Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes – music by Patrick Doyle

Rise Of The Planet Of The ApesThe Planet Of The Apes franchise has never been safe or predictable, and the same goes for its music. With a musical lexicon established by an unconventional score that has to count as one of Jerry Goldsmith‘s career highlights, the Apes franchise demands that later composers bring their A-game. Even the 21st century’s first attempt at reviving the franchise – though it was a non-starter that sits well outside of the accepted continuity – was scored by none other than Danny Elfman. The single season of live-action TV Apes drew heavily on a pilot score by Lalo Schifrin that acknowledged Goldsmith’s adventurous music, even if it couldn’t approach it on a TV soundtrack budget. The upshot of this is: you can’t go tame composing for Apes.

Patrick Doyle‘s score, however, does precisely that for a lot of its running time. Don’t get me wrong – fans of the Hans Zimmer-inspired school of “action music with lots of fast-moving cello ostinatos” will feel right at home here, but even Zimmer could be more adventurous than this (see also: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception). The music is pleasant enough, and Doyle proves that he’s got the chops for a “primitive” sound, but it’s well into the movie or the soundtrack before that’s apparent. Even when the primate action gets hot and heavy, rather than playing up the exotic, the score falls back on a wall of strings. The groundwork for the end of humanity is being laid in the story, but we still get a rather gentrified, string-heavy sound – more than once, I found myself wondering what Bear McCreary would’ve done with this movie.

When Doyle does do brutal/primitive, it’s a breath of fresh air, but it seems as though he falls back on the string section as quickly as possible. The music isn’t bad, just… awfully conventional.

2 out of 4I wasn’t expecting, or hoping, to hear full-scale quotation of the original Goldsmith score or any of its successors, but a little stylistic callback to the original might not have hurt. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is a different kind of approach to the Apes franchise, and it definitely gets a musical treatment that’s different from most of what has come before. Is it more contemporary? Yes – but it’s also strangely more generic, the last sound I’d expect from a new movie in this series.

Order this CD

  1. The Beginning (2:48)
  2. Bright Eyes Escapes (3:37)
  3. Lofty Swing (1:36)
  4. Stealing The 112 (1:51)
  5. Muir Woods (1:20)
  6. Off You Go (2:17)
  7. Who Am I? (2:20)
  8. Caesar Protects Charles (3:57)
  9. The Primate Facility (2:44)
  10. Dodge Hoses Caesar (1:39)
  11. Rocket Attacks Caesar (1:24)
  12. Visiting Time (2:16)
  13. “Caesing” The Knife (2:04)
  14. Buck Is Released (1:51)
  15. Charles Slips Away (1:16)
  16. Cookies (1:15)
  17. Inhaling The Virus (2:45)
  18. Caesar’s Stand (4:23)
  19. Sys Freedom (4:56)
  20. Zoo Breakout (2:40)
  21. Golden Gate Bridge (5:21)
  22. The Apes Attack (2:09)
  23. Caesar And Buck (1:57)
  24. Caesar’s Home (2:40)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 61:06

Rediscovering Lost Scores, Volume 2 – music by Wendy Carlos

Film composer and synth innovator Wendy Carlos’ second disc of restored original score recordings focuses on her attempts to meld synthesizers and orchestral music in the 1970s and early 80s.

The second in a series of releases of “recovered” movie scores from Wendy/Walter Carlos’ library, this disc focuses on collaborations (and sometimes, collisions) between synthesizer and orchestra. Carlos provides her own liner notes both on the music itself and on the painstaking process of recovering it from the damaged master tapes upon which it had originally been recorded, which involved literally baking each reel of tape (quite literally in an oven) at a precise temperature for a precise amount of time; it wasn’t a process where you could put something back in the oven, either – there was one shot at getitng it right and preserving the original material. That same procedure allowed the composer to recover her original master tapes in time for the 20th anniversary release of the Tron score, and so it’s somehow appropriate that more music from Tron – both previously released and previously unreleased – can be heard here, along with music from equally iconic films.

