Monday, October 19, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are by Carter Burwell (Review)

Carter Burwell continues his collaboration with Spike Jonze with the long delayed and much anticipated Where The Wild Things Are. Filming began in 2005 and this film has been delayed for over a year due to complications and re-shoots. The final product is an incredibly astounding and surprisingly adult result.

I remember reading Where The Wild Things Are as a child and I’m sure many others in my generation do as well. The film itself takes the themes of loniness and acceptance and shines them under a more mature light than what we originally remember. Burwell’s score accompanies these emotions with perfection in his trademark simplicity. The main theme “Lost Fur” is merely comprised of a few plucks on a bass and a solo piano while accented by a guitar.

The music does make a transformation once Max enters the world of the Wild Things. Once he gains acceptance and feels needed and understood the music sheds its dreary isolated tone and brings us back into the light. Karen O’s songs work seamlessly with the score as they bring us back to those childhood moments of fantasy and wonder where we own the worlds we’ve created. The film spirals back down to reality really fast as things fall apart and our characters come to realize that worth and happiness are not easy to come by. The emotional conclusion is carried all by Burwell and then ends on an incredibly touching note. This is one hell of a score not just because it’s simple in its emotional effectiveness, but because it can seamlessly work with another artist’s creations for the musical soundscape of the film. This isn’t a kiddy film and Burwell did not deliver a kiddy score.

Burwell’s score is a digital download only on iTunes and Amazon MP3 while Karen O’s songs for the film did get a CD release. I recommend getting both of them for your solo listening experience. It’s definitely worth it.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves by Greg Edmonson (Review)

Greg Edmonson returns to the successful Sony franchise for the PS3. Game scores have become a new breed. Looking back at game music history is fascinating. I can honestly say that today game scores are identical in function to film scores. Michael Giacchino helped blur the lines with his magnificent work on the Medal Of Honor series, but real credit goes to Norihiko Hibino who scored Metal Gear Solid for PS1. That score was the first game score that had to work with characters and cinematic developments or in simpler terms a story with a hero and a goal.

What Greg Edmonson has done here is successfully created a sound for the Uncharted universe. In what can best be described as a modern take on classic adventure scores this score is massive in scope and scale. Percussion, strings and brass work in grandiose arrangements to transport you to the story’s exotic locales all the while keeping tension and excitement at a maximum.

I definitely think that this score is a huge improvement over what he did for the first game. He does use many variations of Nate’s Theme throughout the game. Instead of blatantly placing it in the score like say the James Bond theme he will instead weave it into the arrangements to avoid it being “cheesy” or just over the top. New this time around is the use of vocals. At first you’ll get airy female vocals, which is perfect for the exotic and mysterious aspect of the story. Later as you plunge deeper into darker territory he’ll bring in the droning throat singing male vocals, which is a perfect accent since the game deals with Shambhala and throat singing is a custom of the Inuit people in that part of the world.

All in all Greg Edmonson has found his shining achievement. I never got into his music because looking at the nature of his filmography it ranges from shows like Firefly and King Of The Hill to some obscure films. Uncharted is an amazing musical accomplishment and stands with Harry Gregson-Williams’ work for the Metal Gear Solid franchise and Michael Giacchino’s work as some of the best game scores of all time. It works as background score for the gameplay and seamlessly transitions between cutscenes and gameplay to mesh the two in a way where you feel the entire game is one huge cutscene and your experiencing it front and center. This album is a digital download only just like the first score. So check for it on iTunes.