RED RAIN – Josh Spear


Original Review by Alan RogersRed Rain

So-called “red rain”( or “blood rain”) has been recorded for hundreds of years and explanations for this phenomenon have recently included red dust being suspended in rain water or due to the presence of micro-organisms such as algae. The region of Kerala, India experienced a red rain event in 2001 but it was not until 2006 that this phenomenon received widespread media coverage when scientists suggested that the coloured particles could be cells of extra-terrestrial origin. Indian director Rahul Sadasivan’s 2013 debut film Red Rain contemplates this more sensational explanation, having a young researcher (who has personal issues to sort out – don’t they all!) and friends traipsing around a dark forest trying to establish the cause of a more recent red rain event (but this time with eye-witness accounts white lights in the sky and strange creatures). Red Rain features a multi-national group of actors and crew including young British composer Josh Spear who composes, orchestrates, conducts and mixes a score for small ensemble that’s relatively low-key and ultimately reflects, I think, the film’s seeming emphasis on exposition and character interactions rather than action.

The score is very much centred on the use of the string ostinato to achieve and sustain suspense and tension throughout. Focusing on using a small string ensemble, the various examples of string ostinato sounds good on the album and keeps the score moving along. “Dissent” and “Sky People” are good examples of the variety Spear injects into the score with the varied ostinato figures: the former being a very low strings, relatively slow-paced rhythm and the latter a faster paced effort on the violins. The score does have one particularly good theme, best heard in tracks such as “Where It Snows”, “Kontakte” and “Conclusions”. Reminiscent to me of a theme from Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy, it’s memorable, sounding honourable when played by brass (“Where It Snows”) and triumphant when the full force of the ensemble are brought to bear (“Kontakte”) (though this latter cue does suffer a bit of deja-vu from a decidedly Inception-like string ostinato).

Strings, brass, piano and voices all play a significant role in Red Rain with the female voices being particularly notable. Although they seem to be mixed particularly loudly in a lot of cases, when they do feature, they add a nice dynamic to the score; providing eerie support to the sustained string chords heard in the likes of “Chaconne” or “Given Over” or a bright staccato accent to the strings (e.g., “Where It Snows”). Additional aspects of the score include soft steel-drum-like percussion (“The Drive”), fragments of dissonance (e.g., “Bovine”, “Kontakte”) and faintly Indian instrumentation/rhythms (“Hieroglyphs”, the only real reference in the music to the film’s setting). The inclusion of sound effects such as the voices of children playing and a Morse code signal in “Brothers We Are” and “Cosmos”, respectively, are unwelcome additions and their presence comes across as a bit lazy if their inclusion is to try and emphasise what the music is trying to convey.

Josh Spear’s Red Rain is a score that probably serves the film well with its emphasis on using the ostinato to support all of the exposition and “talky” bits of the film. But as a separate listen it doesn’t really come across as particularly exciting. There are a few highlights though: “Where It Snows” is a good summary of a lot of the elements used in the score itself and, when the film does get “going” in the latter stages, tracks such as “Kontakte” and “Conclusions” offer a glimpse of Spear’s abilities when given the opportunity to be more expressive. Overall, Red Rain is worth taking a listen to, but I am not sure that the album will have much repeatability value. The score is available as a digital download from most of the usual online outlets and tracks from the album are available to listen to in full on Spotify and the composer’s SoundCloud page.

Rating: **

  1. TC6 (2:29)
  2. Chaconne (1:36)
  3. Where It Snows (1:36)
  4. Jay’s Mind’s Eye (0:34)
  5. A Reunion (1:16)
  6. Bovine (0:52)
  7. Dissent (0:56)
  8. Hieroglyphs (1:24)
  9. The Drive (1:30)
  10. At Market (0:59)
  11. Brothers We Are (1:22)
  12. Cosmos (2:10)
  13. Helicopters Overhead (1:06)
  14. Sky People (0:41)
  15. Names and Addresses (1:13)
  16. Red Rain (2:16)
  17. Sirens (0:55)
  18. Given Over (0:35)
  19. Forge Our Own Path (0:42)
  20. Kontakte (2:19)
  21. Conclusions (1:27)
  22. Credits (2:00)
  23. Into The Jungle (1:30)

Running Time: 31:36

Josh Spear (2014)

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