Wednesday, 29 April 2009

On The Desk

As a film music journalist and critic I do find all sorts of albums coming through the letterbox. With the prolonged – and indeed unforeseen - absence of Music from the, my in-tray is somewhat full of discs I would normally set to work on reviewing for the MftM review column. With that in mind I have decided do devote the occasional blog to those delights – or otherwise – which I find ‘On the desk…’

This week I would like to shine a light on a handful of offerings which have been lingering a bit too long and which certainly need a mention. Ryan Shore is one of the last year’s most exciting discoveries and whilst his family credentials need no more introduction, he has proven himself to be a most versatile and exciting talent. We of course have MovieScore Media to thank for bringing his work to our ears; from the label’s digital release of Headspace sometime ago, through the likes of Numb, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer and Shadows, the Swedish label – headed by former Music from the Movies Chief Correspondent Mikael Carlsson – has championed the young composer well and truly. It is the latter two titles that have sat in my tray for a number of weeks and each is a credit to Shore, both displaying his fine talents with an orchestra. And they couldn’t be more different in tone; Jack Brooks is a carnivorous symphonic work which sees the Slovak Symphony Orchestra chop away at a ballsy set of cues, each working to enhance the gung-ho and ever so slightly comic visuals. At times Shore the younger has the feel of his Uncle, albeit a little wilder, a little more crazed – evidenced in ‘Tentacles’ and ‘Kicking Ass’ (which he does, and well). With ‘Eve’s Situation’ – a standout cue – he brings about a sense of pure 80s orchestral pleasure, reminiscent of early Horner in many respects and mainly thanks to the bold brass, trigger-happy anvil percussion and undulating snare. It’s a wonderfully robust piece of work all in all, and is a shoo-in for the Best Score award at the forthcoming Fangoria Chainsaw Awards.

A pole apart is Shadows, which Shore scored for Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski last year. The film itself, about a man whose near-death experience sees him having to confront the meaning of his own life, was considered for nomination at this year’s Academy Awards in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ category. Musically it’s a mature, dramatic work featuring some beautiful vocal solos by Janita and wonderfully lyrical lines. The opening title cue sees a gorgeous, lilting woodwind solo over strings, while the score proper is full of mystery, some angst and a lot of beauty. The motional quality of ‘Appearances’ found me thinking of Desplat, with those harmonies running throughout and captivating entirely.

When you realise that Shore is first and foremost a dedicated Jazz musician and composer - with great talents at both – you get the sense that he is just an absolute all rounder and will be able to turn his hand to anything. These two scores alone say so much, with the more intimate vibes of Numb, Kettle of Fish and Coney Island Baby, not to mention his presence in the Streep/Thurman rom-com Prime (released by Varese Sarabande) only increasing the scope and variety of the early part of what is likely to be a very fruitful career in film music.

Composer Neal Acree has been plying away in Hollywood for a few years now, providing music for a handful of primetime fantasy series’ including the Joel Goldsmith vehicles Witchblade and the long-running Stargate adventures. Movie-wise, Neal has impressed with a variety of under-the-radar shockers and thrillers and is due a high-profile break on the big screen. His scores for Juncture, 7 Seconds and Method are prime examples of his talents and while they haven’t been made available on CD officially, I was very pleased to receive a selection of Neal’s own promotional discs to listen to. With Method, he is given a classic murder mystery to play with and provides music that supports not just the bloody aspects of the story (brilliantly displayed in ‘Murder for String Quartet and Orchestra’), but also the faint romance of the central character – an actress, played by Liz Hurley, who gets into her current role as a famous Murderess a little too exactly. With a familiar piano-led vibe, Acree creates a sense of romance and threat – reminiscent of Mark Snow, John Ottman and alike – but very listenable indeed. Juncture sees another strong female character at the forefront, and this time the composer adopts solo female vocals, alongside sampled piano to create an altogether unusual atmosphere, which is definitely the name of the game. Finally 7 Seconds finds a heightened rhythmic sense, samples, loops and guitar work – not entirely my cup of tea, but well achieved and exacting a definite contemporary hue with just a touch of sass.

Finally this week is Enlightenment Records release for Shamim Sharif’s romantic comedy drama I Can’t Think Straight. The film, which sees a young – soon-to-be-wed – Palestinian woman falling in love with a British Indian woman, did the rounds at this year’s London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and has proven quite a popular title. The soundtrack is an eclectic set of tunes which touches on the vibes and cultures found in the film’s busy plot. Singer/songwriter Nadine Khouri features throughout the line-up, with the freespirited and very listenable sound offering the disc’s highlights. Composer Raiomond Mirza is responsible for the film’s original music and the majority of his cues (mostly songs in fact) feature solo artists, including Khouri, as well as Mena and Leonie Casanova. Casanova’s own track ‘Holy Daughter’ is another treat, with strong vocals and guitar, while Mirza’s only instrumental score offering (‘Love Theme’) fits in rather nicely with it’s sweetly mellow vibe. It’s very much a set-list of strong female vocalists though that make up the album, topped off perhaps by World Music star Natacha Atlas, who adds ‘Kidda’ and ‘Ghanwa Bossanova’ to the mix. A well chosen selection and certainly not your average soundtrack playlist; it ought to do well with fans of the film, of which there are an increasing number.

More ‘On The Desk’ coming soon...

For more information about MovieScore Media releases go to, while you can find out more about Ryan Shore and Neal Acree at and, respectively.

I Can’t Think Straight is available on DVD from May 4th, while the soundtrack album is available on CD from the usual places. Take a look at

With thanks to MovieScore Media, Republic Media and Neal Acree.

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