Monday, April 26, 2010

Clash Of The Titans by Ramin Djawadi (Review)

The remake of Clash Of The Titans made news headlines for several reasons. The big one was that Warner Brothers decided to revamp the film in 3D at the last second just to get the inflated ticket pricing despite the fact that 3D was never ever planned for it in any creative sense. The second headliner was that Craig Armstrong’s score was rejected and he was replaced by Ramin Djawadi.

A lot of people were disappointed by this, but the fact is that score rejection is becoming a huge thing. After The Wolfman fiasco and recently Atli Örvarsson being kicked off The Karate Kid we’re seeing that score rejection is becoming more common.

From the time Ramin Djawadi was hired till the first dub he had 3 weeks to compose the score. So of course in the Hans Zimmer tradition of collaboration he had a few of his friends and collaborators help out. Neil Davidge, Geoff Zanelli, Dominic Lewis, Noah Sorota and Bobby Tahouri came on board to help with the insurmountable task of composing a feature score to a massive action film in only 3 weeks.

I fell in love with the score. It has the sound I love, sweeping ascending cues that carry you, a grounding and emotional main theme. All in all it is a great score. Is it anything new? Absolutely not. You can hear the Zimmer influence throughout it. At times I heard a touch of Pirates Of The Caribbean and some King Arthur style cues. However, It carries Ramin’s sound that you heard in Iron Man but without the “rock n’ roll” mentality. People wonder if he paid any homage to Laurence Rosenthal’s score to the original, which he didn’t. I see it as a good thing. I don’t know why people want composers to reference the original scores for remakes. I love it when we get an original voice.

So, if you want a good old fashion Zimmeresque action score then here it is. Enjoy it because it’s tons of fun. The only drawback is the inclusion of Niel Davidge’s full on 10-minute grunge rock cue. It sticks out like a sore thumb and I would have much rather gotten some more story propelled score. I’m not complaining though because the album is packed as it is. Also, just an interesting side note. At the very end of the credits of the film they credit “Io’s Theme” by Craig Armstrong. So it looks like just a snippet of his score survived the final cut.

God Of War III by Gerard Marino, Ron Fish, Cris Velasco, Mike Reagan & Jeff Rona (Review)

The immensely popular God Of War franchise makes its PS3 debut with the third installment of the franchise. For anyone whose played the first two games or has heard any of the scores they should know that this is a loud and over the top experience.

The score features the talents of 5 great composers. Gerard Marino, Ron Fish, Cris Velasco, Mike Reagan & Jeff Rona all contributed to the score. Sometimes when you have this many people working on a score you come across identity confusion where the cohesive whole of the score suffers, but this isn’t the case.

The score is a grand venture to say the least. The music is loud, in your face and takes charge. It creates an other worldly atmosphere with godlike presence that would make Zeus proud. The use of the male chorus is the key ingredient in achieving this, but not all the score is over the top mythological madness.

The use of a few ethnic instruments give it an ancient feel and in a way give it a historical presence. The only real lacking part of the score is grounding thematic material. That is one of the many cons of a massive composer team. Thematic material gets lost as each composer does their own parts. While it’s impossible for me to say the score has no identity it does lack that emotional connecting characteristic that thematically grounded scores do have. While some of the tracks do have some identifiable melodies it’s hard to deny that the score overall washes over you with pulsing percussion and roaring vocals at times.

When the score settles down a bit it can be great. Tracks like “The Muse’s Song” is a great example of simple melodies infused with ethnic instruments that give the score its grounding.

The score may give your head a good pounding so don’t listen to it if your tired. It captures the energy of the game and infuses atmosphere to give the score an unmistakable identity. It’s a great approach from all those involved.

The Back-Up Plan by Stephen Trask (Review)

Jennifer Lopez returns to acting after her pregnancy in the actually very appropriate The Back-Up Plan. In the film Lopez plays a single 30 something woman who decides she will never meet the right guy, but with loneliness on her mind she wants to have a baby so she can say she does have a family. She gets artificially inseminated, but lo and behold she finds a guy she falls in love with.

We’re walking into “romcom” territory here. I always state how easy it is for romantic comedy scores to fall into the “cheesy” category and just be swept up in saccharine melodies that make you want to slap yourself. I’m pleased to say that Trask didn’t go that route. While the plot isn’t original and doesn’t leave that much room for extreme creativity I was pleased with Trask’s approach.

