]American Pastoral), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 46 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-4-04]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.36971]The Boss ([c.630]Christopher Lennertz), [m.44234]Demolition (no composer), and [m.45505]Hardcore Henry ([c.17756]Darya Charusha).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.17584]Pee-wee's Big Holiday Original Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-04-08]April 8 and on CD [da.2016-05-06]May 6, 2016. The album features the score from the Netflix Original Film [t.44789]Pee-wee's Big Holiday composed by [c.139]Mark Mothersbaugh.
Mothersbaugh re-enters the world of Pee-wee Herman blending his unique style and humor into his score. It was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios in London, England. He used smaller ensembles, guitars and synths, and also "a rather large group of Londoners and a chorus made up of their closest singing friends." Mothersbaugh joked, "The singers were great, but it was hard getting them to stop singing in a British accent on the New York, New York musical number."
The "Hollywood Music Workshop" (HMW) lined-up an amazing roster of top Hollywood composers, orchestrators and arrangers to teach Master Classes this summer in Austria. For the first time students will have the opportunity to record with an 18-piece string orchestra at the brand new "Synchron Stage Vienna" Recording facility.
"I am tremendously excited to be returning to Vienna this summer to teach at the Hollywood Music Workshop", says [c.631]Joe Kraemer. "The classes will be in the Music City of Baden, so I am looking forward to expanding my view of Austria's beautiful country".
The HMW was founded by classical violin soloist and sought after Hollywood studio violinist Dimitrie Leivici and producer/ radio host/ musical actress Lilo Bellotto. For the past seven years HMW...
Since producer Gene Roddenberry launched his “’Wagon Train’ to the stars” on September 8th, 1966, the universe of the show’s visionary creator has expanded through multiple incarnations of spaceships and crews on viewer screens big and small. Through five decades, it’s been a tonally consistent universe, which is no small feat given the utopian concept’s many, enthusiastic voices, especially among the hundreds of hours of music created by numerous composers. Starting with a boldly thematic approach for the “Classic Trek,” the scoring became harmoniously homogenous for the show’s re-launch with “The Next Generation” and its subsequent syndication spin-offs. But in theaters, “Star Trek’s” music gloriously hearkened back to the more conventionally cinematic approach in the captain’s chair as it was handed from Kirk to Picard and back to Kirk again.
Now turning the music of “Star Trek” into a live, symphonic whole with a 50th Anniversary Concert Tour, show conductor and co-producer Justin Freer proves himself worthy of a Starfleet medal of commendation for creating an impressive cohesive vision of “Star Trek’s” music. Where film music concerts themselves have usually been relegated the same-old renditions of classic themes, and scenes that have been heard as many times as fans have watched reruns, Freer’s CineConcerts (founded with Brady Beaubien) have truly energized live shows by treating them as ersatz scoring sessions, often playing complete, live scores to landmark soundtracks as “The Godfather,” “Titanic” and “Gladiator.”
Given music that’s just as iconic for “Star Trek,” Freer has collected the heroically emotional stylings of such composers as Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Cliff Eidelman, Dennis McCarthy into both montage and straight-up scenes that highlight both the thematic tapestry of “Trek” as well as its “true” scoring. The concert neatly keeps chronological order of the show’s appearances with montages (narrated by “Worf” performer Michael Dorn) and clips, whose overarching themes range from exploration to aliens and space battles. Freer’s “Concert Tour” also offers the chance to have full orchestral performances of such Classic Trek highlights as Gerald Fried’s “Amok Time” and Sol Kaplan’s “The Doomsday Machine,” while new Trek highlights the moving emotion of Jay Chattaway’s “The Inner Light” from “The Next Generation” and Mark McKenzie’s music for the “Enterprise” episode “Horizon.”
Beginning his own musical voyage on the trumpet, Justin Freer’s own original work has included composing for Major League Soccer and trailer music for “Avatar.” He’s not only conducted orchestras the world over, but has had them perform his work as well. Now Freer goes beyond paying tribute to his mentor, and exceptionally glorious “Trek” composer Jerry Goldmsith with this impressive concert tour. As with Roddenberry’s galaxy-encompassing hope, Freer has beautifully united “Trek’s” musical voice in a way that conveys this hugely popular franchise’s inspirational magic, but perhaps even more importantly the bold joy of the live concert experience as well.
Tell us about your own musical background, and what drew you to scores?
I started as a young trumpet player and composer when 11 and 12. I started writing immediately after I started studying the trumpet. One of the first albums I got was “By Request – The Best of John Williams and Boston Pops Orchestra,” which had a wonderful collection of stuff he had over the years, from “1941” to “Close Encounters” and “Indiana Jones.” That and Jerry Goldsmith drew me to film music.
What were the early film music concerts that you saw that made an impression on you?
The first one I saw was John Williams conducting The Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl. While it might not have had visuals, it certainly made an impression on me.
Did it make you come to have any realizations about what it took to make a film music concert work?
Any realization came from listening to film music in general. It tells an engaging story, and that’s what people are looking for when they are trying to be entertained. This element of escapism and story is easier to present when you have full film and orchestra at the same time. The film has to be great and one that everyone respects. From that, you can find projects that have good possibility for a film music concert, like “Gladiator” and “The Godfather.”
What led to the genesis of Cineconcerts, and what did you hope to accomplish with it?
When we launched with “Gladiator,” the idea was to try and preserve and present as much of this type of material as possible – or at least as much as the audience would allow us to. The goal is a preservation and a presentation effort for the audience to see how powerful the concert experience truly is. It’s also to celebrate the best music written in our generation. Of course that doesn’t have to be film music genre… But some of the greatest music written has been for film!
As a fan, what do you think it was about the concept, and the music of “Star Trek” that made it stand out from other popular sci-fi franchises?
I think that Gene did it right at the very beginning. The genius he was blessed with allowed him to delivered escapism and other-worldliness with an optimistic view of what space exploration could be while maintaining an obvious, and not so obvious at the same time, approach to philosophy, politics, human relations – all of these things that are topical items of our day. Gene made sure they were relevant in their shows. There’s something for everybody within “Star Trek.” Not many franchises can say that.
When was it that the idea of a “Star Trek” concert hit you? Was it easy, or hard to win over Paramount to the idea, especially given that this is one of the studio’s most prized properties?
