Doctor Who: The Rapture – music by Jim Mortimore

Doctor Who: The RaptureIn 2002, Big Finish Productions released The Rapture, a Doctor Who audio play which had the distinction of being the first professionally-published work by one Joe Lidster (who went on to do more for Big Finish before being snatched up by the BBC itself), and of being one of the most controversial things the company had produced up to that point. Plucking the seventh Doctor and Ace out of tea time TV and dropping them into a storyline at an all-week rave complete with sex and drugs was too much for some fans’ tender sensibilities. And The Rapture had some awesome music – real club music, not some soundtrack-composer-for-hire’s second-hand impression of real EDM. Composer Jim Mortimore, in addition to having written Doctor Who novels and audio stories in the past, had also enjoyed a second career, playing live music at raves through much of the 1990s. To say that The Rapture‘s music is merely authentic is probably underselling it. It’s the real deal.

In 2012, via Bandcamp, Mortimore released three CDs’ worth of music from an audio story (whose narrative running time was only enough to take up two CDs). Drawing from his ’90s recordings as well as concocting an entire CD worth of new music, and bringing collaborators Jane Elphinstone and Simon Robinson on board, Mortimore presented Big Finish with a series of pieces that would be excerpted as needed for The Rapture, with some music heard only briefly in the background mix at the story’s titular nightclub and with other pieces – the specially composed ones – more prominently placed in the foreground. A few Rapture tracks had previously been presented on a Big Finish soundtrack CD in the past, but were savagely edited down to two and three minute running lengths: most of the tracks in their original form run close to eight minutes long, and are better for it, with the melodies developing a bit more naturally. Tracks such as “Over Me” show much deeper layers and arrangements than the edited-down versions hinted at.

The “A Side” covers all of the music composed expressly for The Rapture, while the “B Side” tracks are the full-length tracks Mortimore presented from his ’90s work for inclusion in the background of several scenes. (Again, the average length is about eight minutes; most of the excerpts of these pieces in the finished audio play could be measured in seconds or maybe as many as a couple of minutes.) The “E Side” consists of downtempo tracks, one of them quite lengthy; whether the “E” is for “epic”, “ecstasy”, or “etheral” is up for you to decide.

4 out of 4Many times over the years I’ve dragged out that Big Finish soundtrack and its woefully truncated soundtrack for The Rapture because it’s ridiculously good music by which to write. Color me “E” for “elated” that the full tracks – and more of them – are now available. And gloriously, “Doctored Who” gives us the full-length rave remix of Delia Derbyshire’s Doctor Who theme. Whether or not the story of The Rapture is worth the listening time is something that’s still hotly debated in Doctor Who fan circles, but its soundtrack is undoubtedly worth the listening time for audiences far beyond Doctor Who fandom.

Order

    “Side A”

  1. Over Me (7:02)
  2. On The Beach (6:01)
  3. Rebirth (7:46)
  4. Brook Of Eden (8:07)
  5. Freestyle (6:34)
  6. Sorted (6:31)
  7. Jude’s Law (9:09)
  8. Pink Pulloff (4:52)
  9. Music Of The Spheres (6:10)
  10. Gloves Off (3:40)
  11. Doctored Who (2:10)
  12. “Side B”

  13. Kanhra (8:18)
  14. Udu (8:08)
  15. Uracas (8:16)
  16. Xanthulu (7:17)
  17. Mahser Dagi (8:07)
  18. “Side E”

  19. Sven’s Wrath (3:39)
  20. Radio Beach (5:32)
  21. Ice Floes At Twilight (35:20)
  22. Phases Of The Moon (3:58)

Released by: Jim Mortimore via BandCamp
Release date: October 28, 2012
Total running time: 2:36:37

Welcome Home, Hayabusa

Welcome Home, HayabusaHayabusa was a Japanese space probe that landed on and sampled asteroid Itokawa in 2011. This would be a stunning space feat for any country’s space agency, but Japan happened to get there first, and the surge of national pride for this technological accomplishment has spawned no fewer than three movies, ranging from documentaries to – in the case of Okaeri Hayabusa (Welcome Home, Hayabusa) – a fictionalized family drama with the mission as backdrop and framing story.

And who better to score a movie whose drama takes place around the launch and flight of one of Japan’s crowning space achievements? None other than the late, great Japanese synth pioneer Isao Tomita. Whether you realize it or not, Tomita’s connection with space exploration is lengthy – and almost purely coincidental. Tomita’s late ’70s synth reworking of Debussy’s “Arabesque No. 1” was appropriated by the Miami Planetarium to top and tail each installment of the planetarium’s long-running PBS series Star Hustler (later Star Gazer, after the realities of the search engine age caught up with the show and began directing young viewers toward a certain adult periodical with “hustler” in the title). Tomita’s music was synonymous with astronomer Jack Horkheimer’s exuberant weekly lessons on amateur astronomy from then on.

