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Invasion – music by Jon Ehrlich & Jason Derlatka

InvasionPromoted heavily going into the fall 2005 television season, Invasion seemed like the perfect stablemate for ABC’s Lost. They both had running, peel-back-the-onion-layers mystery storylines, set in relatively affordable locations for production purposes. Invasion also had Shaun Cassidy on its side – the former pop star turned writer/producer had created cult hits before, including the creepy and much-loved American Gothic. Surely, sooner or later, Cassidy’s way with plot and characters would hit one out of the park, and maybe Invasion would be the ball that went sailing over the fence. Right?

Not so fast. Mere weeks before its premiere, Invasion’s premise – strange things going on in a Florida community ravaged by a gigantic hurricane – had its thunder stolen by the real-life Hurricane Katrina, which turned the vibrant city of New Orleans into something worse than any disaster movie had ever shown us. ABC yanked the show’s promotion immediately, stealing Invasion’s thunder; a series of frequent time slot changes seemed to indicate that the network was quietly hoping that Invasion and its potentially-insensitive hurricane plotline would vanish before it caused any controversy.

The series was rather gripping stuff, and it got a fascinating musical treatment from composers Jon Erlich and Jason Derlatka – a bit of a side gig for the duo that was also scoring every episode of another new series called House M.D. Erlich and Derlatka created a web of interlocking themes and compositions that fit the show’s characters like a glove, from the solo string lament of alien-possessed Dr. Mariel Underlay (Earth: Final Conflict’s Kari Matchett) to the menacing rumble of her husband, who was somehow behind the whole plan to give an alien presence a foothold on Earth, using the mayhem of the hurricane as a cover for their operation. The seamy underbelly of the south is always present, but so too is are blasts of orchestra – all the more surprising because the show wasn’t wall-to-wall orchestra – signifying the alien presence in motion. Two conjoined tracks in particular, “Hybrids And Labor” and “Hurricane Approaching”, are truly big-screen stuff.

Curiously missing is the ten-second burst of discord that stood in for opening titles (a case of ABC pushing too hard to mold Invasion into the perfect partner for Lost, which had a similar opening title treatment). Many of the tracks are exceedingly short by the standard of commercially-released soundtrack albums, but they also fade into the next track gracefully – unless you’re watching the numbers on your CD player, you’d probably think you’re listening to longer, continuous compositions.

Invasion amassed a cult following noisy enough to request/demand a 4 out of 4soundtrack release, but not a very big one: Swedish soundtrack boutique label Moviescore Media released only 1,000 copies of Invasion worldwide, one of the only pieces of merchandise that Invasion ever spawned (and it wasn’t released until long after the series’ cancellation). The soundtrack covers most of the key moments of Invasion’s solitary season on television, and it holds up well even without the sweaty tropical visuals of the show.

Order this CD

  1. The Lights (2:02)
  2. Russ & Larkin (1:31)
  3. Mariel Swims / They’ve Lost Their Mother (2:33)
  4. Sirk’s Abduction (1:37)
  5. Szura (1:20)
  6. The Rose (2:28)
  7. Angel Mariel / Island Of Hybrid Castaways (2:55)
  8. The Locket (1:14)
  9. M.R.I. (2:10)
  10. Hybrids In Labor (0:35)
  11. Hurricane Approaching (0:38)
  12. Couldn’t Save Them (0:40)
  13. Pria’s Story (0:48)
  14. Finding Mariel (1:57)
  15. Emily’s Theme (1:17)
  16. There’s A Boat Coming (3:11)
  17. Kira & Sirk (1:38)
  18. Hybrid Experiments (1:19)
  19. Larkin Crashes (0:47)
  20. Species Transformation (2:49)
  21. The Battle (1:43)
  22. Help Arrives (1:38)
  23. Blogspeak (1:49)
  24. Baby Steps (1:32)
  25. Leon (2:20)
  26. Last Moments (1:18)
  27. Stalker (1:06)
  28. Scrub It (1:45)
  29. Larkin’s Shower (1:29)
  30. Evolution (3:25)
  31. Human Genocide (0:57)
  32. When They First Met (2:06)
  33. Do You Care Now? (2:17)
  34. Mob Rule / Moving Toward The Light (1:37)
  35. Full Circle (2:58)

Released by: MovieScore Media
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 61:29

WALL-E – music by Thomas Newman

WALL-EThis is the soundtrack of a movie whose composer was either in love with the assignment, or lived in fear of it. Most movie scores are tasked with the job of underlining the emotional intent of any given scene, but with most movies this job is occasionally obscured by dialogue or sound effects. WALL-E had sound effects aplenty, but instead of dialogue, virtually the first half hour of the movie is expressed in terms of “robotic” processed grunts and exclamations. There are visual cues to the emotions being expressed, but the bulk of the legwork falls to the music: a unique opportunity for any composer to shine, but also a daunting task for modern-day composers accustomed to dialing the music back to make room for dialogue.

