Another Earth – music by Fall On Your Sword

It’s an interesting notion, pairing a somewhat morose, navel-gazing (but still compelling) movie with a soundtrack that veers between percolating electronica and moody piano and cello, but the resulting soundtrack is an interesting new entry in the debate about electronica-as-film-score (a conversation that’s been unavoidable since Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won an Oscar with their music from The Social Network.

The main themes of the movie are laid out in two punchy pieces of electronic music, “The First Time I Saw Jupiter” and “Rhoda’s Theme”. The former isn’t a piece of music with any great variety – it stays mostly within a single chord – but it does have an insistent, almost Morse-Code-like rhythm. “Rhoda’s Theme” is more interesting musically, by far, with a repeating but long-lined tune that evolves additional layers and counterpoints, eventually including a wordless female vocal and cello. A new sound emerges in “The End Of The World”, but as it mostly consists of a wall of noise and industrial percussion, it’s difficult to classify it as a theme.

Tracks like “The House Theme” and “Naked On The Ice” are no less synthesized than the tracks mentioned above, but they achieve a more “organic” feel simply by leaving the drum machine off. “The Specialist: Am I Alone?” and “Making Contact” lean more heavily in the electronic direction, without becoming dance tracks like “Rhoda’s Theme.” “I Am Over There” and “Purdeep’s Theme” employ percussion without quite becoming rave-worthy.

Fall On Your Sword turns in a decent score, but somehow it never 3 out of 4quite fits the movie like a glove. The subtler cues are the most at home within the movie, and the more “active” music, while it’s a better stand-alone listening experience, never quite fits as well. It may be best to hear the soundtrack before the movie, and soak up the music independent of the imagery, rather than the other way around.

Order this CD

  1. The First Time I Saw Jupiter (2:54)
  2. Bob The Robot (1:12)
  3. The Specialist: Am I Alone (4:52)
  4. Naked On The Ice (1:46)
  5. Rhoda’s Theme (5:54)
  6. The House Theme (1:22)
  7. The End Of The World (1:54)
  8. Rhoda’s Application (1:37)
  9. Making Contact (1:15)
  10. I Am Over There (4:14)
  11. Purdeep’s Theme (4:22)
  12. The Cosmonaut (2:01)
  13. The Specialist: Look At Ourselves (3:59)
  14. Sonatina In D Minor by Phaedon Papadopoulos (1:18)
  15. Rhoda’s Theme / Running To John (3:50)
  16. Forgive (2:39)
  17. Love Theme (1:58)
  18. The Other You (1:43)
  19. The First Time I Saw Jupiter / End Titles (5:21)

Released by: Milan Records
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 54:11

Alien Nation – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Alien NationThe differences between Alien Nation‘s movie and TV incarnations are so significant that they almost shouldn’t share the name. Both had shortcomings: the TV series delved into the concept more fully, but was often cutesy in an ’80s-family-drama kind of way; the movie was a bit edgier, but ultimately less successful in fleshing out the concept.

The soundtrack of Alien Nation (the movie) wasn’t one of the things that made it edgier. It was also the second soundtrack the film went through: Jerry Goldsmith had originally been hired to score Alien Nation, and created an all-synth score which was subsequently rejected and replaced by the Curt Sobel score that was ultimately heard in theaters. The liner notes of this release paint this as the movie’s loss, but it may be a toss-up as to which composer would have serviced the movie better.

Here’s the problem: frankly, the TV series had better music, because it dared to give its alien characters alien music. There seem to be a few hints that Goldsmith had thoughts about going in that direction, but most of those hints take the form of unearthly noise sweeps at the beginning of some tracks. But for the most part, as unlikely as it may seem to describe anything composer by Jerry Goldsmith this way, Alien Nation a la Goldsmith is unremarkable.

2 out of 4It’s no better and no worse than any other synthesized score, but the music itself seems remarkably tame for what was meant to be an adventurous, high-concept new take on a classic genre. It almost sounds like a demo rather than a finished score, which may or may not have been the intention. And in any case, Goldsmith would go on to create better music for better projects than Alien Nation. Maybe the material just didn’t inspire him.

Order this CD

  1. Alien Landing (3:47)
  2. Out Back (2:01)
  3. Are You Alright? (1:50)
  4. Take It Easy (2:53)
  5. The Vial (2:13)
  6. Jerry’s Jam (1:51)
  7. Alien Dance (1:57)
  8. Are You There? (2:01)
  9. The Beach (3:42)
  10. Tow Truck Getaway (1:52)
  11. 772 / I Shall Remember (4:08)
  12. Tell Them (1:29)
  13. A Game Of Chicken (2:36)
  14. Overdose (2:26)
  15. Got A Match? (2:53)
  16. A Nice view (2:34)
  17. Just Ugly (1:57)
  18. The Wedding (4:43)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 46:43

The Andromeda Strain – music by Gil Melle

The Andromeda StrainIn the early 1970s, while the British viewing public had been treated to electronic music in films and TV via the likes of Tristram Cary and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the film scoring scene in America had stayed rooted in orchestral scores and, increasingly, pop-music-compilations-as-soundtracks. The Andromeda Strain was a bit of an aural shock for moviegoers in the U.S., and its score, rooted in radiophonic methods and sounds, was extremely unusual – probably the strangest film score since Forbidden Planet.

Melle is associated with more traditional scoring, especially in the suspense/horror genre (Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery being among his best-known work), but for this movie he used decidedly non-traditional means to create his music, with only a smattering of familiar instruments. The first three tracks really don’t make many concessions to an audience not already familiar with electronic music; “Desert Trip” is really the first truly tuneful track on the album. (“Desert Trip” also has a place in my own local history: one Fort Smith radio station which has held an annual Easter Egg hunt has used the middle portion of “Desert Trip” as the background music for on-air clues for as long as I can remember.)

“OP” and “Xenogensis” provide more material that borders on actually being melodic, but “Strobe Crystal Green” brings things full circle into the abstract. For those not accustomed to early electronic and radiophonic music, The Andromeda Strain soundtrack – away from the movie – can be a challenging listen at best, in the same vein as the music from the Doctor Who story The Sea Devils (broadcast the following year). Quite a bit of it isn’t just atonal, but eschews just about any notion of melody, harmony or rhythm, in either the western or eastern traditions. It’s not just noise, though: there is structure, just not in a traditional musical sense.

I frequently dock big points for a running time that clocks in well short of the capacity of a compact disc (especially at the premium price Intrada charges for its excellent limited-run soundtrack CDs), but there’s actually a historical reason for this one: when initially issued on 3 out of 4vinyl in 1971, The Andromeda Strain’s soundtrack was released as a hexagonal LP, and its running time was a byproduct of that unusual shape, since all of the tracks had to fit within a circular area within that hexagon. Intrada’s CD is round, but as it uses the LP master tapes as its source material, it has no more music than that hexagonal LP. Let the buyer beware of the running time vs. price ratio here.

Order this CD

  1. Wildfire (2:46)
  2. Hex (4:00)
  3. Andromeda (2:24)
  4. Desert Trip (4:14)
  5. The Piedmont Elegy (2:23)
  6. OP (2:45)
  7. Xenogenesis (2:40)
  8. Strobe Crystal Green (4:55)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 26:07