Feel free to call me predictable, but of course what drew me to this volume (not having bought the first CD) was, naturally, the promise of new music from Tron. Fair warning: if that’s the only reason you’re thinking about getting this disc, maybe you should think twice. There isn’t a huge amount of new material presented here for the Tron fanatic, and a goodly chunk of it has been heard before: “Lightcycle Battle” was made available on the 20th anniversary edition DVD, and “Trinitron” – a.k.a. that part of the end credits that was covered up by Journey’s “Only Solutions” – has always been available as part of the end credit suite on the soundtrack releases, going all the way back to the 1982 LP release. (In the liner notes, Carlos makes it sound like this is the first time anyone’s ever heard it. Nope. It’s been my favorite piece of Tron music for 28 years running now!) The various other short tracks, which didn’t even make it into the movie, are interesting to hear…but they’re so short. It’s nice to have track-by-track liner notes for them though.

The material from The Shining, I barely remember, having seen that movie very few times (as opposed to having seen Tron about a zillion times); what I can tell you is that it sounds as sharp as the remastered Tron material, apparently baked to perfection. There’s also a healthy sampling of material from Carlos’ soundtrack to a movie I’ve never heard of, called Woundings.

Included as a couple of bonus tracks are two test tracks Carlos assembled for Dolby Laboratories, and they’re vintage Carlos material – 3 out of 4making use of very Bach-like counterpoint in the synth realm, and throwing in just one or two small musical in-jokes (i.e. “That’s all folks!”).

The second volume of Rediscovering Lost Scores is a nice cross-section of Carlos’ movie material, but it’s really not an entry-level album – this one is definitely for listeners who are either already fans of Carlos’ work, or of the movies whose music is included.

Order this CD

    The Shining

  1. Shining Title Music (3:54)
  2. Paraphrase For ‘Cello (3:26)
  3. Where’s Jack? (5:24)
  4. The Overlook (3:57)
  5. Psychic Scream (1:29)
  6. Day Of Wrath (1:07)
  7. Paraphrase For Brass (1:37)
  8. Title Music ‘Dies’ (3:46)
  9. Clockworks ‘Dies’ (2:23)
  10. Tron

  11. Creation Of Tron Vol. I (0:36)
  12. Creation Of Tron Vol. II (0:36)
  13. Lightcycle Games (2:06)
  14. Anthem (Studio Version) (1:24)
  15. Little Interludes (0:56)
  16. Trinitron (2:19)
  17. Split Second

  18. Visit To A Morgue (1:24)
  19. Return To The Morgue (2:50)
  20. Woundings

  21. Woundings Title Music (3:12)
  22. Angela’s Walk (1:05)
  23. Jimmy (1:38)
  24. Louise (0:56)
  25. Doug Does Angela (1:37)
  26. Scattering Ashes (1:33)
  27. Angela’s Aftermath (3:47)
  28. Jimmy Kills Louise (2:33)
  29. In A Cemetery (0:57)
  30. Fly Away And End (1:40)
  31. Two Dolby Demos

  32. Jiffy Test: Bee Dee Bei Mir (1:25)
  33. Listen: Tannhauser (2:18)

Released by: East Side Digital
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 61:55

Reset Generation – music by 8-Bit Weapon

Reset Generation - music by 8-Bit WeaponA collection of short, punchy instrumental pieces composed for Nokia’s Reset Generation game – which itself pays tribute to numerous games of yesteryear – 8-Bit Weapon’s soundtrack has a lot in common with the old video games that I like: the tunes are addictive, make me want to come back for more, and don’t hang around long enough to get old. Not a bad combination, really.

One thing that may throw listeners off, however, is the brevity I’m talking about above: many of the tracks barely clock in at over one minute, and many of them begin and end very abruptly. The latter is no accident: the tracks are meant to “loop” repeatedly during specific scenes and levels of Reset Generation itself. Fortunately, the tracks are timed out in such a way that one tune’s end leads directly into the next track almost seamlessly. Any one track by itself might seem to be an abrupt listening experience, but the entire soundtrack is a fun listen.

