PHASE 7 – Guillermo Guareschi


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

First-time feature director Nicolás Goldbart’s Argentinian tongue-in-cheek, end-of-the-world thriller Phase 7 focuses on a couple who are quarantined in their apartment block when a deadly worldwide epidemic reaches Argentina. Rather than dwelling on the usual shocks of a deteriorating populous, Goldbart’s film concentrates more on how the band of trapped neighbours cope with their situation. Naturally, after everything starts off so well, tensions between everyone begin to appear as the residents get a bit stir crazy and things get out of control when one of the neighbours starts on a shooting spree. The director wanted a specific sound for the music in the film and asked fellow Argentinian Guillermo Guareschi for a “big synth driven score in the 80s style”. What the composer (a writer of scores for successful Argentinian TV shows and blockbuster films) delivers is a score that would not be out of place alongside the late-1970s/1980s scores of the likes of John Carpenter and Richard Band. Pleasing-to-the-ear synths deliver a variety of meaty rhythms and tempos, augmented with electronic strings and abstract sounds that sits nicely with electric guitars and live drums/percussion and all coming together as an interesting and enjoyable listening experience.

The predominant feel of the 80s in the music for Phase 7 is the John Carpenter-influenced synths and emphasis on solid electronic ostinato rhythms. Tracks such as “Lobby Reunion”, “Explore”, “The Mirror” and the powerful conclusion to the score, “Face The World” (an great amalgam of the various parts of the score) are excellent examples of Guareschi’s grasp of the genre. Scores such as Escape From New York (“Explore”), Christine (“Terrace”, “The Mirror”) and Assault On Precinct 13 (“Incidental Phase”, “The Freezer”) all spring to mind as a result of certain synth and sound design choices made by the composer. One particular aspect of the music worth mentioning specifically is one theme/motif that appears at several points in the score. Heard particularly strongly in one of the highlight cues, “No Life”, this theme comes across (to this listener anyway) as a mix of Steve Jablonsky’s theme heard in “The All Spark” (Transformers) and a bridging theme from John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. This theme appears in various forms – e.g., as a resolute anthem in “No Life” and another highlight track “Face The World” or as a delicate reflection in solo electric guitar towards the end of “Doomsday Garage”. Although the reminders of these other scores is obvious, I found that it does not detract too much from the originality of Guareschi’s music. And what of the Richard Band influences? Shrill and somewhat harsh electronics (e.g., “Explore”, “The Freezer”) tend to be what reminds me of his music. Mixed in amongst all these electronic and synthetic sounds, the use of snare drums adds a martial quality to several cues (e.g., “Lobby Reunion”, “No Life”) and bass electric guitar adds a bluesy feel in places (“Blues In Phase”, “Bug From The City”). “Killing of The Swan” makes diverting use of piano: an attractive rendition of opening to Tchaikovsky’s Intermezzo from Swan Lake together with the cue’s title leads to the expectation of something going horribly wrong with this solo piano piece…and it does when, instead of the expected appearance of a swelling orchestral accompaniment what we hear is a multi-layered, almost-crude invasion of various synths (including some that are reminiscent of Wendy Carlos’ treatment of Dies Irae in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining). This is one of the few places where Guareschi’s music seems forced, trying too hard to fit into the horror genre.

What stands out with Guareschi’s score how “front-and-centre” the presence of the music is: the quality of the recording is excellent meaning that there is a clarity to each component of the score that adds to the overall listening enjoyment. The composer seems to have thought hard when choosing what properties his custom-made sounds should have and how all the synth elements are layered together. Most of the synths he uses have an open, meaty quality where the whole range of frequencies is used in creating the sounds rather than focusing on (for example) specific high frequency tones that usually leads to harsh, ear-piercing electronics. The score is not uniformly interesting though. Several back-to-back tracks in the middle have more of an ambient quality to them and I found my attention wander a bit but Guareschi’s instrument and sound design selections means that some level of interest is maintained and it is not too long until the strong finale is reached. Guareschi has clearly taken advantage of the opportunity to create a varied and interesting score to fill the space provided by the relatively low-key events taking place in the majority of the film. And the listing of several of the cues as “alternate tracks” suggests that some thought may also have gone into providing the best listening experience rather than just putting together a straight reproduction of the film score. Released by Howlin’ Wolf Records as a limited CD release (only 500 CDs have been produced) the label should be applauded for making this score available for us to hear. It would have been easy to dismiss this score as just being another ambient score for a little-known horror flick (had I just listened to the clips alone) but have, instead, been rewarded by a surprisingly good score that, although not brimming with hummable themes, does linger in the memory as providing an enjoyable escape for 50 minutes or so. It’s a score that’s well worth taking a chance on and is heartily recommended.

Rating: ***½

  1. Main Title (1:17)
  2. Lobby Reunion (2:19)
  3. The Neighbour (3:02)
  4. Light Bulbs (1:41)
  5. Strange Flat (2:33)
  6. Explore (2:20)
  7. Zenith (1:01)
  8. Sanuto (3:09)
  9. Killing of The Swan (2:14)
  10. No Life (3:20)
  11. The Mirror (2:56)
  12. Heavy Vault (2:17)
  13. Doomsday Garage (2:27)
  14. The Freezer (1:50)
  15. Blues In Phase (2:19)
  16. B-Witch (2:04)
  17. Incidental Phase (0:49)
  18. Bug From The City (2:19)
  19. Shooter (1:29)
  20. Terrace (2:33)
  21. Face The World (4:51)

Running Time: 48:59

Howlin’ Wolf Records (2011)

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Comments

  1. Like the clips…surprisingly listenable and well produced! Think I’m gonna give this one a go!

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