Thomas Newman, who had already worked with Pixar on Finding Nemo, took on the task and delivered what may be one of the best film scores of the 2000s, hands down. There’s a lot of music on the CD – and there’s a heap of music in the movie as well. Occasionally there’s a little burst of sound effects and “robot dialogue” from the movie in between songs, but to its credit, it never overlaps the music – and to be honest, I’d buy a whole CD of Ben Burtt’s brilliant soundscapes because the former Star Wars sound guru topped himself here.

The three songs heard prominently in the movie are heard here – the Louis Armstrong version of “La Vie En Rose” and the two numbers from Hello Dolly! – as well as Peter Gabriel‘s hammer-the-theme-of-the-movie-home end credits song “Down To Earth” (which, to be honest, I liked better than either of the albums he’s foisted on us since being involved with this movie).

The bulk of the soundtrack is taken up with Newman’s intricate, well-thought-out score, though. In some ways, he does the same thing Jerry Goldsmith did with Logan’s Run, but in reverse order: the “exterior” scenes on Earth and treated orchestrally, but once WALL-E boards the Axiom and enters the woeful artificial environment now inhabited by the descendants of the human race, our glimpses into life aboard that ship and the scenes involving the Axiom robots are given an electronic (but still melodic and playful) sound. As the action centers more and more on the fate of the sample of a live plant from Earth, the music returns to the orchestral vein, because the Earth is what’s at stake.

Tracks such as “The Spaceship”, “Worry Wait”, “EVE Retrieve”, “Hyperjump” and “WALL-E’s Pod Adventure” are orchestral spectaculars befitting just about any big-screen science fiction epic you could name. The music here has the entire weight of carrying the implications to the audience, and does the job brilliantly. Newman treats these scenes as Serious Events without worrying about scaring the kids off with spooky or scary music – so much so that even my own son has been asking me what the music “means,” enabling me to kick open some interesting conversations about soundtrack music and music in general with him. At the age of four. Thank you, Mr. Newman, for not “talking down” to the audience.

That’s not to say that the soundtrack doesn’t have a sense of humor. “First Date,” accompanying a montage of WALL-E sheltering the inert EVE from the elements (scenes that director Andrew Stanton reportedly wanted set to the vapid tune of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”), gets the kind of music you’d expect from a first date movie montage, except that most movies don’t have the girlfriend sitting comatose and unresponsive throughout the proceedings. The music is deceptively cheerful and becomes its own punch line.

Aboard the Axiom, there are some standout electronic and electronic/orchestral tracks – “Foreign Contaminant”, “Repair Ward” and “72 Degrees And Sunny” among them – which convey the robotic precision of the Axiom’s automated crew a mixture of acoustic and electronic percussion and a lot of intricate guitar progressions from George Doering (a veteran session guitarist who’s also played on numerous Star Trek soundtracks). The dreamy “Define Dancing” was rescored late in production so Newman could hint at “Down To Earth,” which he co-wrote with Peter Gabriel.

Late in the movie, as the humans have to shake off the shackles of their own mechanical support systems in order to regain some semblance of a human existence and return to Earth, tracks like “March Of The Gels”, “Tilt”, “Desperate EVE” and “Mutiny!” – the latter of which sounds in places like it could’ve been part of The Matrix, of all things – combine the two approaches.

4 out of 4It’s a brilliantly cohesive collection of music for a movie that actually has meaning, and I applaud Disney for putting an entire album of orchestral score out there for the young set. The soundtrack album from WALL-E may just have the effect on my son’s generation that the soundtrack from Star Wars had on me. And that’s not a bad thing at all. This is one of the best genre soundtracks of the past decade from one of the best genre movies of the past decade.

  1. Put On Your Sunday Clothes performed by Michael Crawford (1:17)
  2. Order this CD2815 A.D. (3:28)
  3. WALL-E (2:00)
  4. The Spaceship (1:42)
  5. EVE (1:02)
  6. Thrust (0:41)
  7. Bubble Wrap (0:50)
  8. La Vie En Rose performed by Louis Armstrong (3:24)
  9. Eye Surgery (0:40)
  10. Worry Wait (1:19)
  11. First Date (1:19)
  12. EVE Retrieve (2:19)
  13. The Axiom (2:24)
  14. BNL (0:20)
  15. Foreign Contaminant (2:06)
  16. Repair Ward (2:20)
  17. 72 Degrees and Sunny (3:12)
  18. Typing Bot (0:47)
  19. Septuacentennial (0:15)
  20. Gopher (0:40)
  21. WALL-E’s Pod Adventure (1:13)
  22. Define Dancing (2:23)
  23. No Splashing No Diving (0:47)
  24. All That Love’s About (0:37)
  25. M-O (0:47)
  26. Directive A-113 (2:05)
  27. Mutiny! (1:28)
  28. Fixing WALL-E (2:08)
  29. Rogue Robots (2:03)
  30. March of the Gels (0:54)
  31. Tilt (2:00)
  32. The Holo-Detector (1:07)
  33. Hyperjump (1:04)
  34. Desperate EVE (0:57)
  35. Static (1:43)
  36. It Only Takes a Moment performed by Michael Crawford (1:07)
  37. Down to Earth performed by Peter Gabriel (5:58)
  38. Horizon 12.2 (1:27)