The score is playful and the main theme flourishes in the first track titled “Daydream”. What follows is pretty much familiar territory for anyone whose seen a romantic comedy before. The only problem with the score as a standalone release is the many many short tracks. The shortest being :13 seconds, but we have a plethora of the dreaded :20-:30 second tracks. I have seen the film and of course it works much better in the flow of the film.

Stephen Trask does an adequate job of balancing the score and making it light, playful, romantic and in a way memorable. The main theme sticks around and that’s what makes it work. The score is not reinventing the wheel or giving us anything new, but it works.

Franklyn by Joby Talbot (Review)

Franklyn is a British film that was filmed back in 2007, but just recently got commercially released in the United Kingdom. The plot itself would probably give any composer a good challenge. The story is a parallel narrative. One taking place in contemporary London and the other in a future metropolis called Meanwhile City. It follows four characters as their fates intertwine and each with their own goals. So, again, anything like that poses a great challenge for a composer.

Franklyn was composed by Joby Talbot. Most people will probably recognize him for his score to the amazing and hilarious The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. For Franklyn Talbot takes on a minimalistic approach at times, and when I say minimalist I’m not talking “Phillip Glass” minimalism. The main theme is a simple piano arrangement and it gives the score this “lullaby” feel at least for me. It’s gentle but expresses emptiness.

For me the score does an excellent job of wrapping you up in its atmosphere. The short track lengths may make the solo listening experience a bit choppy for some, but Talbot manages to wrap the story very impressively in the Finale tracks entitled “Finale Part 1” and “Finale Part 2”. This is a fantastic score worth taking the journey for. It allows you to get lost in its mystery and fantasy while always keeping you grounded with simple melodies.

Lesbian Vampire Killers by Debbie Wiseman (Review)

Lesbian Vampire Killers is a British horror comedy about . . . well I guess the title speaks for itself. The score was composed by Debbie Weiseman and to be quite honest will probably go against your expectations. The score sort of has a Danny Elfman quality to it, but of course has a full identity of its own. Wiseman heavily uses a female chorus to create the whimsical and fantasy filled tone of the score.

The thematic material does stand out. She uses simple melodic motifs that work to great effect. With this being a horror comedy score we do have a few tracks that fall into a more playful tone.

Now, I’m sure that when people hear the title “Lesbian Vampire Killers” they aren’t exactly going “wow, I need to check out this score”. To be quite honest I really think you should. Tracks like “Lesbian Vampire Killers” and “ and “Full-On Lesbian Vampire Attack” are extremely memorable for their grand orchestral approach. Overall I found the score extremely enjoyable even if it did lack any real emotional connection. I really would have liked to see more genre elements played around with, but I applaud the fact that the score doesn’t fall into mundane territory. So, I urge you to at least check out a few samples of the score and if you like what you hear then go for it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Header!

Thanks to Matt Rixham for the new header! Check out Cold Coffe for more cool designs!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Days Of Our Lives by Ken Corday & D. Brent Nelson (Review)

It’s really hard to put this any other way so I’ll just say it. This is a 2-Disc release of the musical score to the soap opera, Days Of Our Lives. Now, the soap opera is a genre of television that has its own formulas and trademarks like any other genre. This includes the absolutely melodramatic music.

Now, I’m sorry when I say this, but this is some of the worst music composed that you will probably ever hear. It’s just hard to imagine anyone who can sit and listen to this other than maybe for nostalgia’s sake. Ominous tones make up the majority of the score, and even though there is surprisingly some thematic stuff going on it’s all lost within the forced emotions the music is trying to convey. Everything is synthetic and sounds inorganic so it just sounds cheap. I know that’s no reason to bash a score, but believe me when I say that there are amazing synth scores out there with the same “cheap” sound that are able to tell an emotional story.

So, you can probably tell I don’t care for soap operas. I can’t stand forced emotions and storytelling that doesn’t come off as organic. So when the score is just pure forced emotions it just makes it dismissible experience. For people who like soaps I can imagine how the score must work within the framework of the show and everything in that respect, but here as a standalone listen it’s laughable and time wasted.



Celebrated Composer Records A-List World Music Talent for Evocative Original Score Featured in New Prince of Persia® for the Nintendo Wii™

New York, April 6th, 2010 - Tom Salta, one of the most decorated and prolific music composers for multimedia, has produced an original music score for Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™ for the Nintendo Wii™ system. Salta is renowned for crafting memorable, emotionally engaging scores for the medium and delivers a melodic and deeply immersive soundtrack that is essential to the rich gaming experience of Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™. Developed by Ubisoft®'s Production Studio in Quebec and built entirely from the ground up, Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™ for the Nintendo Wii™ is a new chapter in the critically acclaimed Prince of Persia® The Sands of Time series, which introduces players to a brand new storyline complete with new characters, and powers that transcend both nature and time. Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™ is scheduled to be commercially released on May 18, 2010.