Highlights include “Power Up Pumpin'”, “Micro Anthem 2a03” (named after the NES’ sound chip), “64 Rocker”, “Rock Music Entry 6581” and the Leviathan mix of the Reset Generation theme – to name just a few. Those are just my favorites, but to an extent, all of the Reset Generation tracks are earworms that will prove difficult to dislodge from your head after you’ve heard them.

Included as a bonus track is “2D Died”, a riff on Don McLean’s “American Pie” (as in “the day 2D [gaming] died”) which does a great job of updating the original song into a chiptune extravaganza with vocoder-ized vocals. My one issue with “2D Died” is the same issue I have with “American Pie” itself (or, for that matter, “Sweet Home Alabama”: the first three minutes or so are okay, and after that I start looking at track time remaining because the same melody/chord structure is just repeating. I don’t know if that’s even 4 out of 4something to dock points for: 8-Bit Weapon is only paying homage to the 7+ minute original. And in any case, I like it better than Madonna’s update of the same song, but it’s just not something I feel compelled to listen to repeatedly, though its lyrics are pretty clever. But the rest of the album – which, by the way, can be downloaded free via the link below – is 8-Bit Weapon gold: repeat listening is compulsory (and with the loop-ready nature of the tracks, it’s even repeat-button-friendly!).

Order this CD

  1. Reset Generation Anthem (3:42)
  2. Aphex Tweek (1:26)
  3. Dungeon Derivative (0:54)
  4. Blip Bwop (1:16)
  5. Little Lost Lazer Boy (1:01)
  6. Lethargic Menace (1:16)
  7. Bubble Twin Bonanza (1:04)
  8. Where Fools Tread (1:01)
  9. Chiptune Chump (1:19)
  10. Commodore Base (1:20)
  11. Micro Anthem 2a03 (1:35)
  12. 64 Rocker (1:12)
  13. Krafty Noob (1:16)
  14. Tricky Game (1:04)
  15. Reset Generation Anthem – Leviathan Mix (1:22)
  16. Nin10do Raver (0:59)
  17. Breakin’ Bits (1:20)
  18. Macro Boogie (0:57)
  19. Power Up Pumpin’ (1:20)
  20. BootySoft Inc. (0:57)
  21. Corrupt Conscript Festival (1:25)
  22. SID Vicious (1:55)
  23. Rock Music Entry 6581 (1:04)
  24. Reset Generation Anthem – Sinister Mix (1:13)
  25. 2D Died (7:43)

Released by: 8-Bit Weapon / Nokia
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 39:41

Roving Mars – music by Philip Glass

Roving MarsHaving each lasted well over three years beyond their original planned three-month design life, the two Mars Exploration Rovers are the closest NASA has come, in the first decade of the 21st century, to matching the designed-for-the-short-term-but-built-to-last legacy of the Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. That these two Rovers overcame mishaps and triumphed in the post-Columbia-disaster lull that still stands as the American space program’s lowest ebb is what makes them worthy of their own movie. (Now, we’ll set aside for the moment that the movie was bankrolled by Lockheed / Martin, the aerospace giant that actually constructed the two Rovers for NASA.)

When it came to the music for this low-key documentary about a couple of little robots who could, an inspired choice was made. I don’t really count myself a die-hard Philip Glass fan, but I’m not sure who could’ve done a better job of scoring a Mars Rover movie. With the film’s emphasis on engineering and scientific brilliance, Glass turns in a perfect series of tunes whose musical intricacy matches and melds with the mechanical intricacy of the subject matter. There’s more than a little bit of sentimentality here and there, but Glass wisely avoids pouring on the musical equivalent of anthropomorphizing. His music depicts the Mars Rovers as plucky, determined, patient little machines, and gives them more character (without giving them too much character) than any press release NASA’s ever issued on the subject.

4 out of 4The highlight is easily “Spirit Vs. Opportunity”, but singling out one piece of music above the others isn’t to imply that there are any that I really didn’t like. Bringing things to a close is a selection of Icelandic rock act Sigur Ros’s patented brew of alternative rock and world music. Roving Mars is a good example of well-judged music for a film that requires a certain sense of wonder.

