Weekly Recommendations – w/e 26th November 2021

Here’s another round-up of recommended scores that have caught my attention over the previous week (w/e 26th November 2021).

信虎 (Nobutora) (2021) – Shinichiro Ikebe (Shochiku Records)

A Japanese historical drama set in 16th century feudal Japan, the score is composed by veteran Japanese composer, Shinichiro Ikebe (Kagemusha). He has written an excellent score that mixes traditional western orchestral elements with traditional Japanese instruments (including the satsuma-biwa, a type of lute). Centred around a strong, noble main theme, the score highlights the film’s characters and the emotional aspects of the film rather than rely on action scoring. The overall effect is to create an interesting mix of western and traditional Japanese music which has echoes of Ikebe’s score for Akira Kurosawa’s epic, Kagemusha.

Al and the Meteor (2021) – David James Nielsen (David James Nielsen)

David James Nielsen’s award-winning short film, Al and the Meteor, centres around mysterious meteors that fall to earth that give powers to anyone (including dogs) that goes near them. What results is a stand-off between man and his canine friend, Al. The short film’s star, director and composer has released an EP of score (also an award winner) that manages to fit mystery and some excellent action scoring in a little over four minutes running time. It’s the brief action scoring that sticks in the mind after this album ends with expressive strings, strong brass phrases punctuating the music, and ethereal wordless chorus that offers a welcome contrast.

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible (2021) – Nainita Desai (Lakeshore Records)

Netflix feature documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible tells a gripping story of Nepali mountaineer, Nimjal Purja, who summited the world’s fourteen highest mountains in just seven months. Composer Nainita Desai has a strong history composing excellent music for documentaries and her score for this Netflix documentary continues that tradition. Combining elements from a traditional orchestra with strong electronics/synths, Desai builds a powerful soundscape that emphasises Purja’s gruelling and dangerous goal, and adding to the peaks’ ominous presence; a personality that pervades the album throughout – until the final few minutes where perseverance of the human spirit comes to the fore.

The Guiding Star (2019) – Zhiyi Wang (Z-1 Music Records)

My People, My Country (我和我的祖国) is a Chinese anthology film that presents seven short films by seven directors that cover several notable historical events from the history of the People’s Republic. The Guiding Star is one of these short films that centres around two homeless men and their presence at the touchdown of Shenzhou 11 (a spacecraft of the Chinese manned space program). The 17-minute album features a number of tracks that mixes orchestra and traditional Chinese instruments and is particularly notable for it’s strongly noble and patriotic opening and closing tracks. Quieter emotional tracks fill the bulk of the remaining album and is a good counterbalance to the grand ‘Motherland’ theme that bookends the album.

Coppelia (2021) – Maurizio Malagnini (Dubois Records)

The film Coppelia is a mix of dance, live action performers, and animation where those living in an idyllic village must thwart a mad scientist/doctor. The film features little, if any, dialogue which gave the opportunity for music to play a more prominent role in portraying drama. And composer Maurizio Malagnini grasps this opportunity with both hands, providing a grand, sweeping, thematic orchestral score. Over the course of the 80-minute running time, the album runs a gamut of emotions to create a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.

Scarlet Nexus (2021) – Hironori Anazawa (Sunrise Music)

A Japanese anime television series adaptation of a video game of the same name, Scarlet Nexus is set in an alternate reality where humans possess extrasensory superpowers. Over two hours of Hironori Anazawa’s music for the (to date) 24-episode series has been released by Sunrise Music. It’s a varied bag in terms of styles. Always throwing up interesting ideas, the score moves from grand orchestral action scoring to atmospheric synths, via ethereal vocals (or rock guitar riffs). Perhaps on the long side, the music available allows the listener to tailor a playlist that may better suit their preferences.

Nos Tempos do Imperador (2021) – Sacha Amback & Rafael Langoni (Som Livre)

Nos Tempos do Imperador (In the Times of the Emperor) is a Brazilian soap opera that focuses on Dom Pedro II, the second and final monarch of the Empire of Brazil. The album opens with a number of tracks that feature an expressive string ensemble (and solo strings) that establishes a tone of nobility but with a sombre edge to it. It’s a strong opening for a TV serial that had mixed reviews when it aired earlier in 2021. A tender piano presence from the album’s mid-point adds a fresh aspect to the score and contributes to creating a strong score that’s full of emotion.

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