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(Bear McCreary / Lakeshore Records)
A master of all musical genres from playing “Outlander’s” vast Scottish highlands to the intimacy of a doomsday bomb shelter at “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Bear McCreary unleashes his most improbable musical juxtaposition of pitting Godzilla worthy, city-stomping orchestral stains against the indie guitar groove of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown. But it’s that unlikely style versus style match that makes “Colossal” so memorable as it makes the link between monster-spawning psychic power and abusive, alcoholic dysfunction. McCreary’s grooves take what seems to be loser comedy into a far bigger emotional dimension, skillfully cohering both approaches into terrifically thematic music that’s both epic and empowering for this demonstration of musical grrll power unlike any other.
(Michael Abels / Back Lot Music)
Concert composer Michael Abels makes a stunning feature debut into horror scoring with this subversive takedown of a genre where black usually means dead. That he survives with new career life to spare says much about how Abels not only excels with the genre’s musical expectations of creeping strings, chilling harps and rampaging percussion, but he also goes well under the musical skin to chorally convey the anguish of his kin trapped in the bodies of ersatz slavemasters. Hypnotic melodies literally sink us into a black hole, sinister, tick-tock rhythms bet on bodies and a ukulele evokes white suburbia as a sinister plantation. That spiritual, hushed voices mix with the classic jazz standard “Run Rabbit” mark “Get Out” as a breakout of scary subversity that at once goes for the genre while flooding it with a social conscious subtext.
A GHOST STORY
(Daniel Hart / Milan Records)
Given the simplest, silent evocation of a white sheet and two eyeholes to conjure a specter, composer Daniel Hart literally has a white canvas to fill with unwanted eons of the afterlife for his most profound teaming with director David Lowery after the rustically inventive “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and “Pete’s Dragon.” But as opposed to scariness, the haunt here is one of poetic sadness, as a classical chamber sound shivers with the unbearable yearning to touch a loved one whose grief can only be witnessed. As an incalculable Moebius loop of time passes, Hart’s poetic, sometimes abstract score brings in other elements with sampling and voices to open the score up with a sense of the cosmic destiny. It’s a long-waited step into the light whose sheet is also given thematic structure by Hart’s beautiful song “I Get Overwhelmed,” an emotion that his “Ghost Story” conveys with the moving, unimaginable intimacy of being dead.
(Oneohtrix Point Never / Warp Records)
When resurrecting the 80’s synth sound is all the rage, no artist has quite mainlined retro synths into a nerve-blasting primal scream like alt. electronica artist Oneohtrix Point Never (aka Daniel Lopatin). Hitting you like a kick in the face with its blazing, scumbag-enabling force for a robber’s desperate journey to round up bail for his slow bro, Oneohtrix plunges us into a miasma of guitars, keyboards and metallic percussion that run hell bent through NYC over the course of a night. If Tangerine Dream’s landmark “Thief” score was about a higher class of criminal, Oneohtrix’s score is the evolution of groove for a drug gutter punk. He doesn’t give a damn in the coolest way if you’re smashed in the face with sharp-edged rhythm of blissfully tripping with his hallucinatory music. It’s a insanely creative stew of a score that puts you into desperate mind, and situation of a villain like few other druggie soundtracks before it, or likely after it in terms of warping retro technology into one brilliant hot mess.
(Roger Suen / Notefornote Music)
The blazing, racially fueled conflict of the LA Riots gets seen through director black and white eyes, as given powerfully unexpected, musical color by composer Roger Suen. Like some absurdist city symphony, retro synths play over noir jazz, Melancholy guitar replaces hip-hop for the inner city wasteland, while a sales frenzy becomes a cooing Latin rhumba. A lyrical, French-accented theme a la Debussy stands for the relationship between a black girl and two Korean-American shoe store owners, whose playful Shangri-La of sorts gets rudely interrupted as the cinematic vibe of “Clerks” tragically transforms into “Do the Right Thing” in director Justin Chon’s audacious, emotionally impactful indie. Suen’s work is as scrappy and inventive as the characters struggling for their slice of The American Dream, music that’s at once poignant, wacky and gut-wrenching, steadfastly refusing to slip into the musical clichés you’d expect as it takes a toned-down, eccentrically lyrical approach to a tragically heated situation, at the end overwhelming with the simply stated thematic poignancy of an unlikely friendship’s paradise lost in an urban wasteland where people just can’t get along.