The idea first came to us in different ways. The 50th anniversary helped ignite a fire, but the music has always been something I’ve admired since I was a young musician and young boy listening to Jerry Goldsmith. The studios have been very collaborative since the beginning of the show. It’s been a smooth and rewarding process with them. The only difficulty in working with two studios is to demand enough of ourselves to make a new IP on stage that’s good enough for them. The real challenge though is the material. The amount is crazy – hundreds of hours of music to sift through and hours of content to watch! It’s a great task but it has great rewards.
With so much music from the series and films having been done over 50 years, what was the challenge of selecting your program?
There were challenges of programming the music because there were so many great composers writing great cues for “Star Trek.” The challenge was two-fold: trying to represent as many composers as possible but also telling the correct story – finding the narrative arc through the music that allowed the audience to feel the emotional ups and downs in the right way. Finding a balance of storytelling in the concert was one of the biggest challenges.
How did you want to play the music of “Star Trek” as a whole in the montages, while also taking a chronological approach as a narrative for the concert?
The approach of the music overall was that we are trying to tell this emotional arc – the montage music vs. the originally intended scene. Music does the same thing from the standpoint of a concert, in that it tells the audience something about the characters’ emotions and feelings. That was the idea of the music coupled with montage pieces that were speaking to one of these themes that Roddenberry spoke to – like race exploration or space exploration set to music only. The role of music here is to heighten the visual material while celebrating itself at the same time.
With so much footage of the various “Trek” incarnations available over 50 years, what was the challenge of doing the montage segments? Do you create a “demo” as such in figuring out how the music would fit the images?
We did a bit of reverse engineering – normally the music is written to picture. In this case the picture is edited to the music in every single case. All of the montages were edited to the music so we could create a marriage between the two in that “reverse” way. This allows us to explore in an interesting way, i.e. we know where the endpoints are going to be, and we already know where we are musically. That lets us tell a visible story through all of these different episodes or scenes in the “Trek” movies while also maintaining what that story is about.
How would you describe the difference in “Trek” music for “Classic Trek” to the show’s rebirth with “Next Generation,” and “Trek’s” part of the cinematic universe?
There are dramatic differences and musical differences. Dramatic differences speak to different type of characters, from the captains to the crewmen. How they interacted with other species was different. There was element of swashbuckling in the original series had a different approach than in “The Next Generation” There were also musical differences. Rick Berman at beginning of “Next Gen” didn’t have much procession. But then that evolved over the years until more percussion was added in the latter series. The music differences speak to the overall arc of changes in music – and compositional devices and how people approach their craft, all of which have evolved over 50 years with “Star Trek.”
How did you want to make the original Star Trek composers part of the performances?
It was important that they had input whenever possible. We wanted to know what music were their favorites? Did they have scenes that they were proud of, or perhaps did the music add something to a certain scene? We went through everyone who’s still with us, and talked about how to involve them on the stage. Having those composers was special. I studied with Jay Chattaway for a time, which made it all the more meaningful. I just wish Jerry were still with us. Having him on stage would have been incredible but I have a lot of personal connections with the composers of “Star Trek.” They, in a lot of cases, helped me learn in early parts of my career and gave me some great navigational devices that showed me how to collaborate and rebuild those “Star Trek” scores for them.
What have been some of the most notable experiences since you’ve taken “Star Trek” on the road? How do you make the experience fresh for yourself over such a long schedule? And do you notice a different response in the various cities you go to, or is it a universal one?
The audiences laugh and cry and yell for their favorite characters in different ways depending on the city. But their reactions are very similar. They enjoy the same battles, and love stories. The way to refresh myself is having the music played back. Every night is a wonderful opportunity to hear it again. It’s very easy for me to be excited with each performance.
How important do you think it is to have visual accompaniment to the “Star Trek” concert, as opposed to having the audience solely appreciate the music for its own sake?
I think the music stands on its own, regardless of the visuals. You can turn the visuals off and the music would be powerful. But with visuals you start to see what the type of things music can do to, and it’s a fantastic thing to celebrate.
How did you want to make what was happening on the stage itself special?
The idea of the stage design was to incorporate elements of the franchise. We had the hull of the Enterprise and Klingon weaponry pointed up towards the ceiling. With this we are adding another element of the franchise to immerse the people even further. That was the hope of the stage design.
Could you talk about working with Jeff Bond, who’s done quite a bit of writing about Star Trek’s musical universe, on the program book?
It’s fun to geek out with someone who is so knowledgeable in this universe. It was a wonderful experience to be able to communicate on a detailed level and shared common experiences. Jeff and I spoke very positively about everything and he really knows his material. It’s always a pleasure to work with someone like that.
What’s your personal favorite piece of Trek music?
One of the most masterful pieces that has been written is the Enterprise Docking sequence by Jerry Goldsmith for “Star Trek – The Motion Picture.” It’s such a monumental masterwork in every way that it’s hard not to fall in love with that piece. I also adore what James Horner did in “Wrath of Kahn.” So much of what Sandy Courage and Sol Kaplan and Gerald Fried did in the original series is great as well in the original series.
More than ever, film music concerts are getting into the groove of playing entire films rather than select themes, as CineConcerts impressively has done with such projects as “The Godfather” and “Braveheart.” Do you think this is a welcome new wave when it comes to these performances, especially as it gives the audience to be at a “scoring session” as such where they get to hear the “real” film music, as opposed to the same popular themes?
The “newness” of this performance genre is quite old and we are simply doing what they did in the beginning of silent era – enhancing film with live musicians on stage. The difference is that we aren’t in the silent era. But the root and core is the same thing. We experience this live element in a shared way with other people, and a very visceral way. At a scale with an 80-85 piece orchestra, it heightens the emotion and senses for the audience.
Buy tickets for “Star Trek’s” 50th Anniversary Concert Tour HERE
Find out more about CineConcerts and its upcoming shows HERE
Visit Justin Freer’s web page HERE
A special thanks to Andrew P. Alderete for transcribing this interview
Lakeshore Records will release [a.17883]Mr. Right - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-04-08]April 8 and on CD shortly thereafter. The album features the original score by [c.1015]Aaron Zigman, and the original track "Love You With a Bang" by Lava/Republic recording artist Maty Noyes.
"It was a pleasure doing this film with Paco [Cabezas, director] because he had such original ideas, and because he made a film that was atypical of its genre," said Zigman. "When I first saw [m.44405]Mr. Right, I felt Paco was making not just a romantic comedy, but a comedy with action in it. His concept for this film, and everything else he brought to the table, were absolutely something I had never seen before in a romantic comedy."
"Paco had expressed the...
Lakeshore Records announced today that it will release the [a.17700]Criminal Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-04-15]April 15, featuring the film's original score by [c.361]Brian Tyler and [c.1470]Keith Power, with a CD on [da.2016-05-20]May 20, 2016.
"When talking to the director Ariel Vromen we came to the realization that we should experiment with creating a primarily analog synth score," said Tyler. "We wanted this score to reflect two radically contrasting aspects of the film: grittiness and emotion. We utilized analog outboard synths to create a raw soundscape that could fulfill the entire range of music from grinding raw electronic score to melancholy heartbreak. The style of the score harkened to classic electronic scores of the...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.2507]Joseph Trapanese ([m.46196]Jadotville), [c.6084]Colin Stetson & [c.6083]Sarah Neufeld ([m.46189]Lavender), [c.1480]Henry Jackman ([m.44539]Jack Reacher: Never Go Back), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 31 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-3-28]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.45043]God's Not Dead 2 ([c.2357]Will Musser) and [m.45473]Meet the Blacks ([c.3475]RZA).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.45043]God's Not Dead 2 (5 songs)
Lakeshore Records will release [a.17830]Darling - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-04-01]April 1, 2016. The album features the original score by composer [c.9898]Giona Ostinelli.
"There's barely any dialogue throughout the whole film, so the music had to play a major role by being another character in the film that is always present," described Ostinelli. "It is a rare opportunity in today's film industry, as well as a major challenge. The score has to be incredibly focused on guiding the audience through the film with confidence."
"[m.44625]Darling presented a wonderful opportunity to experiment creating a score as a combination of classical, noir and sound design elements," said Ostinelli. "I was able to achieve a particular sound by...
This week 29 new soundtrack albums debuted on our release schedule. For the full list, [da.2016-3-25]click here.
Opening nationwide this theaters this week are (with music by): [m.38616]Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ([c.237]Hans Zimmer and [c.8705]Junkie XL) and [m.44676]My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 ([c.630]Christopher Lennertz).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.38616]Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (6 songs)
- [m.44676]My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (11 songs)
- [m.45540]Born to Be Blue (20 songs)
- [m.45780]Fastball (no songs)
- [m.45619]Get a Job (15 songs)
- [m.45728]They're Watching (6 songs)
Finally, the following composer will be celebrating birthdays this...
March Soundtrack Picks: GODS OF EGYPT is the top soundtrack to own for March, 2016
Also worth picking up: BATMAN v SUPERMAN, THE BLUE MAX, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, THE LIGHTHORSEMEN, LA SORPRESA, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, RISEN, ZOOTOPIA, ZOOLANDER 2 and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) GODS OF EGYPT
What is it?: Egyptian-born director Alex Proyas has had an epically impressive collaboration with composer Marco Beltrami, from darkly playing a sentient automaton revolt in “I, Robot” to “Knowing’s” Straus-ian realization of the end of days. So when a filmmaker who always thinks of the big genre picture goes bat guano crazy with a 100 million plus version of what’s essentially a 70’s kid’s matinee (a la “Arabian Adventure”) with enough CG sword and metal-suited sandal insanity to make the blue-screened biceps of “300’s” look positively pink in comparison, then you can expect Beltrami to deliver the blood and thunder like he’s never done before. With “Gods of Egypt,” he soars above a flat earth and into the Horus-ruled heavens with a score that delivers on its cliffhanging thrills with worshipful enthusiasm to spare.
Why should you buy it?: While “Gods” is essentially a special effect that happens to star humans in it, what makes this quite wonderful, unjustly derided film so much fun is a resolutely throwback approach that Sabu himself might appreciate, from characters that include a wisecracking thief, his lovely damsel in distress and a screaming, Scottish-accented god of battle, all in a mighty canvas of clearly defined good and evil. The knowing humor, and sand-swept adventure certainly isn’t lost on Beltrami and his lush symphonic approach. Sure these gods might be doing Transformers-esque tricks, but Beltrami isn’t about to bring on electronic giant robot rhythms. His “Gods” run on golden symphonic juice where a multitude of themes are king. Fans of David Arnold’s “Stargate,” let alone Jerry Goldsmith’s “The Wind and the Lion” will have much to enjoy here in the romantic, middle eastern-styled melodies that give the film a sense of grandeur, with such ancient instruments as the Saz, zithers, undulating voices and war-drum percussion creating a “Planet Egypt” of gods and puny humans living in worshipful co-existence, an often nutty kingdom where trumpeting, Arabic majesty can just as suddenly veer into a raging Spanish fandango with the appearance of Godzilla-sized sand worms. While the kind of brass-screaming music that one might hear in a Beltrami horror score a la “Scream” might make an occasional appearance, the continuous sense of symphonic revelation that attends “Gods of Egypt” makes this even better as a continuation of the composer’s mythic exploration of the fantasy genre a la “The Seventh Son,” an energy that hits the gloriously berserk heights for the film’s climax above an ersatz Tower of Babel with some of the most exhilarating musical cross-cutting battle music in eons, complete with chanting and throttling war drums that ring with cosmic muscle.
Extra Special: Both Proyas and Beltrami have unapologetically gone for kid-pleasing gusto with “Gods of Egypt,” with a breathless sense of visual and musical splendor that should be worshipped, especially for fans who feel like they’re now in a time when people have turned away from the ancient orchestral idols that granted a true sense of symphonic wonder in their believers. Much like Michael Giacchino’s mythically resplendent score for the similarly unappreciated “John Carter,” Beltrami’s blazing work will hopefully make sure that these “Gods” will endure in cult immortality.
2) THE LIGHTHORSEMEN
What is it?: Aussie director Simon Wincer helped put the film industry down under on the international map with 1983’s salute to his country’s legendary race horse “Phar Lap.” While its success essentially had him race the Hollywood track with the likes of “D.A.R.Y.L.,” “Free Willy” and “The Phantom,” Wincer’s equine affinity and his lavish talent for big screen adventure also saw him make a grand, bayonet-swinging salute to Australian mounted infantry with 1987’s “The Lighthorsemen.”
