Score Season #46
Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.
Contagion (Cliff Martinez, 2011) *** Composer Cliff Martinez doesn't get enough credit for going against the grain. Too often I read disdainful and harsh critiqiues lamenting his synthesizers and atmospheric world building. Consider Traffic, a noteworthy score for the surrealism of "Helicopter" and self-aware certainty behind "I Can't Do This." For Contagion, the question remains: does the music reflect a global virus run amok? Absolutely because it took editorial restraint in recognising that "Placebo" would feel unbearable if stretched out for minutes on end. So what does Martinez give us? Approximately 25 seconds. This makes the point succinct and urgent. It's a smart score joining the ethereal mood of Vangelis with a modern keyboard aesthetic. I liked how it made points from the film feel like tangible threats i.e. the infected touching objects and making them contaminated. Listen to "The Birds Are Doing That" and "100 Doses." Therefore, the score pulses, throbs and coagulates accordingly. Also, it's very stylish and cool.
Delirious (Cliff Eidelman, 1991) **** Tying Cliff Eidelman's Delirious to only one genre won't suffice. Although tonally all over the map, his score offers flashes of the mystery thriller, offbeat romance, horror fantasy and even animation. Ergo, a mighty orchestral phalanx was required in order to shape or reflect highly dramatic moments. As such, Eidelman's Delirious surpasses that of his own Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. Why? Because non-linear patterns allow the brass and strings free reign. Guess I might have a new favourite Cliff Eidelman score.
Go Fish! (George Streicher, 2019) *** I previously reviewed George Streicher's music for The Steam Engines of Oz. He came across as a composer about to make his mark in a big way. Meanwhile, there's a feeling of antiquity running through Go Fish! which makes it seem simultaneously modern and old fashioned. It's very apparent that Streicher has developed his talents and knowledge via the classic orchestral tradition. Consider the arrangements of "King Charles XIV" and "Tale of the Black Beast." He establishes a mood, allowing for tempo and dramatic contrast to create pictures in the mind. I was reminded of vast oceans, home to multi-coloured specimens roaming in and out of each other's lives. What a sweet ambience to close the day. Such tasteful and gentle chords are always refreshing to behold. More please.
The Internecine Project (Roy Budd, 1974) **** Jambo Records had a recent splurge putting out several titles featuring music by Roy Budd. Among these releases were The Stone Killer, The Marseilles Contract, Get Carter and The Internecine Project. Regarding the latter, it comes across as tender and daring by starting with two highly noteworthy tracks. For the romantically inclined, "Main Theme" establishes the emotional credentials via solid foundations. Meanwhile, "Somebody's Going to Have to Kill Him" marks a killer beat with fascinating counterpoint and secondary ideas. Percussion, woodwinds and strings evoke starry mania. Likewise, the close miking on "Room 716" sent shudders along my back.
Kano (Naoki Sato, 2014) **** For the three hour baseball epic about a Taiwanese team, director Umin Boya enlisted the talented Naoki Sato. The latter delivers a melodically diverse score. It begins with a song, which despite the Japanese vocals, would not feel out of place on an Eva Cassidy album. Meanwhile, "Ready to Go" comes across as a traditionally rousing and melodically simple construct. Regardless, Sato's ability to amplify slow musical movements results in heart melting splendour. Consider the ideal cadences behind "Eagles Learn to Fly" and "Expedition." These lay the groundwork for "Outbreak of Black Soil" by galvanizing the listening experience. While this has deterred composers unwilling to establish a careful and judicious pace, Sato's gifts transcend the extraordinary. This allows Kano some mileage beyond first and second base.
The Neptune Factor (William McCauley, 1973) ** Not bad for a rejected score, William McCauley's The Neptune Factor felt adventurous and alive to the deep blue sea. Although replaced by Lalo Schifrin, McCauley demonstrates a fluid technique. However, his ambitions rarely stray beyond mood music. Such a clandestine character, while enigmatic and intriguing, doesn't inspire a replay. Instrumentally, it's a fascinating piece with enthusiastic performances from the woodwind players. I just wish it would open up a little. Might have spoken too soon as "Change of Plans" accelerates the drama and paints a broader picture. By no means perfect yet certainly above average, The Neptune Factor has a subdued quality which occasionally steps outside the comfort zone.
Rodan (Akira Ifukube, 1956) *** Bombastic elevation as four chords rumble in the ether, followed by crashes and high whistles. Verily, Akira Ifukube's theme for Rodan has its peaks and valleys. Was it legendary? For some perhaps yes. While grander scenarios come to mind, the dedicated few would flock to hear King Ghidorah musically entrap a two headed ostrich. Riding a popular wave since giving voice and rhythmic balance for Gojira, Ifukube brings together Japanese martial might, monster music and a generally fun ambience. Time to rock those speakers.
Borderline (Gil Melle, 1980) * Time to rhyme:
Sparse and bizarre
I have a few complaints mister.
It was a sour grape
Remote and out of shape.
Such disorganized, long-winded fluff,
Gil Melle tried calling our bluff.
Not knowing it's smarter
Keeping better things for barter.
Difficulty finding the swing
Not much enthusiasm in the ring.
Jazz should soar and flow
Not leave me feeling low.
A book full of cheats
Sound missing crucial beats.
Low-key and joyless
Like a kid broken and toyless.
Even "Fight for Survival" was late
Getting meat on the plate.
As for "Final Chase"
No sign of stick... or mace.
Massacre of the Gods (Carlo Savina, 1971) ** A poem:
Massacre of the Gods
Beaten and battered by untimely rods.
Carlo Savina left originality at home
His melodies free to roam.
By the end I felt bitter
That not much came from the litter.
Leaning on the shoulders of greats
How forgotten music infuriates.
From the Gold Collection it sprung
A voice with compromised lung.
Down to earth this one hid
Failing to reach a bid.
SCORE OF THE MOMENT
The Song of Bernadette (Alfred Newman, 1943) ***** Words literally failed me upon first hearing Alfred Newman's devastating score for The Song of Bernadette. Exquisitely crafted from head to foot, this Oscar-winning endeavour plants the Golden Age in your lap. The music transports, transcends and transforms the current mood. Feeling uncertain or expectant? Newman will put you to rights. It's in a class by itself - moving, thoughtful and honest.
Poem for a masterpiece:
Music beyond stave or stage
The Song of Bernadette more than notes on the page.
Alfred Newman the giant and human being
Giving colour to what we were seeing.
A miracle in human form
Like a garden in the storm.
I can imagine no experience like it
The destiny of a hit.