In an attempt to catch up on some of the handful of soundtracks I have been kindly sent over to review as well as to launch our new official ‘soundtrack review’ category on the site, I thought I’d tackle a few at once with a series of capsule reviews of releases I’ve had at the top of my iPod playlist.
Hysteria – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Hysteria is a romantic, period-set comedy directed by Tanya Wexler with an accomplished cast led by Hugh Dancy (Black Hawk Down), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Dark Knight, Donnie Darko), Jonathan Pryce (Brazil) and Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding), that tells an untold tale of discovery – the surprising story of the birth of the electro-mechanical vibrator at the very peak of Victorian prudishness. This original soundtrack was composed by Gast Waltzing (JVCD, Les Dents de la Nuit) with additional music by Christian Henson (Severance, Triangle).
I must admit when I was first sent this soundtrack as a potential album to review I was all set to pass on it and focus on others that were seemingly more ‘my kind of thing’. Nonetheless I skimmed through the tracks out of curiosity and was surprised to find myself falling for its charms.
The soundtrack to Hysteria is a light, breezy, melodic affair that is an infectiously pleasant listening experience. The chief factor in its catchy ‘lovability’, I believe, is in its dance-based rhythms, employing a waltz beat in a number of the tracks and maintaining a buoyant and fluid tempo. It makes the most of the film’s period setting, but knows when to employ more contemporary techniques to keep the soundtrack from sounding dated or bland.
Most tracks are a variation on the main theme so there is a hint of repetitiveness to the album as a whole, but Waltzing manages to toy with the theme in such a variety of ways that I’d never call it dull. It might not be to everyone’s tastes due to its lightness of touch and period sensibilities, but those looking for a beautifully flowing, sweet score that can brighten your day within the first few tracks, it comes highly recommended.
Hysteria – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out now on digital download.
To find out more or to buy the soundtrack head over to Lakeshore Records.
Listen to samples
The Pact – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Screamworks present Ronen Landa’s original soundtrack to horror film The Pact. The film, starring Caity Lotz and Casper Van Dien tells the story of a woman struggling to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother’s death, when an unsettling presence emerges in her childhood home. With the supernatural elements occurring in an everyday household instead of some gothic mansion, composer Landa wanted to experiment a bit; “I sampled everything from my washer/dryer to my radiator to a cadre of kitchen items in order to develop textural elements and percussion that appear throughout the score.”
This experimentation is put to great use in some effectively terrifying moments, especially ‘Apparitions’ with eerie drones unsettling the listener and light clattering percussion in the background giving that ‘someone behind you’ feel, especially when wearing headphones. Yes there are some cheap loud jump scares here and there, but they are undeniably effective and used sparingly.
What is surprising here are the totally contrasting tracks such as ‘Her Little Dreams’ and ‘Shattered Glass’ which display a convincing poignancy often lost in horror scores. These are not mere add-ons to fill the gaps in-between the shocks, they are spread evenly throughout and are actually incredibly affecting. This mix of tones works beautifully by not overloading the scares and by lulling you into a false sense of security now and again, as well as providing something more melodic to latch onto.
Overall it’s an excellent horror soundtrack that has enough variety and depth of emotion to appeal to any soundtrack lover too. A second hearty recommendation.
The Pact – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out now on digital download.
The Jerry Goldsmith Collection: Volume One: Rarities
I’m a huge fan of Jerry Goldsmith’s work. With a staggering number of classic scores to his name including Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Omen, you’d be hard pressed to find a soundtrack lover who doesn’t love the guy. So it’s surprising to say that of the three releases reviewed here, it was this, the safest bet of all, which disappointed the most.
Of course it’s not bad by any means, it’s just too much of a mixed bag. Being a ‘rarities’ collection this was always going to be the case to an extent, but I couldn’t help feeling a little deflated by the result. The first worrying sign was the fact that none of these tracks are the original soundtrack recordings. To be fair, the new orchestrations and recordings aren’t too bad on the whole, but they do occasionally sound a bit cheap and dated and the action scores in particular don’t quite match Goldsmith’s unique sound.
The album has sensibly structured the tracks into ‘suites’ which works much better than just ordering them chronologically or randomly. The first two tracks aren’t listed as a suite, but both fit the action thriller mould. Included in this is a new recording of the Seven Days in May score which is decent, but at 11 and a half minutes and featuring elements of the entire score, including more atmospheric passages, the track sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the shorter, more traditional themes. In the titled sections that follow we begin with the ‘film noir suite’ which is one of the strongest collections, including a decent re-recording of the Chinatown theme (one of my all time favourites) and moving in to a great solo piano piece from The Detective. Next up is the ‘thrillers’ section which is surprisingly weak and not particularly ‘thrilling’ although an instrumental from Sebastian is rather catchy.
The ‘lost love’ suite doesn’t set the world on fire either, adding to the dated, vaguely corny mid section of the collection. A piano solo from Players is sweet though. And as great as it is, what the theme from prison drama Papillon is doing in the ‘lost love’ section I’ll never know.
Luckily things pick up for ‘the way west’ suite, with ‘Toccata for Solo Guitar’ getting it off to a great start and another solo guitar piece from Rio Lobo complementing it nicely. Then the final section, ‘flights of fancy’ mirrors the album as a whole, delivering a wobbly mix of tracks. This starts with ‘The Sentence’ from Warlock, which, as 90’s as it sounds, I actually quite enjoyed due to its interesting rhythm section and leading strings. The theme from Psycho 2 ignores the original Herrmann score and goes for an overwrought more dramatic feel. If it wasn’t from a Psycho film I might have thought it was ok, but it isn’t fit to lick Herrmann’s boots. This is followed by an odd choice of cue from The Omen. I guess these are supposed to be rarities but this isn’t as attention grabbing as most of the rest of the score. The same goes for the track used from Poltergeist. Just prior to this, the track from The Illustrated Man is very pretty though. Mixing vocals with warm strings and oboe make for a touchingly ‘human’ feel with a slightly eerie edge.
The album is an interesting curiosity but it’s the one or two well known tracks that stand out, reminding you how good Jerry Goldsmith can be. Maybe with original recordings this might have worked slightly better, but I think a more thoughtful selection would have worked wonders too.
The Jerry Goldsmith Collection: Volume One: Rarities is out now on digital download and limited edition CD.
To find out more and to buy the soundtrack click here.
Listen to samples: