Written and directed by Dáire McNab, The Three Sisters is an independent Irish crime thriller and stars Gillian Walsh and Elliot Moriarty, both relative newcomers to feature films. Director McNab’s belief that the combination of a solid murder-mystery storyline and gory slasher film-style deaths – a mix typically seen in many of the great Italian giallo films – has a broad commercial appeal prompted him to begin work on his own low-budget modern-day giallo film back in 2012. The plot revolves around the events that befall Walsh’s character after the suicide of her uncle, the brutal murder of her sister and the slow death of her father (played by cult giallo actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice) from cancer. To reinforce the whole neo-giallo feel of The Three Sisters, McNab turns to Scottish composer/musician Alan Sinclair (AKA Repeated Viewing), a composer who has begun to make a name for himself after scoring a number of independent horror and thriller films. Echoing the synth and guitar combinations of the original giallo soundtracks of the 1970s and 1980s (written by the likes of Goblin, Fabio Frizzi, etc.), Sinclair creates a score that works remarkably well away from the film for which it was written (I’ve not seen the film).
The album opens with the excellent “Three Sisters (Main Titles)” with cascading bar chimes acting as a formal musical statement that brings the listener into the world the composer (and director) has created. A hypnotic synth pattern then takes over, holding the listener’s attention by providing an immediate uneasiness which is then heightened almost immediately by a fantastic sounding electric guitar riff that’s then embellished as the cue progresses. Bass guitar, drum kit percussion and a variety of synth elements are layered over the original elements. And then, just when you settle down and become comfortable into the composer’s creation, he strips away all that he’s built to leave a powerful tolling piano beat that’s quite disorientating. He then rebuilds the final quarter of the 6-minute track with bass drum ostinato, synths keyboards and synth vocals. It’s a beautifully crafted track that sets the scene for the rest of the score. Immediately following on from “Three Sisters (Main Titles)”, the opening of “Heartbeat” adds a level of vulnerability to the score with its simple piano melody to which the composer adds a strong bass rhythm pattern (a heartbeat?) and a number of catchy synth patterns, including one that has echoes of breathy sighing. Later tracks such as “Gunter’s Sympathy” and “The Escape” are other strong examples of the composer’s technique of creating great-sounding cues by taking a number of ideas and carefully combining them together to form memorable self-contained compositions.
Sinclair’s The Three Sisters isn’t just made up of a series of catchy tracks. Early on in the score, a number of synth ideas are used to create vivid soundscapes that are both harsh (“Alone At Midnight”) and eerie (“She Hears Me”). “Alone At Midnight”, with its almost abstract use of abrasive sounds and unusual rhythms, reminds me somewhat of the Gil Mellé’s The Andromeda Strain. Track 8, “Childhood Fantasy”, adds an unsettling feel to the score with a sickening-sounding lullaby-styled melody that’s backed by a humming male voice which, in this situation, just adds to the amount of creepiness “Childhood Fantasy” exudes. The appearance of John Carpenter-esque “stingers” in tracks such as “Alone At Midnight” and “The Creator” are a nice addition to the score but are a bit distracting in that I found that they tended to lift me out of the musical world created by Sinclair. But this isn’t as much of an issue as it could have been: in the final score cue, “The Creator”, the strong presence of slap bass guitar and drum kit synths are a powerful distraction!
As a bonus, the album closes with four “remix” tracks. I was initially apprehensive when I saw the inclusion of these tracks, since remixes can be far removed from the original tracks and are usually quite uninteresting (to me at least). However, the remixes featured on The Three Sisters are very respectful of the original tracks and provide interesting variations on the originals (e.g., “Three Sisters (Umberto Remix)” and “Gunter’s Sympathy (Vercetti Technicolor Remix)”).
Alan Sinclair’s score for The Three Sisters is a cracking album. There are numerous highlight tracks that are very catchy and linger in the mind long after the final cue has ended. And a lot of this is down to the composer’s careful selection of the synth elements and how the tracks are put together. Rather than being your typical modern film score, where the music follows the action on screen (sometimes at the expense of musical cohesion), the majority of the tracks featured on The Three Sisters feel like self-contained compositions: initial ideas are established and then developed via a combination of techniques such as variations of the original idea and/or the addition of layers of instruments and counter-melodies/ideas.
The Italian giallo film genre is one that’s pretty much passed me by, both in terms of the films and the music. There has been praise from several quarters that highlight how well the score mirrors the music from the heyday of giallo films and Sinclair’s music is strong enough to be thoroughly enjoyed by those familiar with giallo films as well as those with little or no knowledge of this genre; strong enough to be enjoyed away from the image and listened to as just music. The Three Sisters is strongly recommended and is available from Wil-Ru Records as a digital download and as a limited edition CD. Audio clips can be heard HERE.
Rating: *** ½
- Three Sisters (Main Titles) (6:32)
- Heartbeat (2:32)
- Alone At Midnight (3:40)
- She Hears Him (3:36)
- Gunter’s Sympathy (2:34)
- He’s Here (2:29)
- Resistance (3:12)
- Childhood Fantasy (3:31)
- The Escape (7:28)
- The Creator (4:27)
- Three Sisters (Umberto Remix) (4:09)
- Gunter’s Sympathy (Vercetti Technicolor Remix) (4:58)
- He’s Here (Antoni Maiovvi’s None More Cosmic Remix) (6:57)
- Resistance (Night Sequels Remix) (5:13)
Running Time: 61:22
Wil-Ru Records (2015)