(Jon Ekstrand / Milan Records)
The increasingly old mummified chestnut of an unwelcome critter on a spaceship gets significantly rejuvenated in this major comeback for composer Jon Ekstrand and director Daniel Espinosa after the positively DOA thriller “Child 44.” Given the opportunity to unleash his big, orchestrally imaginative guns an evil E.T. squid (even as everything the astronauts throw at it proves horrifically ineffective), Ekstrand at first does a neat fake-out. Indeed, his score couldn’t be more wondrous, giving heavenly voices and “Also Spach Zarathustra”-like swells to what seems to be man’s newest best friend, hearing all the majesty of first contact. But when the blob hits the ventilation shaft, it’s go time for Ekstrand. Approaching the genre like he was the first person to be scoring it, Ekstrand dexterous use of growling, metallic rhythm goes from one relentless build to the other, all the while keeping desperate human emotion front and center. As musically developed as its steadily growing creature, Ekstrand unleashes a scarily exciting musical presence that shows that horror sci-fi scores of this type can indeed be generated from a melody-based life form.
(Mandy Hoffman / Milan Records)
Azazel Jacobs’ witty, French-styled movie about a roundelay of cheaters is about as low key and indie as you can get, which is all the more reason to grace it with an impossibly romantic orchestral score by Mandy Hoffman. Certainly knowing something about falling head over heels with her work on Amazon’s “I Love Dick,” Hoffman channels the string-swooning, harp glistening ghosts of such incurably romantic melodists as Georges Delerue and Nino Rota for a thematically lovely score that’s as big as the movie is small, in all the right ways. Rarely have American scores of this type captured the starry-eyed, waltzing magic of blissful attraction, the score practically singing with unbridled passion. It’s an ironic counterpoint that also enriches the comedy of characters that’d seemingly rather not speak at all. And when the almost perfect affairs begin to collapse, Hoffman’s impossibly lush approach isn’t afraid to go for drama that might befit a Shakespearean tragedy. But all’s well that ends well in Hoffman’s witty, heartfelt dance that doesn’t stint on the strings and crashing cymbals for a rapturous, yet quite droll score that will likely make you fall in love again with a dearly departed style of unabashedly emotional scoring that, like its suddenly interested husband and wife, certainly isn’t past its prime in Hoffman’s wonderfully attuned hands.
