23-F: LA PELÍCULA – Antonio Fernández

Original Review by Alan Rogers

On February 23, 1981, a group of around 200 (made up of soldiers and members of the paramilitary Civil Guards) stormed the lower house of the Spanish Parliament (the Congress of Deputies) with the goal of forcing the King of Spain to end of the country’s emerging democracy. Led by (Civil Guard) Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, the attempted coup d’état ultimately failed and after only 18 hours the hostage-takers surrendered and the 350 Member of Parliament hostages were released unharmed. Marking the 30th Anniversary of the attempted coup, 23-F: La Película marks Spanish film-maker Chema de la Peña of this watershed event in Spain’s history (commonly known as “23-F”). He uses a mix of documentary-style film-making and faithful reconstruction and attempts to give a balanced view of the various factions’ driving motivations.

Composing duties falls to first-time feature composer Antonio Fernández whose previous experience includes various advertising and theatre projects. Fernández states in interview that a major challenge for him was composing music for a historical event that has already been fixed in many peoples’ minds. Within the orchestral score he uses several leitmotifs to describe various aspects of the unfolding drama: the use of rhythm and percussion to highlight the military uprising, the coupling of strings and woodwinds for the physical threat, and a textural soundscape to underscore the motivation behind the coup. In line with the documentary style of the drama, the composer has concentrated on mood pieces rather than mimicking the action on screen. Low-register tremolo strings in tracks such as “Asalto Al Congreso” and “Milans” give a tension to the unfolding drama rather than spell out specific actions and electronic moanings and murmurings – heard most expressively in “Subconsciente” – add a threatening tone to the score, building on the tension established by the tremolo strings. [Read more…]

Ten Tracks Today – 24th December 2011

01 – “Bayou” – The MechanicMark Isham

A quiet reflective track this one. Isham’s use of electric guitar with the orchestra (as well as electronic percussion) melds well here. Not a particularly notable track but a pleasant enough piece to start off with.

02 – “When It All Started” – The Christmas TangoJannos Eolou

The score seems based around a rather notable melody that gets a good airing in this track from the woodwinds. A repetitive string-based element and an accordion/harmonium add a bit of colour to the cue.

03 – “There Is Only One War (Opening Title)” – Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War IIDoyle W. Donehoo

There is what appears to be a generous nod to Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Alien to begin this track – on the scale of Tyler Bates’ “homage” from Elliot Goldenthal’s Titus for 300 – before the track goes off to some original scoring. Typical percussion and choir add menace to the orchestral score to give us, on balance, an interesting track. [Read more…]

Review frequency

Some may have noticed that there has been a recent drop off in the number of reviews being posted at Reel Music. Unfortunately, circumstances have meant that I have been unable to devote as much time on reviewing as I would have liked. Rest assured that when I am able to, I shall increase the review upload frequency to previous levels.

So, keep visiting regularly for new reviews and the usual additional treats.

Ten Tracks Today – 17th December 2011

01 – “Deer Hunting” – I Am LegendJames Newton Howard

There’s nothing much to the start of this cue – a tinkling piano motif – but pounding rhythms begin to intrude into the track as the peril of the deer becomes apparent. It’s not an over-orchestrated piece this, and it highlights well Howard’s grasp of the phrase “less is more”.

02 – “The Rain” – KikujiroJoe Hisaishi

This is such a beautiful track with it’s string solo together with piano accompaniment. A very lyrical piece that somehow has a sense of the bittersweet about it. I remember hearing this score as a clip in a “mystery clip” competition and immediately being attracted to this score. The end of the track moves onto what I would consider the “main theme” – another gem of a theme.

03 – “Corriendo al Ensayo de Teatro” – Hidalgo: La Historia Jamás ContadaAlejandro Giacomán

Swirling strings introduce a sense of urgency to the track. Also, the low strings add a repeating rhythm that is sustained throughout the track that propels it forward. Brass additions give the track a bit more depth and it all makes for an interesting piece. A bit of a disappointing score overall though. [Read more…]

HALLOWEEN II – John Carpenter (in association with Alan Howarth)

Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

Three years after the success of Halloween, John Carpenter returns to Haddonfield in the sequel, Halloween II. This time under the direction of Rick Rosenthal (Carpenter would co-write the story), this second film continues on immediately after the events of the first film seeing Michael Myers pursuing Laurie Strode to a nearby hospital. After a successful collaboration with sound effects designer and composer Alan Howarth on Carpenter’s Escape From New York, Carpenter renewed their partnership to work on the score for the second film in the Halloween series. Carpenter’s original themes are revisited and reworked using the latest synthesisers available at the time and new themes/motifs are added to the mix. This gives Halloween II a score that is both familiar but also different. Unfortunately, it all makes for a less than satisfying listen that can be put down to something more than just the diluted impact associated with any sequel of a ground-breaking original. In addition, creative choices made for this expanded re-release from 2009 only compound the negative feelings towards this score.

The album starts off well with adaptations of the original themes from Halloween. Both “Halloween II Theme” and “Laurie’s Theme” features the most familiar themes but the piano is dropped in favour of electronic synthesisers. Although the themes are the same I find this change to a less organic sound (i.e., the removal of the piano) removes a significant portion of what made the original themes so effective. The aural quality of the synthesisers used (they tend to be very sharp, brash and abrasive in nature) seem at odds with the feel of the themes as heard in the first film. Perhaps Carpenter and Howarth wanted to have a cleaner, more sterile sound to reflect the setting of the film (in a hospital). Or maybe they just wanted to play with their new synth toys? [Read more…]

Capsule Comments

As we are getting towards the end of the year thoughts naturally turn to reviewing what sort of year it has been for film, TV and game music. As part of my reflection on what 2011 held in terms of the music, I was thinking of adding some “Capsule Comments” on the scores I am listening to during this time. They will not be full reviews. Instead I’m hoping that they will be one-paragraph comments of albums that are very general.

Anyway, I plan to start on these as soon as possible. So keep an eye out for them to begin in the next day or two.

Ten Tracks Today – 9th December 2011

01 – “Rambo Theme” – RamboBrian Tyler

I think that Tyler does a sensitive job with Jerry Goldsmith’s original theme(s) here. Personally, I think what Tyler added himself fits really well with the more emotional side of the original. When the score goes all action-oriented it is a Tyler score, but then a John Rambo film needs Goldsmith’s themes to make it a “proper” Rambo film.

02 – “Path of Tears” – World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich KingMatt Uelmen

The music for the World of Warcraft world is a monumental effort and has many of the properties of film and TV music (there is a blurring of both genres in terms of the quality of the music). This long track has (in places) a bit of an oriental feel to it with its emphasis on Eastern-style flute playing as well as the rhythmic bells. The track moves between various segments but there’s never really a dull moment.

03 – “Becoming Jerome” – GATTACAMichael Nyman

There’s a vibrancy to this cue that makes it so appealing. And it’s nice for Nyman to forego the use of saxophones for such a cue, relying instead on strings. A nice change from the emotional – and stunning – remainder of the score. [Read more…]