Order this CD

  1. Opening Titles (3:21)
  2. Robot Geologist (2:06)
  3. Origami Spacekraft (1:20)
  4. Spirit And Opportunity (0:49)
  5. Eyes, Hands, Wheels (3:31)
  6. So Much Of Our Hopes (0:36)
  7. 7 Months After Launch (2:52)
  8. Unfolding (2:17)
  9. Sediments (3:59)
  10. Landing (3:41)
  11. Opportunity Vs. Spirit (5:23)
  12. Floating In Space (2:00)
  13. Life Itself (2:02)
  14. Glósóli performed by Sigur Ros (6:16)

Released by: Lakeshore
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 40:13

Rain – music by Neil Finn

Rain soundtrackNeil Finn’s first foray into film scoring is an interesting mix of new songs and moody instrumental pieces. The songs and score tracks alternate for much of the CD, dividing things up nicely and creating quite a tapestry of different moods. “You Don’t Know” kicks things off with a dark, slinky feel and some outstanding vocal harmonies (not unlike the underrated Finn Brothers album), which brings me neatly to one other point – a lot of the vocal numbers on this soundtrack are almost “mini-songs,” very short in duration and sparse on lyrics (check out “Boat Joyride”, barely a minute long). “Summer Intro” quotes an infectious melody that later forms the basis of the song “Drive Home”, followed by “Summer Of Love”, a Finn/Edmund McWilliams collaboration on a song written by McWilliams. Again, vocal harmonies are to the fore. Elsewhere on the album, standouts include Lisa Germano’s “Cry Wolf” and her violin-driven instrumental “Phantom Love”, the eastern-influenced Finn instrumental “Red Room”, and another Finn/McWilliams collaboration, “Drive Home”, which is an instrumental for the first half of the song before the vocals ever kick in. Rounding things off is Neil’s son Liam Finn (of Betchadupa as well as his dad’s touring act) with “Lucid Dream”, an instrumental version of a song from the new Betchadupa album Alphabetchadupa. Perhaps the most out-of-place item here is a 1970 number from Human Instinct, a very, very Move-like late 60s/early 70s New Zealand rock group. In a way, it’s out of place for being the oldest song on the CD, but with the lo-fi production utilized on much of the soundtrack, it also fits in quite nicely, ironically enough.

It’s important to point out that, unlike film or stage music by, oh, say, Peter Gabriel, the soundtrack from Rain is not a wasteland of previously-released material minus the vocals. Liam’s singular contribution aside, Neil Finn’s material is all-original here. The only thing it references is other tracks on this album – and last time I checked, that’s called a theme, something which comes in mighty handy 4 out of 4when you’re doing music for a movie or a TV show.

Overall, it’s quite an effective freshman film music outing, one that makes me hope Neil Finn might try this again sometime – just so long as he keeps turning out his own music as well instead of, oh, say, spacing solo albums ten years apart from each other.

Order this CD

  1. You Don’t Know – Neil Finn (song) (2:55)
  2. Summer Intro – Neil Finn (score) (1:39)
  3. Summer Of Love – Neil Finn & Edmund McWilliams (song) (2:52)
  4. Mum In Bed – Neil Finn (score) (0:57)
  5. Orange And Blue – Neil Finn (song) (2:29)
  6. Red Room – Neil Finn (score) (3:05)
  7. Cry Wolf – Lisa Germano (song) (4:57)
  8. The Affair – Neil Finn (score) (3:41)
  9. Black Sally – Human Instinct (song) (6:35)
  10. Boat Dawn – Neil Finn (score) (1:17)
  11. Boat Joyride – Neil Finn (song) (1:01)
  12. Kids Floating – Neil Finn (score) (1:09)
  13. Batman – Neil Finn (score) (1:59)
  14. Shower – Neil Finn (score) (1:35)
  15. Phantom Love – Lisa Germano (score) (3:22)
  16. Drive Home – Neil Finn & Edmund McWilliams (song) (5:39)
  17. Lucid Dream – Liam Finn (song) (4:17)

Released by: EMI New Zealand
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 49:29

Long Walk Home: music from The Rabbit-Proof Fence

The Rabbit-Proof Fence soundtrackPeter Gabriel has always turned out fairly interesting soundtracks, whether they’re built on the same blocks as his solo non-film releases (Birdy) or completely original material (Passion: Music From The Last Temptation Of Christ, or, arguably also a soundtrack, OVO). Long Walk Home manages to fall under the latter category while also delivering a very tantalizing preview of Gabriel’s seventh solo album, Up.

