Category: 1995

Cybertech Part II: Pharos

Cybertech Part II: Pharos soundtrackAn interesting and somewhat obscure release, Pharos is the second collection of musical atmospheres by Cybertech (a.k.a. Michael Fillis and Adrian Pack). The two Cybertech CDs share a common thread: they try to evoke the atmosphere of past eras of Doctor Who music and, at the same time, pay tribute to what was the only source of new Who in the early 90s, Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who: The New Adventures novels. In a way, Cybertech’s works are rather like the Doctor Who equivalent of the infamous Star Wars soundtrack-to-a-book release Shadows Of The Empire. Pack and Fillis composed original scores for specific scenes of some of the books (with the relevant passages quoted with permission in the CD’s lavishly illustrated booklet), while other adventures are given a score more evocative of a general mood, and some are accompanied by original, non-novel fiction. A few pieces unrelated to any specific book are dotted throughout the disc as well.

Lending the proceedings more of a stamp of Who authenticity are brief cameo appearances by Sylvester McCoy and the late Jon Pertwee, and their respective fellow time travelers Sophie Aldred and Caroline John. McCoy and Aldred’s appearances are “in character” as the Doctor and Ace, even though they each only speak a handful of lines of dialogue in their respective tracks. On the other hand, Jon Pertwee and Caroline John don’t seem to be playing the roles of the third Doctor and Liz Shaw, but instead act as narrators delivering the overall mood in the album’s opening and closing tracks. Mark Gatiss also makes a vocal appearance for the musical theme to his own novel, “Nightshade”.

And the music itself? Pack and Fillis toy around with the Doctor Who sounds of both the 70s and 80s, and nail some of the best approximations of those eras’ moods I’ve heard. Some of the non-story-specific pieces pick up the pace a little bit with more of a dance beat, but nothing terribly incongruous. It’s all very atmospheric, 4 out of 4and right in line with where the music of Doctor Who left off when the series vacated the small screen.

So, overall, what do I think of Pharos? I think Big Finish Productions should really be talking to these guys about joining their rotating cast of composing characters. They’re that good.

Order this CD

  1. Precipice (1:45)
  2. The Pharos Project (3:12)
  3. Time’s Crucible (3:15)
  4. Prometheus Bound (6:45)
  5. Prometheus Unbound (2:50)
  6. First Frontier (3:45)
  7. Yeti (9:15)
  8. Iceberg (8:00)
  9. Nightshade TV Theme (4:20)
  10. Trevithick’s Monsters (5:55)
  11. Interstitial Time: A Static Vortex (1:20)
  12. Legacy (3:20)
  13. Type 40 (3:20)
  14. Master Mind (10:30)
  15. Cyberia (4:45)
  16. Wavelength (2:00)

Released by: Jump Cut Records
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 75:25

Space Battleship Yamato: The New Voyage

Space Battleship Yamato: The New VoyagePositioned between the second and third seasons of the legendary animè series, Yamato: The New Voyage was a slightly awkward full-length TV movie which offered only a little bit of expansion on the Space Battleship Yamato franchise – and not much dramatic innovation. As the second theatrical Yamato film had killed off the entire cast of characters (which, after fan outcry, was rectified in the second TV season, which retold the second film’s story without the high body count), The New Voyage had to do a bit of backpedaling, remind the audience that their heroes had not died, but had simply been banged up a bit in their fight against the Comet Empire, and get the ball rolling hastily for yet another showdown with an all-conquering alien force.

Cinematically, I’ve never thought The New Voyage was up to much – it lacks the dramatic punch of Be Forever Yamato and even the weak swan song that was Final Yamato – but its music, when heard apart from the movie itself, is a revelation.

Hiroshi Miyagawa’s music is to the Yamato franchise what John Williams’ music is to the Star Wars universe, plain and simple. And in this installment of the saga, Miyagawa brings some new elements into play, including the first major use of synths in his Yamato soundtracks. The modernization of the sound, while quite a departure from what came before it, isn’t unwelcome or out of place. Early on, most of the synth work is relegated to pads underneath a mostly orchestral score.