"An outstanding composer, Tom Salta is extremely passionate and truly committed to our project," said Aurelien Baguerre, audio director for Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™ on the Nintendo Wii™. "The action and gameplay are remarkably enhanced by Tom's beautiful orchestrations which unmistakably evoke Persian colors, providing a grandiose and emotional dimension to our game."

To fully immerse players in the Prince's new adventure, Salta composed and produced an intensely atmospheric and intricately woven original music score that captures the essence and spirit of the original Prince of Persia® The Sands of Time and supports the new story and gameplay of Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™ with a contemporary world music aesthetic. The score features performances recorded with globally revered percussionist Bashiri Johnson, dark hypnotic vocals by world music singer Azam Ali and ethereal vocals by international recording artist Judith Bérard, as well as world music and middle-eastern instrumentation such as doubek, kora, khangira, bowhammer cymbalom, lakota slide, walimba, ney, duduk and custom made instruments.

About the Video Game:
Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™ for Nintendo Wii™ is a new installment in the popular Prince of Persia™ series and presents a new adventure within The Sands of Time universe. After leaving his father's kingdom to prove his worth, the Prince is drawn toward a mysterious realm. He quickly discovers that he must harness his acrobatic abilities and powers over the environment to not only survive, but to save a mystic palace from unfathomable evil. For more information on Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands™ please visit:

About Ubisoft®:
Ubisoft is a leading producer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment products worldwide and has grown considerably through a strong and diversified line-up of products and partnerships. Ubisoft is present in 28 countries and has sales in more than 55 countries around the globe. It is committed to delivering high-quality, cutting-edge video game titles to consumers. For the 2008-09 fiscal year Ubisoft generated sales of 1.058 billion euros. To learn more, please

© 2003 - 2010 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Based on Prince of Persia® created by Jordan Mechner. Ubisoft and the Ubisoft logo are trademarks of Ubisoft Entertainment in the U.S. and/or other countries. Prince of Persia and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands are trademarks of Jordan Mechner in the U.S. and/or other countries used under license by Ubisoft Entertainment.

Wii and the Wii logo are trademarks of Nintendo. © 2006 Nintendo

Chloe by Mychael Danna (Review)

Mychael Danna has just come from co- composing an amazing score with his brother for The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. When I first saw the trailer for Chloe nothing about it appealed to me, so I can’t say I was expecting anything great from the score.

The first track sets up our main theme, and it isn’t bad. However it doesn’t really jump up and connect with you. Then again, this is a very quiet score. The problem is that this quiet score doesn’t make any real attempt to connect with you emotionally so it’s just sort of there. The tracks really blend together so there isn’t anything that really stands out except for when the main theme finds its way back into the score now and then.

To be honest I found the entire experience quite distant and boring. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of quiet and atmospheric scores out there that manage to be incredibly emotionally engaging. The Hurt Locker is a pretty recent example of that. It’s just that when a score itself can’t take me on an emotional journey and tell me a story I find it really hard to enjoy the experience.

So, for me I’m gonna have to say pass on Chloe and keep on listening to Doctor Parnassus.

Bioshock 2 by Gary Schyman (Review)

We return to Rapture with Gary Schyman’s absolutely amazing followup score to Bioshock 2. The best video game scores are those that you can listen to apart from the game and immediately be transported back to the world in your mind. The main theme itself is haunting and beautiful. It echoes memories of a lost paradise and you can hear the loss and mystery within the music. In fact I will go ahead and make the statement that all the emotion felt in this game comes from the score. Sure the world of Rapture is disturbing and you can credit the game designers for constructing a breathtaking world, but it’s the music that brings it to life.

The music has a sense of timelessness to it. It gives us that Americana feel of the 1950’s, but credit that to the song usage in the game. The score finds balance between the songs to create the overall soundscape to the game. That wailing violin has become the signature of the score and to me that defines the score and is what gives the world and characters life.

While it’s hard to place this score in the realm of horror it does feel that way in certain points. The games themselves especially the first one were pretty scary and intense. The second game story-wise didn’t have that same visceral impact so there wasn’t that much the score could do to expand I suppose. It’s nonetheless an incredibly haunting experience. Schyman really accomplished something with the first score and he continues that here. We will forever associate Rapture with what Gary Schyman has crafted on this amazing musical journey.

