Music in the movies: Score round-up

In this week’s Music in the movies, Glen provides the first in an occasional series of soundtrack round-ups, including themes from Monsters, Brighton Rock and Black Swan...

This is the first in, hopefully, a series of score round-ups that will form entries into this column. It’s a slight change of direction from the usual recaps of great composers, but allows me to cover material that may not fit into that format.

Here are reviews for some scores and soundtracks, released over the last month or so,  that I have been listening to:

The Next Three Days – Danny Elfman

I’ve covered Danny Elfman’s collaborations with Tim Burton here and it’s his collaborations with the director that have largely defined his career. So, it’s always nice to see him break away every now and then and compose material for non-Burton projects.

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Like the film for which it accompanies, Elfman’s score here is solid, rather than outstanding. It hits the action beats when required, particularly with the track It’s On, but largely, this is a moody atmospheric piece that provides moments of introspection and tension to what is essentially a physiological thriller, rather than the action-packed film the promotional material would lead you to believe.

The soundtrack album also features two tracks by Moby, which fit in really well alongside Elfman’s score. Be The One was written specifically for the film and finds Mr Richard Melville Hall doing a rather fine Lou Reed impression over the top of his usual electronic backing. It plays out in a key scene in the film and has a similar impact to when his music was used in the Bourne series. The other track of his that features is Mistake from his album Wait For Me.

It’s a solid enough release and is available through Silva Screen.

Brighton Rock – Martin Phipps

Martin Phipps is a composer whose work I’m not overly familiar with, but have heard pieces on TV and film over the years. His score for the latest adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel is very, very dramatic and listened to in isolation seems quite overbearing.

I haven’t had the benefit of listening to it accompanying the film to hear how well it works there, but on numerous listens, I’m struggling to understand how it would accompany the 1964 Mods Vs Rockers setting of the picture.

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Phipps’ score features choral work heavily and sounds as if it would more appropriately accompany a religious epic. Of course, Greene’s novel has Catholicism at the heart of the central characters’, driving their actions and moral stance, so, in some ways, the religious tone is appropriate. However, I can’t help but feel that overall it could have been handled with a little more subtlety.

I’ll wait to see how it works within the context of the film before writing it off completely, but as a standalone listen I can’t see myself returning to it often.

The score for Brighton Rock is available through Silva Screen from February 7th.

Monsters – Jon Hopkins

Monsters is a film that was one of my favourites of last year. Whilst I would acknowledge that it’s not a film for everyone, it’s a remarkable achievement and a film that I found to be utterly compelling from start to finish.

Going in, I wasn’t expecting a great score, having been unfamiliar with Hopkins’ work beyond his production on albums for the likes of Eno, Massive Attack etc, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s a perfect backdrop to the film, considered, contemplative and really quite beautiful.

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However, as good and effective as it is accompanying the film, it’s something of an uneven listen away from it. This is largely down to the effective soundscapes Hopkins has created to accentuate the scenes that feature the creatures of the film not making appealing listening, for me at least, removed from the film.

That aside, there are some excellent moments and it plays out like a decent post rock album with an exquisite pay off. Monsters Theme is a fantastic finale that makes everything that preceded it worthwhile. Full of shimmering guitars and delicate melodies, it really does capture the romantic spirit of the film.

Based on this, I hope that Hopkins goes on to score many more films. The dream would be for him to strike up a creative partnership with Gareth Edwards similar to that of Clint Mansell and Darren Aronofsky. Hopkins building on the themes explored here for an Edwards-directed Godzilla is a very exciting prospect.

I couldn’t find a physical copy of the score, but it’s available on iTunes and is released via Domino Records.

Faster – Clint Mansell

Clint Mansell is my favourite composer working today, having produced a number of my favourite scores of the last ten years and all time. I eagerly anticipate the release of new material by him and often have to experience it for the first time without the benefit of the film it accompanies, due to international release dates, as is the case here.

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Like the score covered above, this is another that seems to take inspiration from post-rock’s big hitters. But, whereas the score above recalled Explosions In the Sky’s introspective and emotional sensibilities, this is a different beast entirely and plays out as though Mogwai are covering Drum’s Not Dead by Liars, which is most definitely a good thing. Pounding schizophrenic rhythms with heavy rock guitars create a damn exciting, pulse pounding score.

There are milder moments with nice use of strings and piano passages, but it’s the all out action pieces that I’ve returned to the most since owning this release. Perhaps not up there with his work on the likes of The Fountain, Moon and Requiem For A Dream, it offers a nice change of pace and direction. More action scores from Mr Mansell would be greatly appreciated.

The soundtrack for Faster is available now through Lakeshore Records and you should buy it now. It’s ace.

Black Swan – Clint Mansell

The fifth collaboration between Mansell and Aronofsky has seen another fantastic score, albeit one that won’t be rewarded by the Academy because of its basis in Tchaikovsky’s music for the classic ballet which forms the foundation for the film itself. Mansell is long overdue recognition, having been overlooked for much of his work to date, so it’s a shame that a score of such quality will again be overlooked due to the Academy’s prohibitive rules regarding eligibility for the best original score category.

Although the basis for the score is Tchaikovsky’s compositions, there is plenty of originality here. Mansell has created a much darker, ominous, tone to the existing pieces, as well as composing a number of original cues. This isn’t simply a case of taking existing work and appropriating it wholesale. This is undeniably a Mansell score from start to finish.

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What starts off as a quite delicate and light score soon develops into a work of foreboding and menace which unsettles and delights in equal measure. There were moments on my first listen that I jumped out of my skin, which is a little embarrassing, considering I was at work at the time.

Diehard fans of Tchaikovsky’s and the ballet Black Swan may not be fully taken by this reimagining, but for fans of film scores and Mansell’s, this should prove to be an absolute delight. It further solidifies Mansell’s standing as one of the finest composers working today.

The score for Black Swan is available through Sony Masterworks and is a must buy.

If you feel that there are any scores that have been released or are coming out that should be included in future entries in the series, please comment below..

Or, you can reach Glen on Twitter @GlenTChapman or find him here.

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