Tomita is an absolutely brilliant choice to score this film. Not only is his synthesizer work as crisp and inventive as ever, but he gives brilliant musical accompaniment to visualizations of data being transmitted to Earth from deep space, and uses appropriately icy synths to illustrate the bleak emptiness of space traversed by Hayabusa. There have been many musical odes to major space missions, and by fairly high 4 out of 4profile composers (Vangelis springs to mind), but Tomita’s translation of event to music makes this among the best. This soundtrack also steps outside the usual all-synth comfort zone with which Tomita is associated, allowing the composer to bring his classical training into play with real trumpet solos, woodwinds and strings augmenting his normally “icy” synthesizers with a warmer human touch.

The real tragedy is that Japan has launched Hayabusa 2 to dare even mightier things, and Tomita is no longer around to give that mission its own soundtrack.

Order this CD

  1. Challenge To The Universe (5:03)
  2. Engineer Crush (1:20)
  3. Dreaming Of The Flyby (1:21)
  4. Toward The Asteroid (3:30)
  5. Touchdown On Itokawa! (2:43)
  6. Recollection Of Naoko (1:34)
  7. The Fight Against Sickness (3:23)
  8. 1-Bit Communication / Connecting The Hope (3:19)
  9. Mother’s Joy / Surgery Success (1:49)
  10. Cross Operation? (1:52)
  11. Finally To Return (1:36)
  12. Tristan & Isolde / From Beyond The Galaxy (8:15)
  13. Hayabusa / Tristan & Isolde To The Future (5:47)

Released by: Shochiku Records
Release date: 2-29-2012
Total running time: 41:32

Ben Folds Five – The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind

Ben Folds Five - The Sound Of The Life Of The MindBack when Ben Folds embarked on his solo career, I distinctly remember listening to some of the songs and thinking that the difference in style wasn’t enough to justify dissolving the band; The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner was already a significant departure from the strictly-piano-and-drums-and-fuzz-bass sound that Ben Folds Five started out with, so where was the dividing line where this album was still Ben Folds Five, but the next album’s material was no longer suitable? (As it turned out, the dividing line was actually the distance from South Carolina to Australia – Folds moved down under to get married.)

With Folds now back in the United States, it was only a matter of time before the most obvious idea in the world, namely getting the band back together, occurred to Folds instead of just to the fans. And while Sony would probably have been more than happy for the group to get back into the studio, Folds opted to crowd-fund the recording sessions, with incentives such as downloads for those who helped foot the bill for the band’s reunion. The result is The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, an album that’s better than I had dared hope. The opening track, “Erase Me”, is enough to make you think that Ben Folds Five was never away.

Once past the lead track, however, we finally get the promise of a post-Reinhold Messner Ben Folds Five, and it confirms my feeling, from the early 21st century, that there was no need to break up the band in the first place. Songs like “Sky High”and “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later” split the difference between Folds’ more orchestrated solo work and the Ben Folds Five sound, though the balance tips toward one extreme or the other elsewhere: “On Being Frank” is a lush ballad about a hanger-on in Frank Sinatra’s entourage suddenly being cut loose, and sounds much more like Folds’ solo work. The opposite end of the scale, and the most Ben Folds Five-like tune on the album, is also the catchiest: “Draw A Crowd” has a punchy melody, though the lyrics of the chorus (“if you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall”) will sadly cheat it out of any kind of radio airplay, which it richly deserves – the tune is just an insanely catchy earworm.

The lead single, instead, is “Do It Anyway”, a half-sung, half-spoken ode to reckless youthful abandon and poor decision-making. (Hell, I feel like I’m 25 years old again just listening to it.) The last three songs on the album are less frantic and more contemplative, as is often the case as Folds closes out an album (with or without the rest of his band).

The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind is a rare reunion album. It’s been over 15 years since I was introduced to Ben Folds Five, back when a friend dropped by my place to cheer me up while I was 4 out of 4recovering from a fairly rough surgery experience and played Whatever And Ever, Amen for me, and rather than sounding like a pale echo of its original sound, Ben Folds Five’s latest has the same irresistible appeal as the group did the first time I heard them, even though the group’s sound has evolved. Fans will probably latch onto it instantly, and after all this time off the map, Ben Folds Five might just find a few new fans too.

Order this CD

  1. Erase Me (5:15)
  2. Michael Praytor, Five Years Later (4:32)
  3. Sky High (4:42)
  4. The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind (4:13)
  5. On Being Frank (4:34)
  6. Draw A Crowd (4:14)
  7. Do It Anyway (4:23)
  8. Hold That Thought (4:14)
  9. Away When You Were Here (3:31)
  10. Thank You For Breaking My Heart (4:50)

Released by: Sony
Release date: September 18, 2012
Total running time: 44:28