AMALGAMA – Felipe Pérez Santiago

Four dentists attending a conference in a Mexican resort decide to escape the cerebral environment to spend the weekend on a tiny island paradise. This is the premise of the 2021 Mexican-Dominican Republic comedy-drama, Amalgama, written, produced and directed by Carlos Cuarón (brother of Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También (co-written with Carlos), Gravity, Roma)). Stars include Tony Dalton (Better Call Saul, Hawkeye) and Miguel Rodarte (Narcos: Mexico). All four dentists know each other, and the single female of the group is the subject of various advances from the three men. However, as events unfold, tensions surface and everyone’s personal issues become apparent.

The score for Amalgama is written by Mexican composer, Felipe Pérez Santiago, who has (according to his website) scored several feature films and been involved with numerous commissions worldwide. One of recent his credits is his involvement as ‘Artist in Residence’ (at time of writing, December 2021) with the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) ‘where he is leading “The Earthling Project”…collecting voices from all over the world, to make online global compositions and send them into space as a representation of the sounds of humanity.’ This interest in the uniqueness of the human voice is reflected in his score for Amalgama, where he uses five human voices a cappella – apparently a nod to the paradise island location – in a variety of combinations, and asks challenging requirements of sopranos Jenny Beaujean and Sarmen Almond, alto Leika Mochán, tenor Juan Pablo Villa (also Vocal Director), and bass Gustavo Rangel. “Camino a la isla de Eusebio” highlights the extent to which the composer (and vocalists!) creates various sounds with the five voices. Perhaps not a ‘main theme’ as such, the melodic creation of this track opens with back-and-forth, confrontation-like input from both female and males singers and, as the cue progresses these two opposing components join in unison to create a single harmonious ‘voice’. The musical ideas presented in “Camino a la isla de Eusebio” reappear towards the end of the score in tracks “De vuelta a la realidad” and “Amalgama”. It’s interesting to note that in this latter cue all the vocalists are singing ‘Amalgama’ in various guises. This early musical soundscape is a sound that’s quite arresting to hear, beautifully expressive and wonderfully recorded.

Within the score as a whole, the soprano and alto voices dominate the melodic lines of tracks such as “Camino a la isla de Eusebio”, “Camino a la Isla del Cielo”, “Elena enloquece”, and “Confesión de Hugo”. It’s interesting that the apparent dominance of the female voice in the score appears to mirror the central part the female character (Elena, played by Stephanie Cayo) takes in the film’s storyline. The versatility of the human voice is highlighted once more in tracks such as “Dum” and “Elena enloquece” where staccato and vibrato effects give a harsh and unsettling quality to the music. Whispering/breathy effects then gives the score a delicate, fragile feel (“Nel” and “El beso”). The vocalisations even manage to recreate a sound that’s very much like a theremin (“Hagamos olas”, “Elena llora”)!

The 21-track score as presented on the Besos Cósmicos soundtrack runs to a little over 18 minutes but in that time we hear the human voice being put through its paces: singers must have been exhausted and their vocal chords must have been taken to breaking point! But what they have created is a wonderfully expressive, organic and inventive score that’s a welcome change from the predominant focus on orchestral scoring that most film genres use in their soundtracks. The remainder of the album is filled with a variety of songs (including a couple credited to Mateo Cuarón) and these are interspersed throughout the release. I would suggest programming these to the end of the soundtrack so as to not detract from the effort taken to create a score with such a vivid and memorable atmosphere.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
  1. Créditos iniciales (0:49)
  2. Camino a la isla de Eusebio (1:26)
  3. INLAND (Mateo Cuarón) (5:15)
  4. Isla de Eusebio (0:38)
  5. Camino a la Isla del Cielo (1:00)
  6. Ritmo Dentro (Rosaly Rubio) (2:53)
  7. Dum (1:17)
  8. A la deriva (0:49)
  9. Elena enloquece (0:53)
  10. Saúl mon héros (1:06)
  11. Goomba Boomba (Yma Sumac) (4:13)
  12. Nel (1:06)
  13. El beso (0:25)
  14. Confesión de Saúl (0:34)
  15. Confesión de Hugo (1:53)
  16. Oui, oui! (0:22)
  17. Delirando (Mexican Institute of Sound) (4:34)
  18. Post coitum (0:15)
  19. ¿Qué pachó? (0:28)
  20. Hagamos olas (0:49)
  21. Elena llora (0:46)
  22. Ricky (0:43)
  23. Nana (0:40)
  24. A Ponernos De Buenas (Pasarla Sabrosón) (Mateo Cuarón) (2:26)
  25. De vuelta a la realidad (0:43)
  26. Amalgama (1:49)

Running Time: 37:52 (score: 18:31)

Besos Cósmicos (2021)

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