District 9 - music by Clinton ShorterIt’s almost easy to forget, now that we’ve been getting the pan-cultural ethnic musical stew of the recent remake of Battlestar Galactica for so many years, that SF movies were routinely being scored with ethnic percussion and instruments for quite some time before that – it was in vogue as Hollywood’s stand-in sound for “otherworldly”. But the score for District 9 actually has a reason to use African-inspired music: it actually takes place in Johannesburg and deals, at least allegorically, with apartheid. If anyone can get away with it, District 9 and its composer, Clinton Shorter, can.

But the District 9 score isn’t exotic to the bone – underneath it all is an orchestral base, usually rumbling in the lower registers and filling out the bottom end of the mix with slightly more traditional musical portrayals of the darkness running through the story. (And it must be said that it’s pretty dark, but for more on that, check out theLogBook.com’s Movie Reviews.)

I don’t want to dismiss the more contemplative moments of either the movie or its music, but the real highlights are where the ethnic percussion and traditional orchestral backing meld together: tracks like “Exosuit” and “A Lot Of Secrets” show this combination off to best effect. The quieter moments are nice too, but Shorter really shines in the movie’s action scenes. Fortunately, much of the soundtrack draws from the latter 2/3 of the movie; the beginning of the film leans heavily on a documentary “fly on the wall” style and, aside from the opening titles (which are presented on the CD) is a bit light on music. Because of that unusual balance of where/when the music falls in the movie, you can rest assured that most of the cues you remember in the latter half of the movie are present here too.

3 stars out of 4The music from District 9 may not be the most breathtakingly original melding of western and non-western music for a film score, but it’s an enjoyable one, and it services a story that actually pays off its more exotic elements. It’s an interesting listen away from the movie’s visuals, especially if you’re in the mood for dark, thundering percussion.

Order this CD

  1. District 9 (6:30)
  2. I Want That Arm (2:14)
  3. She Calls (1:36)
  4. Exosuit (3:17)
  5. Harvesting Material (1:47)
  6. Heading Home (1:16)
  7. A Lot Of Secrets (2:29)
  8. Back To D9 (1:47)
  9. Wikus Is Still Running (2:58)
  10. Get Him Talking (2:07)
  11. Prawnkus (4:01)

Released by: Sony
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 30:02