Why should you buy it?: Set after the army’s disastrous attempt to break the Turkish frontlines at Gallipoli during WW1, this feel-good war movie (if that can dubiously be said about the genre) told about the far more successful charge against the Turks that let the allies sweep into Beersheba to take the land then called Palestine. Filled with manly gallantry and just a bit of romance, “The Lighthorsemen” needed a resolutely old-school score to lead the noble musical attack. It got a veritable army of sweeping, symphonic heroism from composer Mario Millo. With such credits as this historical miniseries “Against the Wind” and “A Fortunate Life,” whose hero also found himself at Gallipoli, Millo was in particularly good stead to take on this lavish depiction of his country’s shining moment in The War to End All Wars. And he certainly did the Anzac soldiers proud in his twenty-one gun orchestral salute to swashbuckling bravery under galloping fire. Unbridled melody is the key to this quite glorious score that’s far more about assured duty than riding into disaster, as such other films as “The Charge of the Light Brigade” tended to do. Victory is in the air throughout in Millo’s bright, rousingly thematic approach that hearkens back to the kind of sumptuous scoring that Max Steiner or Alfred Newman would have given the subject had it been made in Hollywood’s black and white glory days (it’s no wonder that RKO Radio Pictures produced this movie). Where Maurice Jarre had Lawrence of Arabia take on the Turks with a majestic sense of surveying a dune-filled landscape, Millo’s desert warfare music conveys an exotic atmosphere through subtle Arabian rhythms without outrightly arming itself with ethnic instruments. It’s a score too straightforward for all of that as it delivers its rousingly thematic adventure, culminating with a thunderously suspenseful charge into seemingly insurmountable enemy odds, and the stuff of musical legend.
Extra Special: Sumptuously performed, “The Lighthorsemen” is an especially dazzling score for a movie, and soundtrack that remains relatively unknown to us Yanks. But thanks to Dragon’s Domain Records, Millo’s work is now able to make its American CD debut with the height of sonic glory that will bring to mind the cliffhanging joy of John Williams to many listeners, as accompanied by an informative liner note salute by Randall Larson to a composer whose valorous mastery in the symphonic saddle here is nothing short of spectacular.
3) LOST IN SPACE / THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Price: $29.99 / $34.99
What is it?: Whether done for the big or small screen, it’s a daunting challenge to reboot the classic TV shows that shaped new generations of sci-fi fans. Whether the “new” “Lost in Space” or “Twilight Zone” worked for worse and better, Intrada Records now shows just how well Bruce Broughton, and a myriad of musicians were in capturing these show’s spirits with classic, and downright avant-garde takes on their journeys into the uncanny.
Why should you buy it?: One of the great musical fantasists of the 80’s and 90’s, Bruce Broughton’s own explorations into the future began enjoyably enough with the TV takes on “Logan’s Run,” ”Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” and the cult feature “The Ice Pirates.” But if those musical budgets were limited, time, as opposed to expense was the limit of 1998’s “Lost in Space.” Having spent a good part of the decade on such family-friendly adventures as “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,” “Baby’s Day Out” and “Homeward Bound,” accompanying the Robinson clan into the dark reaches of the galaxy was a terrific opportunity for Broughton to essentially create his so-far climactic Big Bang for the genre. Given the musical template that “Johnny” Williams had created for the show with its perilous sense of thematic wonder, Broughton’s tone is a bit brighter here, creating a affectionate motif for the clan that pilots the score. Like his closest scoring compatriot in terms of melodic lushness, Broughton also has heroic horns at the ready, while winds provide the wistfulness of a dearly missed Earth. Cliffhanging peril abounds, as does enough epic choral majesty to fill the Milky Way. Playing the scene-chewing villainy of Gary Oldman’s Dr. Smith with mischievous darkness, as well as giving impressive eeriness to a derelict spacecraft, “Lost in Space” afforded Broughton unusually long passages to work some of his most exciting action music, from an attack by mutant spiders to an arachnid-ized Dr. Smith. The Jupiter’s fly-through of a disintegrating planet is one of Broughton’s most thunderously exciting cues as well, as western-styled \as anything he wrote for “Silverado” or “Tombstone.” Previously issued by Intrada in an extensive CD, the label now re-launches “Lost in Space” for this terrific two-CD set, which is especially notable for pairing original takes next to 40 minutes of alternate cues, often showing completely different emotional approaches to the same scene. Tim Grieving’s liner notes feature a new interview with Broughton on a last-minute musical voyage that was composed in an astonishing 2 1/2 weeks, making for a thrilling summation of the kind of epic, yet emotionally warm wonder that Broughton brought to the genre,
Extra Special: Still the most famous anthology of all, “The Twilight Zone” boasted scores by such composers as Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and Franz Waxman over the course of its five seasons, their stylistically diverse approaches accentuating the irony of Rod Serling’s sci-fi moral parables. The series was respectably resurrected over three seasons in 1985, with perhaps its most infamous episode being William Friedkin’s “Nightcrawlers,” which compounded the irony by having no score at all for a Vietnam-materializing vet (it’s Grateful Dead / Merle Saunders score heard on a previous Silva Screen collection). Just as Serling had drawn on the cream of the cornfield scoring crop at the time, the new anthologies drew inspiration from musicians old and new for any number of striking mini-soundtracks, the best of which are collected on Intrada’s terrific 3-CD album. Leading off the episodes was a surreal title by Merle Saunders and The Grateful Dead, their trippy sound design approach announcing this wasn’t your grandfather’s “Twilight Zone” (even if many of the composers would humorously adapt Marius Consant’s iconic theme in more recognizable form). Fresh off “Hellraiser,” Christopher Young would turn clock-like percussion and strings into the eerie worker bees of “A Matter of Minutes,” while Basil Poledouris hammering percussion embodied a raging geriatric for “Monsters!” In a sort of dry run of his latter approach to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Dennis McCarthy gave the future “Voices in the Earth” a mystical, and eerily vocal sound that one could imagine Captain Picard facing, while O.G. “Trek” (and “Twilight Zone” composer) Fred Steiner brings a playful, oddball energy to a visiting flying saucer during “A Day in Beaumont.” “Remo Williams’ composer Craig Safan gets his own CD with multiple scores, a standout being “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium,” as a man searches for self-worth amidst energetic, and emotional Oriental rhythms, then gives the anthology its funniest score with the sinister, gonzo carnival music of “The Uncle Devil Show.” But perhaps this “Zone’s” most melodically pleasing work belongs to composer William Goldstein, his lush, longing melodies creating a “Her Pilgrim Soul” for a female ghost in a machine, while “Time and Teresa Golowitz” has the devil take a Great White Way musician on a glorious stroll through the jazzy big band era, varying from lush strings to virtuoso piano and a performance of the standard “How About You.” But then, you never quite know in which musical dimension that this “Twilight Zone” collection will lead, which is part of its always-changing interest for a reboot that did a decent job of living up to the original, no more so than in how it inspired a notable group of composers to unlock the doors of their musical imaginations in bold, new fashion.