The preview element comes from the fact that many of the musicians who lent their talents to this film score – perhaps most notably the legendary gospel group, the Blind Boys Of Alabama – are also playing a part on Gabriel’s next solo album. On its own, Long Walk Home is a hauntingly atmospheric accompaniment to an Australian film about three Aborigine children kidnapped and sold into servitude. They escape, using the rabbit-proof fence that divides the country to find their way back home. Given the movie’s subject matter, the emphasis on dijeridoo on the first half of the CD is appropriate, but it’s also beautiful. Gabriel has become so well known for using elements of Middle Eastern music in his own works that it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of other styles we haven’t heard him employ, and this redresses the balance nicely.

Toward of the score, the Blind Boys of Alabama take center stage, gradually beginning to add a soulful, wordless vocal to the music, and the effect is breathtaking. On the first listening, I was thinking to myself, “Well, that’s an interesting choice. Now it almost sounds more like music from a movie about the American civil rights movement.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the parallel is utterly appropriate, and either way, the music is strikingly beautiful and haunting. It’s not background music. It still stops me dead in my tracks whenever the voices of Blind Boys of Alabama rise into the mix.

4 out of 4Now I’m starting to wish that The Rabbit-Proof Fence, the movie for which this music was composed, were available on this side of the equator. Ah well…I suppose that’s what multi-region DVD players are for. In any event, the soundtrack is a must-hear, even if you’re slightly disappointed that it’s not Gabriel’s new solo project. Once you hear Long Walk Home, I think you’ll get over any such disappointment.

Order this CD

  1. Jigalong (4:03)
  2. Stealing The Children (3:20)
  3. Unlocking The Door (1:58)
  4. The Tracker (2:47)
  5. Running To The Rain (3:19)
  6. On The Map (1:00)
  7. A Sense Of Home (1:59)
  8. Go Away Mr. Evans (5:15)
  9. Moodoo’s Secret (3:03)
  10. Gracie’s Recapture (4:40)
  11. Crossing The Salt Pan (5:08)
  12. The Return, Parts 1, 2 and 3 (10:26)
  13. Ngankarrparni (Sky Blue – reprise) (6:01)
  14. The Rabbit Proof Fence (1:07)
  15. Cloudless (4:50)

Released by: RealWorld
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 58:58

Ren & Stimpy – Radio Daze

Ren & Stimpy - Radio DazeAnd here we have an example of what made You Eediot! so great. You Eediot! was great because it wasn’t Radio Daze. This decidedly more childlike release – in keeping with its namesake TV series around that time – follows a moronic premise which is frequently stretched molecule-thin. Ren and Stimpy take on a radio career which, in the space of a half hour, skyrockets to Hollywood fame and then back into the dregs, along with this album. Radio Daze is emblematic of what happened to the entire Ren & Stimpy franchise after Nickelodeon evicted creator John Kricfalusi from his own property – they ceased to mine the rich vein of not-even-remotely-for-1 out of 4kids cartoon comedy that he had exposed, and instead went digging for the lowest available denominator. In Nickelodeon’s hands, Ren & Stimpy buried itself quickly. This has been the last Ren & Stimpy CD to date.

Order this CD

  1. Opening (1:27)
  2. I Wanna Be A DJ (3:41)
  3. Caller #5 (4:02)
  4. King of the Airwaves (3:27)
  5. Is Anyone Out There (3:02)
  6. On The Road (3:49)
  7. Any Freeway You Take (3:20)
  8. Hard Time (3:49)
  9. Powdered Toast Man (3:29)
  10. In Hollywood (3:10)
  11. Take A Walk on the Muddy Side (3:32)
  12. Dead-End Job (1:29)
  13. Stuck With You (3:18)

Released by: Sony Wonder
Release date: 1995