Christopher Franke – New Music For Films, Volume 2

New Music For Films, Volume 2In 1994, after Babylon 5’s first season premiered in syndication and I was firmly hooked on all aspects of it, I went looking to see if anything had previously been released by Christopher Franke, and promptly found the then-fairly-recent New Music For Films Volume 1. A pretty good chunk of that compilation of cuts from various Franke film scores sounded authentically Babylon 5-ish, so I was more than happy with it. When actual Babylon 5 music finally appeared, I snatched it up eagerly, though I’ll admit to having balked numerous times when the “episodic CDs” appeared with frequently-reused music and an almost trading-card approach to the soundtrack market.

I passed on New Music For Films Volume 2 when it came out – a year after the last of the Babylon 5 episodic CDs – because I was, frankly, Franke’d out. Having now gotten it and listened to it, I wonder if the problem wasn’t that I was Babylon 5’ed out – or maybe Franke was too, resulting in a fatigued composer and a fatigued audience who both needed a break. This second volume of New Music shows that not Franke was stretching his wings further than the B5 signature style already, with much of this music being contemporary with the show’s final season. In other words, there’s stuff on here that doesn’t sound like Babylon 5.

One area where Franke will never be able to escape the similarity is with action music. His signature low pulsing string arrangements give him away like snare-drum Americana gives John Williams away. His action cues tend to sound the same from project to project, and given that there are few such pieces on this compilation, it’s hard not to wonder if he knows that too.

Where this second volume of New Music excels is in this places where it sounds like nothing Franke has done before. There are a couple of tracks with choral sections, but they sound completely different from the operatic choral elements Franke used frequently on Babylon 5. As his label, Sonic Images, had just opened sublabels for world music and electronica at the time, here Franke seems to be trying those styles on for size to see if they fit the project he’s working on. The result is, in places, something that sounds much more up-to-date than a 2000 release. Middle Eastern influences, processed percussion, and more piano than I’m used to from Franke all make appearances.

Rating: 3 out of 4If you watch The Lost Tales and find yourself yearning for more of the Christopher Franke sound than can be found on the somewhat brief Lost Tales CD, this is certainly an album that can deliver, and maybe it’ll introduce you to a whole new Christopher Franke sound as well.

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  1. Opening (3:17)
  2. Morning Ride (2:23)
  3. Attack On The Village (2:40)
  4. Damaged Goods (1:49)
  5. Jane’s Arrival (5:10)
  6. The Dam Breaks (1:05)
  7. Broken Dreams (2:55)
  8. Escape (2:05)
  9. A New Friendship (1:40)
  10. The Chase (2:13)
  11. Deadly Flight (6:31)
  12. Near Death (1:38)
  13. Dance Lesson (1:17)
  14. The Race (4:05)
  15. Fight For Opar (5:10)
  16. Finale (3:32)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 47:31

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales – music by Christopher Franke

Returning to the musical world of Babylon 5 for the first time since 2002’s one-off Legend Of The Rangers pilot, Christopher Franke makes it seem as though he never went away. The Lost Tales’ music is rife with sounds that I associate with late 80s and early 90s electronic music, which takes me right back to the beginnings of Babylon 5 itself, while his compositional style feels like season 5 is still running Wednesday nights on TNT.

As has already been noted in the DVD review, The Lost Tales is split into two segments on a single DVD, and as such the soundtrack follows suit. At just under 40 minutes, The Lost Tales may seem like a throwback to the days of the one-score-per-disc “episodic” CDs of the late ’90s, but as The Lost Tales itself is abbreviated, with both of its stories not quite racking up 80 minutes total, this isn’t a complete surprise. The music is presented in order, starting with the underscore for the incredibly effective intro sequence and going straight into Lochley’s side of the story, Over Here. Comprising the first 13 tracks, Over Here is largely a rumbling, menacing low drone, with a few moments of apocalyptic flavoring (the church organ in “Energy” and the heartbeat-as-rhythm in “Devil Threat”). While it all sounds authentically Babylon 5 just by virtue of being Christopher Franke music, it’s subtly different from his episode scores of the past.

As with the DVD itself, things really kick into gear starting with track 14 and Sheridan’s story, Over There. The music becomes quite a bit more active, with Franke bringing some of the industrial rhythms and pulsing strings into play that characterized the music from the first season of Babylon 5. In that way, the music from Over There almost goes back in time further than the story itself does, but it’s good stuff. But the end title music, which had no dialogue or effects to compete with, is where Franke finally cuts completely loose, hitting us with apocalyptic choir that surely would’ve spruced things up in Over Here. The Lost Tales on CD is a soundtrack where I got to the end and suddenly thought that the composer was holding back too much during the body of the show itself.

Curiously, while there are opportunities to quote material from the show’s past, Franke chooses only to return to the theme from the end of Sleeping In Light and the opening title theme from season five. Sheridan himself had quite a striking theme in season two, and the show itself had a more enduring theme early on than the season five variant.

3 out of 4The good news is that, as with the DVD itself, the music of the Lost Tales has room for improvement in the future, provided of course that this direct-to-DVD series drums up sales figures that merit its continuation (and if the same holds true for the soundtrack). While I didn’t think the DVD (or its musical score) was perfect, I’m enthusiastic enough about the potential of the Lost Tales to come along for another ride – and another listen.

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  1. Intro 1 (0:51)
  2. Main Title (0:33)
  3. Opening (1:23)
  4. The Priest (1:24)
  5. Exorcism (1:13)
  6. The Stench (0:54)
  7. Your Name (4:07)
  8. Energy (1:24)
  9. Devil Threat (2:15)
  10. The Dream (0:57)
  11. Log Search (1:18)
  12. Send Back (3:15)
  13. Epilogue 1 (1:39)
  14. Intro 2 (1:36)
  15. Londo (0:44)
  16. G’Kar (1:57)
  17. Hyperspace (0:34)
  18. Destruction (1:05)
  19. Kill (1:58)
  20. I’m Save (1:00)
  21. Describe (1:16)
  22. The Station (1:08)
  23. Starfury (1:11)
  24. Prepare (2:28)
  25. Landing (0:36)
  26. Party (0:30)
  27. Epilogue 2 (0:36)
  28. End Credits (1:32)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2007
Total running time: 39:25

Christopher Franke – Klemania

Christopher Franke - KlemaniaThis 1995 solo project from Chris Franke, the composer of every episode of Babylon 5, will sound very familiar indeed to those who have heard his TV work. The music heard on this album was originally created for the 1994 KLEM electronic music festival, and one can hear several phrases and motifs also used in Franke’s Babylon 5 scores. About two minutes into the first track, in fact, listeners are treated to an extended rendition of the “party music” heard in the New Years’ Eve scene in Chrysalis.

Now, you’re probably expecting me to go off on my tirade about Franke being the James Horner of electronic music, but I actually like Klemania – I like it a lot. It gives us an idea of what Franke’s ideas would sound like when unfettered by spotting sessions, scene changes and commercial breaks. Though often repetitive and rambling – the first two tracks are each over a whopping twenty minutes in length! – there are some bright spots. My best description of Klemania rating: 3 out of 4would be that it’s an excellent disc of background music which occasionally claws its way into the foreground and then subsides again. It’s a nicely effective overview of Franke’s “house style” which would serve as a nice introduction to the uninitiated, or to those interested in his non-film/TV works.

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  1. Scattered Thoughts Of A Canyon Flight (22:27)
  2. Inside The Morphing Space (21:01)
  3. Silent Waves (4:10)

Released by: Sonic Images
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 47:41