The real innovation isn’t technological, however, but musical. In The New Voyage, Miyagawa starts to put some of his well-established themes from two previous movies and two years of television series through very interesting permutations. Dessler’s theme (that’s Desslock for you Star Blazers fans) goes from being a strident, militaristic piece to a sweeping, wistful love theme that recurs throughout much of the score. The Yamato theme itself runs through some minor key variations, and one incredibly haunting cue (“Mystical Yamato”) which gives it a very ethereal quality.

4 out of 4One of the new themes composed specifically for this movie is introduced in the first track as a song (complete with vocals in both Japanese and English), but that motif too reappears in various places. The heraldic brass of the opening track was a huge break in tradition for the series, but it’s a break that was needed by this point. Overall, The New Voyage makes for better listening than viewing.

Order this CD

  1. Yamato: The New Voyage (1:50)
  2. Isao Sasaki (1:42)
  3. New Voyage – instrumental (2:54)
  4. Yamato Meditation / Great Love (2:12)
  5. New Cosmo Tigers (2:29)
  6. Tsunpa March – March Of The Underwear (0:45)
  7. Mystical Yamato (2:04)
  8. Wandering Iscandar (2:10)
  9. Mamoru and Starsha (2:11)
  10. Crisis On Iscandar (1:12)
  11. Desler’s Suffering (1:42)
  12. Desler In Silence (2:19)
  13. My Feelings For Starsha (1:51)
  14. Wandering (2:39)
  15. Goruba’s Theme (4:17)
  16. Goruba’s Theme – synthesizer (1:16)
  17. Goruba’s Theme – piano (1:18)
  18. Goruba’s Theme – strings (1:35)
  19. Goruba Chord (0:13)
  20. Parting – guitar and orchestra (1:54)
  21. Parting – strings (2:01)
  22. Parting – piano and orchestra (1:13)
  23. Parting – guitar solo (3:00)
  24. Sasha My Love – instrumental (3:49)
  25. Sasha My Love vocals by Chiyoko Shimakura (1:48)

Released by: Nippon Columbia
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 50:24

Fortress: The Music of Sting

Fortress: The Music of StingSome works of pop and rock music beg to be orchestrated more richly, to put their original electric or electronic sound into a classical context to see if the music, at its most basic, can survive the translation without losing too much. And occasionally, the original music is already so well arranged and thought-out, there’s no need to try to make that paradigm shift happen.

And this is the fence straddled by the London Symphony Orchestra’s Fortress, an orchestral reworking of songs by Sting and the Police arranged and conducted by Darryl Way. In some places, the new context suits the songs well, and it comes out sounding rather fun – the busy, Gershwinesque treatment of “Synchronicity II” comes to mind here. In other places, especially with Sting’s solo material, there was already a session orchestra, or a portion of one, playing on the original recording, and parroting that material (and the arrangement) comes across as more of an exercise in making a karaoke album (“Moon Over Bourbon Street” is especially guilty of this).

And then there’s the other stuff, the stuff that just seems to lumber around with unremarkable arrangements. In most cases, the original rock recordings were quite interesting, but here, songs like “Invisible Sun” and “King Of Pain” become frightfully bland, resembling a weak marching band arrangement more than anything. Maybe I’m too attached to those songs in their original form to be completely objective, but at least half of this album barely evoked a reaction of active like or dislike at all. Not something I’m used to from songs written by Sting. 2 out of 4(Thank God this album pre-dates “Desert Rose”.)

I’ve heard successful orchestral translations of songs by Led Zeppelin and Split Enz before, so I know that more could have been done with Sting’s catalogue than this. I can only give Fortress a cautious recommendation as a curiosity.

Order this CD

  1. Russians (5:25)
  2. Moon Over Bourbon Street (5:11)
  3. Synchronicity II (5:29)
  4. Fortress Around Your Heart (5:46)
  5. King Of Pain (4:50)
  6. Invisible Sun (4:09)
  7. Every Breath You Take (5:58)
  8. Why Should I Cry For You (5:22)
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger (5:19)
  10. They Dance Alone (5:52)

Released by: Angel
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 53:21