4) RISEN / THE YOUNG MESSIAH
Price: $9.99 / $9.49
What is it?: Throughout the age of cinematic sound, composers have responded to the musical calling of The Christ, whether it be Jew (Alfred Newman’s “The Robe”), humanist (Peter Gabriel’s “Passion”) or true believer (John Debney’s “The Passion of the Christ”). The musical approach of playing The Son of God has likewise shifted, from rapturous strings and choral hosannas to period-authentic instruments and alt. rhythms to scoring that blended music seemingly heard in biblical times with the kind of symphonic approach accessible to faith-based audiences who’d grown up on TV reruns of “King of Kings” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” It’s in this latter Hollywood-by-Jerusalem land that two atypical takes on an oft-told cinematic story dwell, one for a look at a disbelieving Roman soldier, and the other a Jesus “prequel” of sorts, both blessed with powerful scores that deliver on holy Hollywood musical tradition and real-world believability.
Why should you buy it?: Way smarter than most faith-based films that target themselves towards an all-accepting target audience, “Risen” has the novel twist of sending a Roman officer on a detective quest to get to the bottom of who stole a post-crucified, and most decidedly dead Jesus’ body from his burial cave. It’s a bible-noir approach that gives the film a tone of somber, determined mystical mystery that Spanish composer Roque Banos makes effective use of. With an exceptional history of scoring period films with the likes of “Alatriste” and “In the Heart of the Sea,” Banos is right at home in ancient Jerusalem, at first unleashing determined percussion for the battle that opens “Risen” before skillfully blending Middle Eastern instruments and rhythms with unsettling orchestrations. It’s far more of a boldly determined, ghost-suspense score than one of religious epiphany to start with, and a grippingly unsettling one at that. But as our centurion discovers that Jesus is indeed walking the earth again, Banos introduces warmer orchestral colors, as well as the fierce, suspenseful percussion of a Roman empire giving its unlikely traitor chase. It’s only in the final, miraculous stretch that “Risen” assumes its guise as a full-on biblical score, complete with a soaring, emotionally moving orchestra and heavenly chorus as Jesus assumes his heavenly stature, ending a score that starts out with sword-gripping disbelief with the rapture of outstretched hands. It’s a subtle musical conversion, and a tremendously effective one at that which proves Banos’ steadfast belief in thematic melody.
Extra Special: While “Risen” starts off with the agony of Jesus’ crucifixion as seeming proof of death, John Debney had a score full of powerful suffering on the cross with his Oscar-nominated work for Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” (it’s complete score now out on La La Land Records). Thankfully, that event won’t come until a few movies later, as “The Young Messiah,” see Debney playing a far more hopeful future for this Prince of Peace prequel. Yet it’s vey much a spiritual successor to “Passion” as Debney employs a Solomon’s Temple worth of biblical winds and percussion instruments, with Diduk and voices joining a far greater symphonic presence here. Debney conveys a boy’s-eye sense of coming into an unexpected world of bright, holy powers, hearing both the wonder of angelic harps and a solemn, flute-topped sense of duty. As with “Risen,” the score’s more suspenseful moments come from a Roman soldier in pursuit of stopping the man who will topple his empire. But for the most part, Debney creates a sense of poetic love of God’s representative, the composer’s own personal belief no doubt adding greatly to this “Young Messiah’s” power. Listeners will certainly delight in his second score coming of Jesus, especially given its more accessible, gorgeously thematic symphonic grace that hearkens back to those great Alfred Newman biblical epics of yore – if heard here with a more personal, and ethnically realistic healing touch.
What Is it?: Starting out on the Disney beat as a studio publicist before leveling up in a major Oscar-winning musical way, Michael Giacchino has been the star composer for the Pixar division from the John Barry-styled spy heroics of “The Incredibles” to the grandly empathetic scores of “Up” and “Inside / Out” and the can-do, Parisian-flavored tunes of “Ratatouille.” Given that Disney’s own animated films were often in the shadow of their Pixar acquisition, it likely took a special project to enlist Giacchino to lend his magic to the actual Mouse House. And while it seemed to have all the trappings of an obnoxiously kid-centric toon like “Cars,” “Zootopia” has thankfully, if not miraculously, turned out to be an unexpectedly excellent adult movie for its juvenile origin of the talking animal species. Giacchino’s playful score corrals a musical wild kingdom, leaving no cliché delightfully unused while also cutting to the emotional core of this case.
Why Should You Buy It?: “Zootopia” traverses all the temperate zones in its “Alien Nation”-like oddball buddy cop movie where our unlikely heroes try to stop the threat to de-evolve the now peaceful existence of predator and prey. Giacchino gets to wittily hit every musical exhibit, including “Hot Hot Hot”-esque Samba, groovily psychedelic Indian Sitars, Jamaican kettle drums, festive Brazilian carnival rhythms and African percussion that’d fit in nicely with “The Lion King,” if Simba happened to be walking on his hind legs in a business suit. The animal musical exotica gets further hipped up with retro organ funk and electric guitar. Yet Giacchino mostly avoids taking the score into full-on film noir land, as it likely would have veered into “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” toon town, though the outsized pursuit of “Hopps Goes (After) the Weasel” has a frantic “Naked Gun” quality to it. A train chase is jazzily amped for “Ramifications,” beginning mysteriously with a hep bongo and piano to set up the suspense. While “Zootopia” might not have particularly memorable themes on the order of Giacchino’s Pixar work, the composer effectively uses piano to set a surprisingly melancholy tone for our rabbit heroine’s sunken sense of defeat, a poetic intimate somberness that recalls a similarly outcast hero for Giacchino’s live action Disney score to “John Carter.” It’s in “Zootopia’s” more ‘adult” music, especially in the aching, then shattered strings and percussion of “The Nick of Time” as a fox recalls a life-changing muzzling that Giacchino nails the film’s quite daring themes of racial patronizing and fear-mongering, ones that make the movie rise far above its perceptions to play just as well for an adults audience.
