Wednesday New Film Music Overview

Taking a moment to catch up from the past month of recent film music releases now and mostly hitting the highlights.


BuySoundtrax.com has released a host of downloadable scores through their Dragon's Domain label. Often these are small batch releases with 500 pressings for those wanting a physical unit. Earlier, I did a fuller overview of their Ernest Gold Collection which is a must have for any fan of classic film music. It gives a great overview of some of his earliest work. More often, the label focuses on the B-movie genre scores and there are a host of those to draw attention to as well. Chuck Cirino's work has appeared frequently on the label and the latest is his recent score for 2022's No Name and Dynamite Davenport. This is a fun new take on the Spaghetti Western genre which Cirino does quite well throughout in a rather delightful guilty pleasure. Also interesting is a release of Lee Holdridge's score for the strange 1999 mini-series, Atomic Train--a dramatic adventure with a nuclear bomb headed for Colorado on a train whose brakes have failed. The score has some great action music but is more notable for its thematic writing. Holdridge is one of those underrated composers whose work certainly needs more attention and this is worth it for fans of his music. Richard Band is known most for his horror film writing and the label has released music from the Showtime series Masters of Horror which will be a gift for fans of his work. Other composer collections include scores by Craig Safan, Joel Goldsmith, and a guilty pleasure ride through a 1980s action flick, Exterminator 2. This receives a double-album release of the original soundtrack and a complete score tracking as well. Though not yet sent out for review, the site has also acquired the rites to release the old Citadel catalog. It looks like some of these are being slowly rolled out on the website so be sure to check that out.


There have been some other re-releases of older scores as well with Varese putting out some new limited editions of previously-released material. The more significant of these is Michael Kamen's score for The Iron Giant--the first big Brad Bird animated film that is a favorite of many millenials. Kamen's score is a solid one and well worth adding to one's collection. On the stranger side they also put out Videodrome, a strange ambient and atmospheric Howard Shore score from the David Cronenberg cult film.


A few newer scores also came across the desk. Most impressive was Pinar Toprak's work on The Lost City. This is the Sandra Bullock vehicle that is a sort of throwback to the Romancing the Stone adventure romance. Toprak includes some fine thematic writing as well as great action sequence music. More importantly, her orchestral style continues to impress with interesting colorful writing. She is a composer who certainly deserves bigger projects building on her equally impressive work on Captain Marvel.


A lot of Harry Potter fans were greatly anticipating the third film from the prequel series, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. James Newton Howard returned to score this film as well. His music is really gorgeous with some fun jazzy segments that are sparse but effective. Thematically nothing is going to pop quite as much and the length of the release tends to drag itself down with its somber and moody backdrops. This is a rather dark score with very little variation. The secrets are obviously dark and deep, but the pacing of the film must be interminable if the score is to be believed. Still, this is stellar work from Howard doing what he is asked to do.


If you are curious about how two different composer's styles are intermingled check out the music for the new Netflix documentary Return to Space. Composing duties were shared by Mychael Danna and Harry Gregson-Williams. Danna tends to be more in the ambient and electronic soundscapes camp while Gregson-Williams comes out of that Remote Control Zimmer scoring school. That said, this is still a pretty engaging work with some interesting orchestral writing here and there. Tom Holkenberg's return to the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 scoring duties gives fans more of the high-octane action writing that he used earlier. With each of these bigger orchestral action scores he continues to impress with finding new rhythmic syncopation approaches within the orchestra, relying less on repetitive drum machines. It is a solid work. Also in the more odd camp (in every sense of the word!) is Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe's work on X. This is a horror porn film in both senses of the term. It is about a bunch of young adults who head to Texas in 1979 to film a porn movie at a farmhouse that turns out to be a bad idea. Apart from a lot of electronic and ambient horror genre work, there are some moments of 1970s funk and adult film scoring suggestions. Breathy vocals are often overlaid as well. It is not an easy listen but certainly different on an experimental level. Jaime Christopherson's work on 2018's Closure also employs some nice jazz styles in more noirish fashion in an album that is far more easier to listen to and well worth tracking down.


We head off into May now as different blockbuster hopefuls are rolled out in what Hollywood hopes will help them recover from the COVID shutdowns of theaters. It remains to be seen how things will work themselves out. Most things coming in for review are still mostly for streaming services and that may also change soon as channels realize we have are not just sitting around at home anymore!


Be sure to check out the scores mentioned above if they interest you and I'll check back in a few weeks out with another summary of new film music.


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