This new column presents single-paragraph mini reviews of a handful of soundtracks that are worth noting, usually new discoveries and recommendations (but they may also be older and/or infused with a more critical slant). There is no regularity to the publishing – they may be weekly, monthly or less frequently.
There are no links to external streaming or purchasing sites, only one single YouTube clip as illustration (if available), as we’re confident each reader has his or her preferred platform for listening and music acquisition. There are also no ‘stars’ or rating system for these, unlike the regular reviews.
Who Killed the KLF? (Vincent Watts, 2023)
Documentary about the legendary British electronic duo The KLF, which premiered at festivals in 2021 and has had limited distribution since. Vincent Watts, who impressed me with his synth score for We Are the Freaks (2014), once again displays his gift for the medium, weaving organically in and out of the existing electronic textures by The KLF. Not quite as heavyhanded as the iconic band in its use of sampling, or in sizzling tranceisms, it still occasionally alludes to late 80s/early 90s sounds and sequencers while keeping it ethereal and even semi-classical at times. Eclectic as the eponymous band. Favourite tracks: «Sweden Story», «Illuminatus»
Tropic (SebastiAn, 2023)
French science fiction film that premiered in 2022 (with wide distribution in 2023), about two astronaut twins, one of them afflicted by a mysterious virus that transforms his body. Composer and electronica artist Sébastien Akchoté-Bozović (aka SebastiAn – capital A intended) provides a delightful synth score that is part experimental and industrial (some tracks have an almost alarm clock-like figure), part melodic and airy. Discerning ears will hear influences like Jarre, Daft Punk and Sakamoto, or 90s glitch elements combined with shoegaze and darkwave, creating an envelopping sci fi universe. Favourite tracks: «Instruction», «Furia», «Pogona»
L’Uomo che disegnó Dio (Giuliano Taviani & Carmelo Travia, 2023)
Drama about a blind artist who’s able to create impressively lifelike portraits based on sound alone, directed by (and starring) Italian acting icon Franco Nero. The two composers, Taviani and Travia, were unknown to me, but demonstrate here that Italian film music of the old-school kind – i.e. broad, melodic and with a bittersweet tinge – is alive and well. Central to the score is a haunting duduk (an instrument that was a fad for a time, then went away, and now feels refreshingly pleasing again), often resting on harmonic string cushions. One could program out the last four jazz/swing source cues for better flow, and a more consistent tone, although it only leaves 23 minutes. Favourite tracks: «The Man Who Drew God», «Yaya»
Zodi et Téhu: Frères du Désert (Mika, 2023)
Who knew that American-Lebanese pop sensation Mika, who dominated hit lists with brilliant glamdisco songs like «Grace Kelly» some 15 years ago, was also an accomplished and educated orchestral composer? I didn’t, but I was certainly convinced by his score for this recent children’s/adventure film about the relationship between a berber boy and his camel as they traverse the Saharan desert. There is pronounced use of voices and local, North African instrumentation, but it also paints in broad, orchestral tutti strokes – the type of melodic, outrovert, “bright” adventure scoring that has been semi-extinct since the 90s. Rich, varied and instantly accessible, with shades of Zimmer in Lion King mode. Favourite tracks: «The Beginning», «Tehu’s Theme», «Issouf Saves Zodi»
Der Fuchs (Arash Safaian, 2023)
Austrian war drama about a young soldier who finds a wounded fox cub and brings it with him into occupied France. As is so often the case in films about friendships between humans and animals, it inspires great music. Safaian is a new discovery to me, but delivers a wonderfully poignant score that wallows in its minor modes, usually in layered string harmonies and occasionally breaking out into goosebump-inducing, religoso climaxes – Max Richter-style. While that may sound heavyhanded to some impatient souls, at a perfect 38 minutes, it never wears out its welcome. Favourite tracks: «The Shore», «Marie’s Piece», «Resting»