THE SHAPE OF WATER
(Alexandre Desplat / Decca)
A distinctly adult and sensually fulfilling beauty and the beast fairy tale, the enveloping attraction between a mute washwoman and Amazon Gillman is certainly a match made in heaven for Alexandre Desplat, who’s dealt with supernatural romance in such poetic scores as “Birth,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and his “Twilight” saga entry “New Moon.” Given French composers’ natural love of the sea, Desplat jumps into La Mer by way of America’s Cold War. It’s a fluid mix of “Amelie”-worthy whimsy, spy suspense and the lurching strains of a classic monster-on-the-loose score, all graced with a sympathy that befits one of the best works of director Guillermo Del Toro, a lover of beasts if there ever was one. There’s a delightful sense of the off-kilter with whistling and instruments approximating Theremins and accordions that drift across “Water’s” lovely melodic structure. You certainly won’t find a more beguiling love theme than the one that wraps around the bliss of inter-species consummation here, as done with lush grace by one of film scoring’s great melodists. “Water” is heart-melting, breathtakingly gorgeous music that resounds with empathy for the freakish outsider, where the real musical menace comes from violently prejudiced humans. That Desplat conveys those weighty emotions with the most gossamer of orchestrations for its mute characters says much for the poetry of his unabashed dive into Del Toro’s enchanted, if still dangerous worldview.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
(Michael Giacchino / Sony Classical)
The Caesar of composing for movie sci-fi franchises, Michael Giacchino puts a biblical period onto perhaps the most nostalgic of all the iconic serials as he’s tackled by delivering an ape Moses to The Promised Land. After placing the crown of leadership on the hero’s head with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Giacchino powerfully develops his themes with a pilgrimage through a homo sapien forbidden zone that’s not only full of primal fury, but surprising humor as well. Painting a most human portrait of The Lawgiver as war veteran with delicate bells, haunted voices, military marches and imposing brass, Giacchino also doesn’t forget his animal side by mutating Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic, tribal approach into an array of ethnic drums and wind instruments, a defiant, proud melody a la John Barry leading the ape exodus. Matching Caesar in musical intensity is the steel-eyed metallic coldness of his Colonel Kurtz-like adversary. While Giacchino’s monkey will certainly make you cry, perhaps even more clever than the hosanna-filled dramatic grandness of deliverance, perhaps no cue in his “Planet” is more clever than an extended breakout sequence that builds on witty, pokey rhythm to have a pounding, chanting chorus outsmart the devolving soldiers. Giacchino has effectively built on the ape ancestor soundtracks before him into a towering, unexpectedly moving score for what just might be the best “Apes” movie of all time, with extra monkeyshines of turning one his many memorable themes into a Latin tango during the end credit roll.
(Rupert-Gregson Williams / WaterTower Music)
Rupert Gregson-Williams might not be a woman, but he’s certainly channeled his inner Amazon to create one of the most mythically emotional scores for a DC superhero since John Williams gave flight to “Superman.” There’s an undeniable female strength to his proud themes, music whose ethnic beat and female voices speak for her Zeus-spawned powers as much as the important occasion of the first major superheroine movie, pitting a soaring sense of goodness against the darkness of Teutonic armies and a warrior-god. Rarely has emotion blended so well into action scoring, especially in a trench run that orchestrally energizes Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s Wonder Woman theme that was the best thing about “Batman Vs. Superman.” With Tina Guo’s electrifying cello playing, Wonder Woman’s big heroic reveal makes viewers shed tears as well as clap their hands. Even better, Gregson-William’s rhythmic chops never make the score seem dated, a vital factor for any superhero film set in a pre-MTV era. As much of a thrilling thematic fanfare for Wonder Woman’s long-awaited big screen arrival as it is about the dismayed, and tragically romantic feelings of a sheltered innocent abroad in the battlefields of the war that didn’t end all wars, “Wonder Woman” is a cinematic and scoring triumph of the genre that any Man of Steel would envy.
(Mark Todd / Filmtrax)
Where Arnold Schwarzenegger is used to gleeful musical payback, the star has his revenge served cold, and with no fulfillment other than an “Aftermath” that gives the star his most human role. Given the truth-based story a bereaved father who goes after the air traffic controller who seemingly sent a plane to its doom, composer Mark D. Todd has taken an approach that’s full of grief, yet done so with shattering subtlety. Having scored director Elliott Lester’s last film about a man going mad in “Nightingale,” Todd’s haunted, often ethereal melodies build with the character’s psychosis, his sustaining use of melody bringing to mind the use of modern classical music in the other devastating plane crash film “Fearless,” as enhanced here with crystalline percussion for the collision between two devastated men– a haunting downer of a score that builds on its simmering emotion to anguished, transfixing effect.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES
(Nicholas Britell / Sony Classical)
Given the clownish media spectacle surrounding the Billy Jeanne King vs. Bobby Riggs tennis match, it would’ve been easy for Nicholas Britell to score “Battle of the Sexes” with the satirically hyper style he gave to “The Big Short’s” financial meltdown. However, the composer’s unexpected power serve is in going for the meditative mood of his Oscar-winning score for “Moonlight,” which is perfect given that this film is even more about a woman coming to terms with her same-sex attraction as it is about winning the day for her sex. The result is a score that nicely acknowledges Bobby’s buffoonery and the groovy 70’s, but is even more impressive in developing a sensually hypnotic sound for Jean’s attraction, and a captivating theme for her desire to win on the court. It’s a motif that grows in power to an orchestral-organ epiphany that’s like “Rocky” in the ring with “Interstellar.” Britell’s ten minute-plus thematic volley between Billie and Bobby is a lesson in how to develop a singular idea and make it utterly captivating for a long, suspenseful stretch, a smart thematic serve that gives Britell another big scoring win.