Released by: Walt Disney Records
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 61:54

The John Baker Tapes, Volume 1: BBC Radiophonics

The John Baker Tapes, Volume 1As one of the early geniuses who performed, composed and experimented as the legendary (and now sadly defunct) BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the late John Baker created offbeat music and special sounds that fitted in perfectly with the Workshop’s “house style” (if indeed it can be said to have had one), and yet Baker’s pieces have something that make them uniquely his: just a little bit of soul. Which is a good trick to pull off when you’re making sounds by manipulating tape recordings of “found sounds” into music.

This volume concentrates almost exclusively on his output from the Radiophonic Workshop, much of it consisting of work for the BBC’s regional radio stations. The station IDs (or, as they’re called here, “idents”) were different for Radio London than for Radio Sheffield, for example – all giving Baker an opportunity to make music out of things like the sound of water pouring from a bottle, a ruler tapping the edge of a table and so on.

Of all the Radiophonic Workshop’s mad acoustic scientists, Baker seemed to have a distinctly jazzy sensibility; some of his tracks here turn his unusual sounds into a whole new sub-genre of “crime jazz” soundtrack music, with a dark, sinister feel to them. Unlike some of his peers, Baker was unafraid to mix “real” instruments in with his radiophonic sounds, and it’s in these darkly jazzy tracks the sound of a sax or a real bass guitar can make all the difference in mood. Many of his radio idents are bubbly and cheerful, and there are a few cues, intended as underscores for radio dramas and other programs, that have their own distinctive feel.

One of the most interesting tracks is a recording of Baker himself, appearing on one of the radio programs for which he’d created some very distinctive music, responding to listeners’ queries about how the music was made. He dissects the piece of music down to individual elements (which may or may not have been on a true multitrack tape – often in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Workshop had to “multitrack” by manually starting different tape playback machines and hoping that they’d sync up – and having to start over if they didn’t).

I’ve eagerly snapped up the various BBC Radiophonic Workshop reissues and retrospectives issued in recent years, and I’m happy to report very little material repeated from those collections; even if 4 out of 4you’ve got a fairly exhaustive Radiophonic Workshop collection, much of this material will still be new to you, so volume 1 of The John Baker Tapes isn’t a waste of money. It’s an invaluable archive offering an educational insight into early advances in electronic music, as explored by one of its unsung innovators.

Order this CD

  1. Newstime BBC (0:23)
  2. Tros Y Gareg (Main Theme) (2:50)
  3. Tros Y Gareg (Idents) (0:21)
  4. 20th Century Focus (2:24)
  5. Vendetta: The Ice Cream Man (1:19)
  6. Woman’s Hour (Reading Your Letters) (1:47)
  7. Many A Slip (0:58)
  8. Look And Read (0:36)
  9. Building The Bomb (6:26)
  10. Au Printemps (2:28)
  11. Big Ben News Theme (0:33)
  12. Codename (1:03)
  13. Decimal Currency (0:20)
  14. Barnacle Bill (0:21)
  15. Dial M For Murder (2:25)
  16. Farm Management (0:31)
  17. Radio Sheffield (News Idents) (0:45)
  18. French Science And Technology (0:40)
  19. Good Morning Wales (Idents) (0:37)
  20. Heavy Plant Crossing (0:59)
  21. COI Technology Pavilion (9:31)
  22. John Baker Interview (Radio Nottingham) (2:34)
  23. Radio Nottingham Idents (0:34)
  24. Look North: Newstime (0:50)
  25. Man Alive: UFO (1:15)
  26. PM – Computers In Business (0:40)
  27. Submarines (1:59)
  28. Oranges And Lemons (Radio London) (2:37)
  29. Orbit (0:47)
  30. Places For People (0:47)
  31. Sling Your Hook (2:28)
  32. Suivez La Piste (0:49)
  33. Scene (Never Never) (1:40)
  34. Diary Of A Madman (3:54)
  35. The Two O’Clock Spot (0:58)
  36. Radio London: News Idents (0:25)
  37. The Caves Of Steel (3:12)
  38. The Locusts (0:47)
  39. Square Two (0:30)
  40. The Tape Recorder (1:11)
  41. Tom Tom (Theme) (0:43)
  42. Tom Tom (Idents) (0:15)
  43. Trial (Opening Theme) (0:35)
  44. Trial (Closing Theme) (1:22)
  45. Vendetta The Sugar Man (2:01)
  46. Spin Off (0:21)
  47. Radiophonic FX C (0:10)
  48. Radiophonic FX A (0:54)
  49. Radiophonic FX B (0:34)

Released by: Trunk Records
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 72:09