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Reviews On-The-Go # 5

Reviews on-the-go is a column that picks out a selection of soundtracks for single-paragraph “mini reviews”. Usually recent discoveries and releases, and usually recommendations, but not exclusively.

Boat Story (Dominik Scherrer, 2023)

Swiss-British composer Dominik Scherrer has delivered some fine scores over the years, like the electronic-orchestral-voice fusion of The Honeytrap (2007) or the pleasing pastoral score for Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (2004-2013). For this BBC mini series about two strangers who find cocaine on an abandoned boat and decide to sell it, Scherrer imbues the proceedings with a kind of wistful humour, usually realized through seamless orchestral/electronic combinations. It’s an eclectic mix that juggles western, thriller, drama and comedy tropes – a waltz here, some catchy electronic sequencers next, a splash of surf and jazz there, but always entertaining and holistic. There’s a quaint, almost gothic ambiance achieved, especially in the use of disparate instruments taking their turn on the central theme. Fun stuff. Favourite tracks: «This is a Story About a Boat», «Massacre», «The End»

D’argent et de sang (Rone, 2023)

I was properly alerted to French synth producer-artist Rone (real name Erwan Castex) via his collaboration with Jean Michel Jarre on the track «The Heart of Noise, Pt 1» in 2016, but have since been impressed with his scores for La Nuit Venue (2019) and Les Olympiades (2021), in particular. For this French 2023 crime series (Of Money and Blood in English) about a carbon tax fraud scandal, Rone does what he does best – combining classical, almost Bach-ian structures with sensous electronic riffs and textures. A bit like Nicholas Britell’s Succcesion. This, according to the composer, to “symbolize the heterogeneity of the worlds that intersect in this story”. The main draw is the many infectious variations of the central theme, some of the more droney suspense parts towards the end of the album are a bit heavy on ear and can be programmed out. Favourite tracks: «Tikkoun», «Tikkoun, Electronic Variation 1»

Project One: A Milestone in Automotive History (Laro Basterrechea, 2024)

This 2023 documentary series, about the first street legal hypercar with F1 technology, introduces me to Spanish composer Laro Basterrechea. Befitting the subject matter, it’s a vast and expansive synth score mirroring the technological advancements of the car industry, with pulsating basslines and echoey chord modulations. Perhaps slightly on the long side at 61 minutes – especially because the modular elements are fairly similar (there are some obligatory Remote Control elements in there as well) – the core of the score is a hypnotic affair that paints in broad strokes, and can easily be whittled down to a more succinct presentation. If this is the synth quality standard of Mr. Basterrechea, he’s a talent to be followed. Favourite tracks: «A Formula One Engine in the Back», «Papillon»

How to Have Sex (Jakwob, 2023)

Molly Manning Walker’s coming-of-age story (her debut feature film) about three girls on a party spree holiday on Crete has enjoyed success on the festival circuit for months already. Its youthful visual energy is captured in the score, by British DJ and composer Jakwob (real name James Edward Jacob). Only 21 minutes in length, but enough to conjure up the festiveness of Cretian nights – lofty register, with undulating synth figures, trippy basslines and New Jack-like breakbeats. The EDM is sometimes counterpointed by slightly darker and grittier textures, as if to connote a depth behind the glossy surface – an approach not unlike Tom Holkenborg’s excellent score for White Lines. A funky delight, this, that could easily have sustained more minutes. Favourite tracks: «Are Chips Vegetables?», «Fuck the Beach»

Tout cela je te le donnerai (Erwann Kermorvant, 2024)

A slight detour from this predominantly electronic entry of the “Reviews-on-the-go” column is this French crime series (All This I Will Give You in English) about a man who finds his husband dead, but suspects an assassination.  French composer Erwann Kermorvant, who’s been in my side vision for years (and is perhaps best known for his work on TV series Luther), delivers probably his best score to date – lush, darkly romantic and elegant, it’s a wonderful display of orchestral film noir that is rare these days. Soulful cellos are central in the score, and are even allowed space to shine in three extended solo tracks, based on Gluck’s opera Orphée et Eurydice, while the majority rests in gorgeous, slowmoving melancholy, nailing the loss and grief of the protagonist. Favourite tracks: «Tout cela je te le donnerai», «Les tourmentés», «Castelmore»

Rivière-perdue (André Dziezuk, 2024)

Yet another French crime series, about a kidnapped girl who mysteriously reappears after an accident, while another girl remains missing. French composer (with Belorussian/Ukrainian roots) André Dziezuk was a new acquaintance to me, but appears to have divided his time between music teaching and composition in various idioms. The diverse background is evident in this excellent score, which rests comfortably in smooth, expansive synth landscapes, sometimes augmented with trumpet, wordless vocals and strings, underlining the loss of innocence. The first half of the soundtrack is the best, the latter half relies more on ambient suspense tropes and isn’t that interesting. But that first half is worth the ticket alone – only the French can do bittersweet so well. Favourite tracks: «Little Bird (feat. Deborah Lehnen)», «Le vent, Anna», «Alix et Victor»

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