(David Wingo / Lakeshore)
A composer especially skilled in playing societal castaways in “Mud,” “Midnight Special” and “Loving,” David Wingo now keeps memorable company with a man-child shanghaied into an especially skewed children’s show. His rude awakening to society, and desire to complete his particular story arch to the insanely cosmic “Brigsby Bear” is done with touching, gentle empathy by Wingo, who uses ethereal, near sci-fi atmospheres of 80’s era electronics, along with a sense of fantasy grandeur. Communicating a joy of discovery with a whole new universe of DIY movie creativity, along with poignant self-realization, Wingo and this wonderfully unique film from SNL’s Lonely Island crew make something truly touching out of a wackadoo universe that could easily be mocked. Wingo’s poetic themes are the moving, eccentric starstuff of a deeply personal kid’s stuff.
(Benjamin Wallfisch / WaterTower Music)
From the often frenzied supernatural scoring of “Lights Out” and “Annabelle Creation” to the elegantly waltzing rot that was “The Cure To Wellness,” Benjamin Wallfisch knows what scares you, especially when it comes to balancing the seat-jumping dissonance that’s horror scoring’s rage with sumptuously chilling old school melody. They’re the shades of evil and innocence that are contrasted for his truly epic and terrifying score to “It.” Mixing unearthly samples with tingling strings, screaming brass and the howls of a demon clown’s victims, “It” has the circus come to fear town, hearing real youthful tenderness and then gleefully distorting it at the next instant. It’s the sound of innocence facing off against evil that gives “It” an emotional resonance uncommon in genre scoring that still has its cake and eats it too, with strings played like knives and brass becoming blunt instruments as children’s’ voices alternate from angelic to the satanic. Wallfisch’s atmospheric scoring throws us into the heart of sewer drain darkness, where the only hope is the lyrical bond between its barely post-pubescent loser’s club. “It” springs menace upon them like a cosmically deranged clown car to massively unnerving and taunting effect, while still holding onto the characters’ tender bond that ultimately guides them to the light – at least until Wallfisch returns to terrorize them as adults in Pennywise’s next outing.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
(Henry Jackman / WaterTower Music)
Henry Jackman certainly has a thing from investing action scores with a 60’s groove, especially when giving both Kingsman and X-Men a hep British swing. But even given it’s Vietnam War-era setting, this Kong isn’t up for snappy groove outfits. Instead, Jackman joyously goes full Jimi Hendrix on the Big Ape, jamming rock guitar solos with ethnic tropical rhythms and doomed military gusto. It’s a score that beats its chest with incredible cleverness, yet isn’t so apart from the thematic, Wagnerian spirit that Max Steiner used to give life to Kong, and film scoring itself in the first place. Noble, swaggering melody gives heroic weight to the rumble in the jungle between ape, serpents and army madmen, delivering a terrifically exciting, brass-trumpeting knockdown monster mash whose mighty orchestra sings with god-like majesty. That Jackman puts equally big emotional feeling into Kong makes us root for his win all the more in a score that starts like a hippy but ends with wonderful symphonic convention.
THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM
(Johann Soderqvist / Varese Sarabande Records)
A master of Nordic noir from “King of Devil’s Island” to “Murder Farm” and the vampiric “Let the Right One In,” Swedish composer Johann Soderqvist effectively transports his mesmerizing, lethal sensibilities to Victorian England in pursuit of a Jack the Ripper-styled serial killer. Chasing the thematic clues with a suspenseful orchestra, “Seven”-worthy statements of lurching brass and harps tingling the spine like fog masking another gutted victim. Soderqvist effectively swings the score’s pendulum between icily creeping fear and gorgeous, tragically sweeping romance for a detective out to save a female suspect whom he views as a victim of sexist society itself, her plight made all the more sympathetic with tender piano and lilting violin. Sleuthing about with lush melody and tingling, sinister gestures, Soderqvist builds to the big, surprising reveal with the orchestral impact of fate pointing its doom-possessed finger, making an orchestral statement about the killer nature of celebrity that positively chills the blood in its Bernard Herrmann-worthy operatic blend of tragic romance and thunderous orchestral outrage. Scoring murder is an international language indeed for Soderqvist.
PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN
(Thomas Howe / Sony Classical)
Given the love triangle behind the ultimate, dual identity example of female empowerment and bondage, Tom Howe’s flip side to the origin of Wonder Woman’s most miraculous feat is in musically convincing us that being tied up can be a musical thing of emotional warmth and beauty. That truth is told in Howe’s ingenious use of magical rhythm to convey the inventor of the lie detector, the heartbeats of his wife and best student awakening to the erotic possibilities with gossamer, waltzing melody. It’s lovely music for a taboo-breaking romance, with society’s intrusion giving the score its dramatic bite. Like Princess Diana’s glowing lasso, Howe’s thematically binding, lushly magical score holds us utterly in its super heroine-to-be sway, as brought to earth as forbidden fruit that’s deliciously explored with good taste.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
(Carter Burwell / Varese Sarabande Records)
A master of scoring Midwestern crime tales from his work with The Coen Brothers on the likes of “Fargo,” “Miller’s Crossing” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” Carter Burwell has an unmistakably humorous sense of dramatic irony with sin-tolling bells, gravely somber pianos and the portentous strings of biblical punishment. These three on well on display on “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” for a violent chain of events created by frequent English collaborator Martin McDonough (“In Bruges,” “Seven Psychopaths”). But what truly sets Burwell’s immediately recognizable brand of flyover noir is the deep empathy he has for a cantankerous, grieving mother who won’t take her daughter’s unsolved killing lying down, feeling her rage with galloping Spaghetti Western strains as much as her sorrow through poignant flute and guitar melodies. For if we’re gleeful spectators to Burwell’s repertoire where innocents often get lethally caught up murderous shenanigans, “Billboards” carries a new depth of understanding, capturing the film’s often shockingly hilarious outbursts of rage, but also feeling for the wounded emotions that drive them, no more so than when he lyrically underscores a suicide note to poignant effect. Not only do the twangy, thematic “Billboards” join together a sense of angered community, but even more importantly tells of its tragically, if often bemused wounded heart.
VICTORIA & ABDUL
(Thomas Newman / Back Lot Music)
After two stays at The Exotic Marigold Hotel, Thomas Newman certainly knows his way around the upbeat rhythms of modern India – just as much as he does with England’s pomp and circumstance after having spent time with Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” “Victoria & Abdul” is the composer’s quite lovely culture clash, a real-life drama set during the time of Britain’s most seemingly repressing queen, who’s presented with a spiritually enervating emissary from her colony. How this warm man of the turban brings Victoria out of her shell is the endearing, magical stuff of Newman’s score that pokes humor at the stuffed-shirt affectations of the crown, while unveiling a moving, emotional bond between two human beings above all. One of Hollywood’s most progressive composers from the start who’s wrapped his family’s symphonic majesty in experimental grooves, Newman’s deeply sympathetic masala of ethnic grooves, whimsical winds, hip percussion and old school orchestral royalty wears its crown high at putting new life into costume drama scoring, music that’s both wonderfully imperious and down to hip Indian raga earth.
WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY?
(Christian Wibe / Varese Sarabande Records)
You can find the rhythmic, racing fusion of orchestra and electronics in just about every dystopian action score to feature heroes dodging bullets amidst bleak industrial landscapes. Hell, you could say that about just every present-day action score as well. But what makes “What Happened To Monday?” so thrillingly unique as it accompanies the feats of seven diminishing twins in a single child or die future is how composer Christian Wibe amps up the emotion of his full-throttle chases. He makes you care about who will stay two steps ahead of his breathless, surging rhythms during an even more wonderfully nutty collaboration with director Tommy Wirkola after the zombie Nazi hijinks of two “Red Snow” films. Building an imposing wall of sound for endless legions of foot soldiers out to severely enforce birth control, Wibe shows how well one can combine pounding rhythms and snarling brass while still keeping melodic humanity in the lead. It’s a cool, assured rhythmic approach with a real, singular personality, having that ever-building action score dance take some especially thrilling steps as it leaps from one rooftop to the next as it rousingly takes on the powers that be.
THE COMPOSERS TO WATCH
Music and romantic mates Bronwyn Griffin and Austin Garrick have been exploring the ghost in the alt. machine as the Toronto-based “synthpop” duo Electric Youth, who now make a black box to the afterlife resonate with “Breathing” (Milan Records) that meshes the ever-popular retro 80’s vibe with a beautifully haunting string and song presence. That the score itself exists in an alternate dimension outside of the ultimate, still unreleased afterlife thriller says much about Youth’s potential.
While the real-life inspiration for Rocky named “Chuck” is still waiting to be a soundtrack contender, there’s no counting down the likeable, punching bag, especially given how up and coming composer Corey Allen Jackson (“Painted Woman”) has given the boxer a hangdog rhythm and blues spirit. Like every other loveable mug, there’s nothing better than the sweet science of a Hammond organ, drum kit and sax at conveying a palooka, especially when backed up with military timpani that’s a call to arms, or in this case to lay them back for a volley of good-natured punishment in the ring, even as “Chuck’s” grittily groovy score comes out swinging.
Russian composer Alexei Aïgui captures an authentic American groove of black writer James Baldwin, whose insistence to a condescending society that “I Am Not Your Negro” (Music Box Records) channels the black music experience, from the bitch’s brew jazz fusion of Miles Davis to passionate solos of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, their inner city styles coalescing into a vibe that’s both film noir and social justice anger. It’s impressive documentary scoring that plays a literary revolutionary as much as it does the urban vibes that that inspired him.
If metal is indeed Satan’s favorite music, then “The Devil’s Candy” (Death Waltz) hits the horrifying sweet tooth. Given nice guy metalhead parents dealing with the serial killing ramifications of their tunes, Michael Yezerski uses gnarled chords and barely perceptible, pulse-quickening samples to build an unholy atmosphere that’s steadily coming for blood, exploding for the final attack like a psychotic longhair symphony. Electric guitar scoring blazes with furious hell’s bells, with Yezerski’s terrifying, head banging chords brilliantly capturing every thing that’s wrong about metal – and very right when it comes to horror scores that take no prisoners.
The pathetic vanity of social media is most definitely the tempo of Jonathan Sadoff (“The Mick”) and Nick Thorburn (“Sundowners”) when they join snarky forces for “Ingrid Goes West” (Mondo). Their approach couldn’t be more joyously satirical in its takedown of everyone’s life that’s better than yours, especially when playing the just-want-to-be-loved madness of an anti-heroine, who at least gets some poignancy as opposed to the fake strains of the poseur she idolizes. It’s memorable comedy scoring that at once makes scary, Hawaiian-flavored fun of a trend that’s driving everyone nuts, while having a sympathetic heart even as it rhythms spin about with the machinations of just wanting to be loved.
