E.S. Posthumus – Makara

With custom-made movie trailer music gaining wider acceptance as listening material away from the big screen, E.S. Posthumus is among a handful of trailer music producers who find that their music is suitable for general audiences, and is actually in demand. Their third album, Makara, highlights the big, boisterous orchestral sound that seems to be de rigeur for previews of upcoming attractions. The problem is that Makara doesn’t deviate from that style much from track to track, so it can be an exhausting album to listen to from top to tail.

Where the previous album was skewed heavily toward gentler, less action-oriented music, Makara swings the pendulum hard in the other direction. Highlights include “Kalki”, “Ushas”, “Arise” and “Krosah”, but generally speaking, the action trailer music on Makara isn’t up to the level of similar material on Unearthed; it’s hard to put a finger on, but just as the gentle-and-sentimental material on Cartographer varied between listenable and just plain maudlin, Makara veers between enjoyably bombastic and “just too much” with a handful of quieter tracks (including a strangely flat-but-trying-so-hard-to-be-epic take on “Moonlight Sonata”).
2 out of 4
Still, if you’re a fan of trailer music, you know what you’re getting into, and if what you want to get into sounds like the musical accompaniment to a preview that’s thick with gunfire and explosions, Makara won’t let you down.

Order this CD

  1. Kalki (3:05)
  2. Varuna (4:17)
  3. Unstoppable (3:04)
  4. Durga (3:41)
  5. Manju (4:18)
  6. Kuvera (4:05)
  7. Ushas (3:55)
  8. Lavanya (3:57)
  9. Vishnu (3:38)
  10. Indra (4:18)
  11. Arise (4:12)
  12. Saint Matthew Passion (3:38)
  13. Discuss it!Krosah (4:50)
  14. Anumati (3:19)
  15. Moonlight Sonata (5:30)

Released by: Wigshop Records
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 59:47

E.S. Posthumus – Unearthed

You’ve seen the movie, now hear the music – well, not quite. In this case, you’ve seen the movie trailer, now hear the music. E.S. Posthumus’ Unearthed is an unorthodox release by a group of producers and musicians whose “day job”, if you will, is to create music for movie trailers. The music is as epic and sweeping as anything you could probably find on the movies’ individual soundtracks, but this music is born in and lives in entirely commercial airspace. And frankly, the idea of marketing movie trailer music on its own is sheer genius. Three million people might see a movie on its opening night, but in the weeks and months leading up to that, between trailers attached to other movies, TV spots, and web exposure, you can bet that six million people have seen the trailer. Even if they don’t bother with the movie, they’ve been exposed to the imagery and the music. You’ve probably heard as much at least as much E.S. Posthumus in the past two or three years as you’ve heard John Williams – you just didn’t realize it.

Things start strong with the mellow-but-epic “Antissa”, while “Tikal” resides a little bit closer to Matrix territory musically. “Ebla” is another winner, with a rhythmic chanting anchoring the entire piece. “Nineveh” and “Pompeii” almost sound like background music from a video game, while “Menouthis” starts out apocalyptic and, again, moves into The Matrix‘s neighborhood.

For me, the crowning glory of Unearthed is “Estremoz”, a mournful choral piece set to a gentle breakbeat. I don’t recall having heard this on a trailer for anything, but perhaps there’s a reason for that – it’d have to be one hell of a depressing movie. The music itself is very relaxing and serene, however, if just a little bit of a downer. “Isfahan” closes out the album on a similar wistful note.

Now, of course, the real question is: will you like it? That’s a good question. If you’re predisposed toward soundtrack music, you’ll find something to like here, but keep in mind that many of these pieces are expanded versions of musical compositions that originally only needed to be 30 or 60 seconds; even with running times in the 4-5 minute range, things get a bit repetitive with some of these tracks. And enjoyable as they are, their original function also doesn’t leave a lot of room for subtlety – the full-blast epic pieces throw a massive choir and orchestra at you, and the quieter pieces fall back on every other musical cliche you can imagine, from Irish drums to uilleann pipe. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those instruments or the styles usually associated with them; it’s just that when they show up on this album, the tunes go exactly where you’d expect them to go. It’s almost a “stop me if you’ve heard this one before” phenomenon – a song you could swear you’ve heard before.

3 out of 4

Order this CD

  1. Antissa (5:11)
  2. Tikal (3:46)
  3. Harappa (4:36)
  4. Ulaid (5:09)
  5. Ebla (6:09)
  6. Nara (4:51)
  7. Cuzco (4:02)
  8. Nineveh (3:42)
  9. Lepcis Magna (3:27)
  10. Menouthis (3:55)
  11. Estremoz (5:06)
  12. Pompeii (3:40)
  13. Isfahan (4:34)

Released by: 33rd Street
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 58:08