Red Riding 1980 by Dickon Hinchliffe (Review)

Red Riding was originally adapted from the four novels that comprised Red Riding Quartet by David Peace. Back in 2009 they were made into 3 feature length television events that aired in the United Kingdom. They were released here in the states recently as 3 seperate films. The films chronicle the investigations of serial murders dealing with the Yorkshire Ripper case. This British Noir delves further and further into a web of corruption. So, I guess you could say it’s similar to David Fincher’s Zodiac if you need a reference except it spans 3 films.

The second part of the trilogy was composed by Dickon Hinchliffe and the sound is overtly a bit different right off the bat. This album was released separately with my guess being to not mix up the different composers’ work on the series. This score is more brooding and has an intensity that the first two scores didn’t have. It still manages to have a noirish feel to the music but in a more modern way. The sound is much more full and atmospheric. It doesn’t carry the melodic style the first two scores did, but it’s still effective in its approach.

Overall, this is great that these two albums got a release. It’s a nice collection of music to discover something you probably never heard of unless you are aware of the novels or these adaptations. The scores may lack any everlasting impact on the listener, but there are some great themes and atmospheric stuff here.

Red Riding 1974 & Red Riding 1983 by Adrian Johnston & Barrington Pheloung (Review)

Red Riding was originally adapted from the four novels that comprised Red Riding Quartet by David Peace. Back in 2009 they were made into 3 feature length television events that aired in the United Kingdom. They were released here in the states recently as 3 seperate films. The films chronicle the investigations of serial murders dealing with the Yorkshire Ripper case. This British Noir delves further and further into a web of corruption. So, I guess you could say it’s similar to David Fincher’s Zodiac if you need a reference except it spans 3 films.

The first and last films are entitled Red Riding 1974 and Red Riding 1983, and they were scored by Adrian Johnston & Barrington Pheloung. Let me start off by saying that I had no idea what to expect from this, but again I was introduced to an amazing score I would otherwise never even seek out. The first track sets up the minimalist theme that will continue to structure the score. It’s a simple guitar cue, but the arrangement gives it a sense of uneasiness while still maintaining a sense of calm if that makes any sense.

The rest of the score falls into traditional noir fashion. Lots of strings creating a sense of curiosity and always a sense of uneasiness. There are some quiet tracks that give it a little suspense, but nothing in the realm of horror music.

What we have here is a really nice compilation of music from 2 of the films. The simple melodic theme is a great jumping off point and it carries you through the score with a few other themes along the way. It carries some classic noir elements and overall is worth checking out. It may feel strange that the second film was released as a separate album, but it makes sense to group all of the same composers' work together.

Overall, this is great that these two albums got a release. It’s a nice collection of music to discover something you probably never heard of unless you are aware of the novels or these adaptations. The scores may lack any everlasting impact on the listener, but there are some great themes and atmospheric stuff here.

Love Happens by Christopher Young (Review)

Romantic scores can become incredibly overdone and fall into saccharine territory very easily. It takes a skilled composer to evoke real emotions without going the cheesy route. Christopher Young succeeds with Love Happens. The music is simple and guitar based. It’s light and doesn’t overpower. Young had decent material to work with in that he was able to venture into sadness. Tracks like “Past Isn’t” and “Vodka Logic” embrace a solo piano with soft strings to achieve that.

This isn’t a one dimensional score. It has a playful side to it but knows when to get serious. The main theme echoes throughout and it works because it’s simple. The track “It’s MMM. . . Good” playfully uses the title of the track as a lyric. Young also brings in the strings more heavily in later tracks to get a full bodied sound that resonates more.

All in all the score doesn’t break any new ground in the genre, but it succeeds. It’s heartwarming and has a flow of energy that is present throughout. Elements of it reminded me of John Powell’s terrific score to P.S. I Love You. Christopher Young knows not to overpower with melodrama or cheesy arrangements.

Assassin's Creed II by Jesper Kyd (Review)

Jesper Kyd has provided an amazing experience within his followup score to Assassin’s Creed II. A mixture of electronic and ethnic flavors create a full on atmosphere and immerse you in the world of the game.

The score propels you forward with the story and really doesn’t ever feel like “background” music. Of course there are a few tracks that may be classified as that such as the tracks that play when you approach a target. However they are structured and looped in a way where the player builds their own suspense and the music fits pretty much whatever images you as the player create.

The score has an other worldly feel but still grounds itself with certain sounds and melodies that give us something emotional to grasp onto. There isn’t anything sweeping or grand and it excels in its simplicity. Kyd embraces solo instruments and lets them shine. The score is a modern approach and works extremely well.