Extra Special: Where “Zootopia” might be serious as it states “Some of My Best Friends are Predators,” or even downright threatening in the “World’s Worst Animal Shelter,” that doesn’t mean that Giacchino can’t go from some time-honored cartoon scoring clichés, especially when accompanying a hedgehog Godfather “Mr. Big,” complete with mandolins accordion and a weeping violin, with even “Three Bind Mice” snuck into “Gotta Get To the ZPD” with satirical menace. “Zootopia” is a delight that makes us hope that Giacchino keeps getting assigned to the Mouse House patrol in a musically evolved metropolis that’s likely to keep humming for quite a while.
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BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
The Red Capes are Coming. Along with a gigantic percussion section in a superhero score so joyfully banging that it makes ZImmer’s massive rhythmic muscle for “Man of Steel” seem like a weakling string quartet in comparison. But then, the composer who effusively brought synth-prog rhythms into Hollywood like no one’s business isn’t often about restraint when it comes to the multiplex thunderdome. In one corner, there’s Superman’s loftier (if neck-snapping) sense of cosmic duty, and in the other rhythmic darkness for a Batman forged from a brutal criminal act. When these two stylistic approaches ram into each other, the fireworks are as musically dizzying as one would expect – especially when “Fury Road’s” Junkie XL (civilian identity Tom Holkenborg) is seamlessly added to the mix. That Zimmer is the alpha and omega for the propulsively pessimistic sound of the DC universe with his previous Dark Knight scores and “Man of Steel” makes “Dawn of Justice” a powerful continuation of these oft-imitated approaches he started. While the bat-flap theme slamming away with vengeance, “Man’s” soaringly memorable theme provides a solid melodic recall and emotional anchor to the score. It’s a gripping, if not especially “fun” soundtrack as such in matching the movie’s uber-serious, death-filled tone. And if the music isn’t overtly Wagnerian, the densely orchestral feeling of conjures gods walking the earth, and trouncing humankind in their wake, is most certainly in one’s face as ominous strings, a biblical chorus and massive drum sections hammer in the spirit of Götterdämmerung when these titans apocalyptically meet. Amidst lots of often exciting notes, “Dawn” does manage to get in some effective down time with interesting sample meditations and playfully unhinged, Joker-esque string screeching for Lex Luther. But it’s perhaps Tina Guo’s kick-ass cello playing that gives the soundtrack its biggest “wow” moment when Wonder Woman announces her sword-wielding arrival to this motivic pantheon of blasting testosterone, with the nice touch of an Amazonian horn as well. Certainly the most epic score, and film that Zimmer has done in the utterly dark DC universe, “Dawn” impressively beats us into submission, no matter if you’re team Superman or Batman.
. THE BLUE MAX
The robust re-performances of Tadlow Music have often flown in right after the releases of the original recordings, from Intrada’s “Conan” to Music Box’s “Obsession,” and now La La Land’s “The Blue Max.” But given that Tadlow concentrates on decades-old classics that might have a bit of dust no matter how great their 21st century mastering is, the ever-increasing quality of Tadlow’s fresh renditions makes their albums a terrific way to hear landmark works with fresh ears, flying high with a renewed sense of note-for-note vibrancy. Such is the soaring case with one of Jerry Goldsmith’s best scores, a war film that dared to make George Peppard’s German WW1 enemy ace Bruno Stachel into a vainglorious Hollywood anti-hero. Having scored our fighting men from the naval glory of “In Harm’s War” to Nazi-escaping POW’s taking “Von Ryan’s Express,” Goldsmith concentrates on a more “noble” era of warfare with his a mythically airborne approach that would no doubt make Straus and Wagner both happy, the themes cutting through the clouds to chase down English biplanes with a mythic sense of heroism. Yet a brass-filled sense of darkness tells us these were indeed the bad guys. Starting out with the gleeful pomp of an empire that sees itself as destined for victory, Goldsmith’s nobility gradually darkens with the tide of air battle in its expansive, timpani-filled battle sequences that herald doom for The Kaiser’s troops Cunning strings play for the waltzing pursuit of the ultimately empty medal, while a beautiful piano love theme stands for his affair with a countess that will ultimately doom Stachel. But whatever musical side you’re on, few scores have captured the sheer, trumpeting elation of flight like “The Blue Max.” Though cut to machine gun shreds in the actual movie, Tadlow’s “Blue Max,” along with La La Land’s special edition, restoring Goldsmith’s work to all of its thunderously romantic ballast. Producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus have done perhaps their most exceptional salute yet to a silver age masterpiece that’s pretty much inseparable from the real deal. Better yet, Tadlow fills out its double-CD with suites that combine Goldsmith’s conflict-filled scores for “Inchon,” “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “The Sand Pebbles” with his epic supernatural work on “The Mummy” and “Omen III” powerfully realized to join Tadlow’s performances of such other Goldsmith masterworks as “Hour of the Gun,” “The Red Pony,” “The Salamander” and “QBVII” with pride.
. EDDIE THE EAGLE
When it seems that the name of today’s retro synth scoring game is doing dead-on recreations of John Carpenter’s horror scores from the 80s, along comes Matthew Margeson to soar with a pitch-perfect David Foster groove with “Eddie the Eagle.” But given that this winning sports underdog movie is set in synth-pop’s golden era, it’s a choice that’s all the more brilliant in dusting off the keyboards. For if Foster did one thing in his terrific 80’s run of “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Secret of My Success” and “Stealing Home,” then it was to capture a can-do sense of inspiration. That Eddie Edwards just happened to winningly place last in the 1988 Winter Olympics that Foster also provided music for only adds to just how awesome well-suited Margeson’s synth-driven score is, hitting both the nerdy hero’s never-say-die enthusiasm as well as his low points, as well as the seemingly suicidal danger of his ski jumps. But there’s more than just Foster in Margeson’s emulations, as every great electronic sports artist from Tangerine Dream to Vangelis makes an anthemic entry on this ski run. Having applied another throwback (if way more satirical score) to the unlikely nerd hero of two “Kick-Ass” films, Margeson is sure to introduce rocking electric guitars to the mix, his synth orchestra growing to pay tribute to the Hans Zimmer-Jerry Bruckheimer sound as well, until a symphonic energy a la James Horner joins the celebratory synth sounds – the “real” musical deal replete with ringing gongs and trumpeting horns, For what starts out as a joke to Eddie’s doubters becomes true, tearfully affecting stand-up-and-clap musical victory. Even if The Eagle closed his eyes and hoped for the best Margeson quite brilliantly knows exactly how to touch down with retro aplomb.
. THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Expanded)
Ray Harryhausen had some excellent composers to give life to his “Dynamation” technique, with particular musical dynamism put into his mythic sword and sorcery heroes by Bernard Herrman (“Jason and the Argonauts”) and Laurence Rosenthal (“Clash of the Titans”). But while they might have had Jason and Perseus, no Harryhausen-afflicted adventurer was as iconic as Sinbad, whose battles against evil magicians and their stop-motion hordes were accompanied by Herrmann and Roy Budd when the sailor went on his seventh voyage or sought an eye of the tiger. But when it came to pure, frantic energy, the jewel in the Arabian turban goes to composer Miklos Rozsa’s breathless soundtrack to 1973’s “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.” But then given that Rozsa’s career really took off on its magic carpet ride with 1940’s “The Thief of Baghdad,” the Hungarian musician was right at exotic home with Allah’s go-to adventurer. Facing off here against Tom Baker’s deliciously evil wizard, while protecting a luscious Caroline Munro, Rozsa’s gloriously thematic score dances about like a whirling dervish, his Middle Eastern rhythms conveying a sense of royal majesty and Arabian-Indian place like no other score in the Harryhausen Sinbad triptych. There’s true, romantically epic magic to this score for a composer-effects wizard match made in paradise, as one can feel the pure delight that Rozsa has in bringing Harryhausen’s creations to light, literally becoming them from the dance of a sword-swinging Kali statue to a sinisterly playful homunculi and the raging percussion of a Cyclops centaur. Where Baker’s Koura tried to find a glistening fountain of youth, leave it to Rozsa to actually hear the rapturous power of the very nature of mythic storytelling in all of its swirling boldness. Given that his “Voyage” that’s been anything but golden in its many sonically inferior releases, Intrada’s complete 2-CD release is like finding a cavern of long-lost treasure. With Joe Sikoryak’s nicely designed, picture filled booklet and Frank K. DeWald’s excellent liner notes telling of Rozsa’s affinity for mythic, musical storytelling and this soundtrack’s fraught journey, this truly golden “Voyage” is the first time that Rozsa’s work has actually been taken from the first-generation tapes. At last, the delirious passion that the Rome Symphony Orchestra put into this classic fantasy score is truly apparent. With the original album re-mastered as well, this “Voyage” has at last found home in collector’s paradise. Praise Allah indeed.
. LA SORPRESA
Having quirkily played mental illness with his score for the generational madness of the fest favorite “Rocks in My Pockets” (its soundtrack on Movie Score Media) Italian composer Kristian Sensini creates another memorably individualistic soundtrack for “La Sorpresa” (“The Sunrise”). Here, the musical anguish is subtly inward and far less humorous, if no less enticing, as a daughter finds her father’s male nurse has far more of an emotional connection to the ailing man than she does. Sensini thematically plumbs her pained struggle towards a relationship in an impressively subdued variety of styles. Poignant chamber music mixes with alternative acoustical rhythm, child-like percussion hints of the past, while religious female voices sing a haunting chant. Even mod synthesizers and a tango come into this fraught, family bond. There’s an inventive, often meditative beauty throughout “La Sorpresa” that makes it a transfixing listen and Sensini an individualist talent to watch for, his classical training and studies with Ennio Morricone and Nicola Piovani evident in one of the rare, interestingly melodic scores that can tenderly capture inner emotion. Having cd signed and hand-numbered by Sensini adds a further nice touch for his unique, enticing score that bridges the classical and alt. family ties of film music.
. LITTLE ROOSTER’S EGG-CELENT ADVENTURE
Otherwise marketed with its title “Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos!” Mexico’s first CG toon had a rooster mustering the courage up for the ultimate cockfight, battling it out to American box office success with nary a gringo critic’s whisper. But no matter if you speak Spanish or not, nothing speaks the universal CG funny animal language like a boisterously rhythmic symphonic score. Following up Benjamin Wallfisch’s stunningly good music for the Japanese rodent-centric film “Gamba” (on Varese Sarabande), “Little Rooster” breaks open truly “Egg-Cellent” music amidst potentially cheesy surroundings, courtesy of Spanish composer Zacarias M. De La Riva. Having last impressed with a beautifully somber sci-fi score for “Automata,” De La Riva quite wonderfully finds his spirit chicken guide here as Toto gets rid of his yellow-feathered streak to enter the boxing arena against the fearsome Bankivoide. Taking a less eccentric cue from John Powell’s “Chicken Run,” “Rooster” comes across like one of the best animated scores that composer didn’t write. Though there’s a bit of country twang on hand, nothing else is “Little” here in De La Riva’s memorably heroic themes that sound like they were instead composed for some swashbuckling, galactic “Adventure” as opposed to a toon that take place on a farm. It’s a blazing symphonic approach that’s never at a loss for excitement, driven with a memorably heroic theme, Sure the music does a little bit of Mickey Mouse’ing here and there, but for the most part, it’s got an impressively melodic and fun force with a percussive pop sensibility rules the symphonic roost, right down to a rock guitar over its big orchestral fight in the best Rocky fashion. Exceptionally well performed to rival any Hollywood-done soundtrack of this type, De La Riva waves a flag of pride for a little toon that could, with a sweeping orchestral boldness that’s anything but chicken.
. LONDON HAS FALLEN
Having musically saved The White House from North Korea in “Olympus Has Fallen,” Trevor Morris now re-rescues The President (and what’s left of London’s landmarks) from a machine-gunning, rocket-launching plague of pseudo-Islamist terrorists. From its African rhythms that announce evil afoot in the Middle East to the tender piano and guitar of some girlfriend downtime and the proud, patriotic melody that waves the never-say-die American flag high, “London Falling” starts by hitting the check marks that start this sort of Axis of Evil-busting action genre. And damn if Morris doesn’t proceed to kick ass with them after a suspenseful countdown to its world leader disaster film demolition derby – bringing on the growling electronic suspense, bombastic percussion, steely strings and heroic determination that gives the audience their musical meat and potatoes to excitingly chow down on as Gerard Butler payback is justly served. While it might not have the crazily entertaining home turf advantage of “Olympus,” “London” is far better made on all counts, giving Morris real orchestral muscle to flex Butler’s biceps with. Scores like this aren’t about stopping once the shit hits the fan, and Morris keeps a mean balance between rhythmically explosive burka burka baddie killing with suspenseful low string duck and cover, sampled percussion pacing the way most impressively through a near 13 minutes of sweeping an abandoned building, the tension of the Chief Executive’s video execution driving the excitement throughout. There’s nothing really down about “London Has Fallen” beyond its piano send-offs to those who didn’t make it, as Morris delivers the kind of punchy goods that listeners are rooting for, once again saving The Prez in musical style.
. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Beginning with the doom-laden “Take Shelter,” composer David Wingo has had a unique musical relationship with director Jeff Nichols, painting a world of southern gothic characters without being particularly “southern” about it with “Joe,” “Mud” and the forthcoming “Loving.” Instead, Wingo’s often spare, and more often eerily transfixing combinations of organic instruments and electronic rhythms create environmental scores for outcast characters to live in. Now with “Midnight Special,” Wingo makes full use of that musically atmospheric gas to truly drive into The Twilight Zone. But as always, Wingo’s approach is powerfully intimate for all of the cosmic elements at play here, his score’s concern squarely focused on the well being of an innocent kid who just happens to have the power to open extra-dimension gateways. Embodying this golden child with a tender piano, Wingo employs any number of unearthly, interesting devices from trippy organs to percolating samples and eerie guitar chords to give “Midnight Special” its indie sci-fi score street cred. It’s an intelligent, hauntingly humanistic work in the avant-garde tradition of such composers as Clint Mansell (“The Fountain”), Cliff Martinez (“Solaris”) and John Murphy (“Sunshine”), sharing a moody bond for hearing the fantastical as trippy food for thought as opposed to playing special effects. Here the rhythmic chase from loony tune cultists and feds still pissed about losing E.T. is exceptionally well developed from more minimal scoring to grow with strings and a heavenly chorus as the boy’s blinding powers are revealed. Yet, like all of Wingo and Nichol’s collaborations, “Midnight Special” is about a kind of spectral intimacy, these particular ghost-like characters floating through their peculiar universe, even as Wingo’s most transcendently, and subtly powerful score opens the gateway to another world just beyond our musical perception.
. MR. SELFRIDGE
Period English glamour is swinging again on the BBC, from the manor-borns to an upstart American creating a department store for the high and mighty, the latter role filled by Jeremy Piven as he made the pond jump from self-absorbed Hollywood agenting to brashly opening up a department store on Oxford Street, circa 1910. That’s more than enough reason to engage in all manner of delightful jazz numbers by British composer Charlie Mole. Certainly a welcomely familiar musical tailor when it comes to putting energy into the stuffed shirts of native costume-centric scores like “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Northanger Abbey,” “Dorian Gray” and the recent WW2 romp of “Dad’s Army,” Mole fills this multiple-season “Selfridge” album with all sorts of wonderful swing from the brass band to Charleston swing and Dixieland rhythm. Exceptionally well-performed and stylistically spot-on, it’s an extensive album that’s sure to delight to fans of classic Le Jazz Hot, especially given its lush orchestral accompaniment. But if you think that jazz is “Mr. Selfridge’s” only department,the surprise here is just how the perky fun becomes high drama with the various business problems and personal tragedies that befall the character and his assortment of employees and highbrow customers. By the end of these gorgeous selections, the effect is one of sweepingly nostalgic heartbreak that could easily accompany a Jane Austen romance. But then, it’s a musical lifeblood that runs through these sorts of TV enterprises that the English do so well, particularly when given composers who know how to play the high and low times from abbeys to department stores.
Having won an Emmy for her blues-inflected score to HBO’s Bessie Smith biopic “Bessie,” Rachel Portman powerfully turns to another legendary progressive black figure from the 1930’s who not only struck a blow for sports integration, but perhaps an even more important once against Fascism’s smug sense of superiority. It’s a far bigger canvas of “Race” that brings out one of Portman’s most exhilarating and emotional scores as she salutes the indomitable spirit of 1936 Olympic runner Jesse Owens, Determined to make his story as vibrant as yesterday’s news, Portman gets right out of the gate with hip-hop southern guitar rhythm, a modern percussive beat energetically joining with electric chords. Skillfully weaving a horn-topped, triumphantly orchestral Americana theme for a figure who embodied a nation’s can-do spirit like no other, especially in face of the prejudice that was lobbed at him by American and Nazi alike, Portman delivers the kind of rousingly inspirational rhythms that befit the universal color of a sports score. For a man who personified lightning-fast speed, Owens is an especially well suited to Portman’s trademarked rhythmic style, as well as her emotional voice for understated string and piano melody. Most often given understatedly dramatic, and costume-clothed subject matter to score, with ok detours into WW2 drama (“Hart’s War”) and conspiracy thriller (“The Manchurian Candidate”), “Race” is particularly welcome in Portman’s cannon for giving her a stadium-sized arena. Its deliberate size allows her music to reach epically rousing heights for all of the effective thematic intimacy of the score’s drama, painting a tremendously effective portrait of a man first, and icon second. But perhaps the most notable music here is the supremely villainous music that fits the ego of a Nazi regime trying to create their twisted version of Rome in an Olympic village, the sound of pure dastardliness matched against noble patriotism that shows Portman could easily score a Captain America movie if given the chance.
. ZOOLANDER 2
When you hear the dark, adrenalin-fueled rhythms, angelic voices and beyond-bombastic brass that make for this album’s first track, you’d think that you were listening to Batman avenge the death of Robin, as opposed to music that accompanies the murder of Justin Bieber. But then, playing the supreme idiocy of the unjustly maligned “Zoolander 2” as the real, superheroic deal is the winning joke of Theodore Shapiro’s hilariously over-the-top, and then some, score. Having last given wonderful Bondian girth to Melissa McCarthy in the similar box office murder of the otherwise awesome “Spy,” Shapiro certainly knows how to play comic foils with all of the percussive-action armor of Iron Man. From Middle Eastern instrumentation to the oh-so tender melancholy of an oh-so-vain hero and sumptuous, sweeping melody, Shapiro delightfully refuses to leave no action scoring cliché unturned, whether its glistening 007 guitar vibes, an apocalyptically blasting chorus, techno-action propulsion that practically falls all over itself or horns trilling so insanely that you might think Elliot Goldenthal had dropped roofies and gone on an orchestral rampage. “Zoolander 2” is a deliriously fun, beyond energetic score, hitting the movie’s self-referential pop culture-skewering spirit with a winking look that makes for a magnum-sized atomic explosion of turn-the-superhero-scoring-speaker-to-11 greatness.
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