Following up a musically authentic turn-of-the-century journey to America for filmmaker James Gray’s vastly underrated “The Immigrant,” composer Christopher Spelman once again proves himself an ideal tour guide for the director’s intellectual approach into more exceptional, unsung territory to find “The Lost City of Z” (Filmtrax). Though his delicate string melodies are redolent with the English countryside its explorer returns to, Spelman’s fixation lies with his pursuit of an ancient Amazonian city, a contrast between proper civilization and tribal, South American music that ultimately goes up the river to discover drifting, transcendent melodies that prove that the journey isn’t so much the destination, but instead a beautifully mystical place of mind that mesmerizingly transports the listener to a place of legend.
Alt. rock bands once again prove to be a creatively fertile source for musicians that bring a unique sound to scoring, especially in the case of Son Lux’s Ryan Lott, who accompanies a teenager on the run from his girlfriend’s especially nasty sheriff dad in “Mean Dreams” (This Is Meru). While the impossible hopes of young love on the run might be familiar thematic territory, this is a deeply poetic, and disturbing film that takes anything but the usual path. That’s especially thanks to Lott, who’s howling, primal fusions of instruments and samples create an powerful wall of percussive rage, all the more disturbing to contrast his poetic, tender music for the likable couple that reverberates with an eerie, elegiac sense of childhood lost in the backwoods, sensing a future that will likely have no happy ending given Lott’s alternately enraged and spiritual moods.
While it’s a guess as to what kind of music they played during Ireland’s Dark Ages, leave it to that country’s composer Stephen McKeon (“Black Mirror”) to give us a good, violent taste of its ancient instrumentation that pursues a hapless band of monks and their holy relic in “Pilgrimage” (coming soon on Movie Score Media). It’s guttural, violent instrumentation that evokes a beautiful countryside whose rigid holiness is under siege by pagans, an impressively unplugged action sound that ferociously throws us into the period in way that far more modern orchestral scoring can’t. The score is all the more mace-in-your-face impactful for it – balancing musical brutality with a sense of religious dogmatism that’s leading its holy men to ruin. McKeon’s delivers a poetic and percussive approach whose iron and skin instrumentation practically drips with the moss and blood of humanity far from being remotely civilized with old time religion.
After supervising music for the frequently super-powered characters that emerge from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, Charles Scott IV makes his feature scoring debut with a comic book movie of sorts – a feat made all the more impressive in that the do-gooding hero of “Sleight” (Lakeshore) is a drug dealing street magician. Scott gives him a memorable identity that reflects his ragtag origins as opposed to any Wagnerian Avengers-worthy music, a clever hat trick whose ersatz Iron Man powers are embodied by futuristic synth-rock vibrations, cool Massive Attack-like beats, and urban heritage given voices that could befit a church spiritual. But even if the mood isn’t about playing bullet-halting heroics, the attitude of saving the hood is very much there in the composer’s ethereal approach, whose magnetism varies between hypnotic ambience, rock guitar determination and muted hip-hop beats to impressively suits up a new brand of hero.
West Dylan Thordson segues from playing a real-life, Jack-of-all identities killer in “The Jinx” to M. Night Shyamalan multiple personality supervillain for “Split” (Back Lot Music). The composer prowls through the sympathetic string passages of a tormented man’s more likable inhabitants and his plight of his victims. But given that one inhabitant is a cannibalistic beast, Thordson creates a twisted, guttural personification that’s a force to be reckoned. Striking an eerie, affecting balance between the tortured childhood that links both villain and victim, Thordson’s psychologically incisive score to blends emotion and unbearable tension truly gets under the skin until finally letting lose with a subterranean presence that grinds its growling, metallic fury to terrifying effect for a score that really gets under the skin in more ways than one.
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