Wednesday, 10 June 2009

On The Desk III

My desk is almost tipping over under the weight of CDs at one end, so the toy TARDIS has had to move to the other end to keep things on an even keel… Of course I jest (though, not about the TARDIS). The in-tray is somewhat heaving though at the moment and so I feel it’s time to give some time to more albums that are ‘On The Desk’…

First up and well overdue for a mention is La La Land’s release of Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin’s music for the hit NBC drama Heroes. Now I am about to commit a cardinal sin and admit that the entire phenomenon has passed me by (yes, terrible I know). I understand it’s rather good… (understatement of the decade perhaps) It’s certainly popular and the series has made stars of its, well, stars, spawned a committed fan following, and a top selling soundtrack album to boot. While the hip ‘n trendy tracks add much (to the record companies wallets no doubt), it’s the contemporary licks of Coleman and Melvoin that give Heroes its real voice and musical identity. The album from La La Land appears at first to be somewhat thin on the ground – with just ten tracks – but the majority of the selections go way past the five and six minute mark. Yes it’s something of a suite frenzy, arranged by the composers to reflect each of the series’ main characters and ending with a couple of set piece moments – including ‘Kirby Plaza’ from the finale of Season One. So, as the composers’ state in their nicely personal sleeve notes, each character is given their own ‘overture’ of sorts. But don’t get me wrong, there are no grand gestures here, no big themes; instead a sort of chillout set which re-creates the atmosphere of the show. ‘Claire’ offers a glimpse of a main thematic on piano – and a good one at that – echoed in parts of ‘Sylar’, while both he and ‘Mohinder’ are painted with Satie-esque piano hues. The selection is of course awash with synthetic textures, some airy, some industrial and all very listenable in their own ways. Not a groundbreaking, ear-shattering, pulse-racing selection by any stretch of the imagination, though fans of the show are sure to lap it up.

Up next – and staying with La La Land Records – is John Murphy’s take on The Last House on the Left, the latest Hollywood Horror makeover from Rogue Pictures. Wes Craven’s 1972 original – indeed his directorial debut – paved the way for countless films that followed with its gritty ‘realism’. The impact, however, is somewhat diluted all these years later and the film represents probably one of the titles most in need of a re-hash. And so fast forward to 2009 and Dennis Iliadis takes the reigns on this suped-up, sexier version of the story, which sees a family holiday home invaded by a violent gang who find themselves suffering at the hands of the angry parents of their victims. It’s all rather unpleasant of course, but the score manages to rise above mere shock and spatter, instead offering a mature take on the emotions running high throughout. ‘Saving Mari’ and ‘Going to the Guest House’ offer typical horror tones and general unease, while the likes of ‘After the Assault’ and ‘The End’ see more tonal ideas, achieved with solo piano – particularly in the latter. Murphy is no stranger to the darker side of film, thanks to brilliant turns in 28 Days Later and its follow up 28 Weeks Later and with The Last House on the Left he applies subtle atmospherics to a largely orchestral score, creating a bristling balance of light and shadow offering far more than your average horror score.

As I’ve touched on before, composers often feel inclined to send me promotional material of their latest work and I was delighted to receive a couple of discs from British composer Jennie Muskett. Jennie is one of the UK’s little known shining lights, having provided highly imaginative scores for small documentaries, prime-time television series’ and glossy Hollywood films alike. She is well on the heels of current trends and strives to keep on top of technological developments – with that in mind you can always count on Jennie for an immediate sound, straddling the genres of contemporary digital music and traditional classical approaches. Most recently the composer delivered Compulsion, for the ITV film drama starring Ray Winstone and Parminda Nagra. It’s an atmospheric and at times darkly sensual score, featuring deliciously exotic colours and a well-honed contemporary edginess. I’m always impressed by Jennie’s music and am always left wanting more – I think there’s still a lot remaining for her to achieve and she has well and truly set herself up to become on of the UK’s major voices on screen.

Finally to one of MovieScore Media’s most colourful releases in a while, Darren Fung’s Just Buried. The film is a darkly comic look at funeral homes, as a young man inherits one such establishment only to find the young female mortician he falls in love with is doing away with the locals to keep the ailing business afloat. Taking its lead of course in many respects from the likes of Six Feet Under and Pushing Daisies - the lighter side of death has certainly been in vogue of late – the film is given life (ahem) thanks to a delightfully perky score by Darren Fung. Eclectic is something of a buzz word when it comes to this type of score, but it truly fits Just Buried as Fung has arranged a frisky melange of instrumentation to create a bustling musical accompaniment. Headed by piano, we’re well and truly in Thomas Newman territory in many respects, but more playfully so I feel. The scampering pizzicato, glockenspiel, strings and cimbalom that skip through the likes of ‘Vehicular Manslaughter’ are immediately likeable, and indeed infectious, while the pseudo-gothic classicism found in ‘Pickles Has The Stick’ are both tongue-in-cheek and brilliantly applied. The track titles alone here are enough to raise a smile – and an eyebrow perhaps – each perfectly exhibiting the type of film this is. Personal favourites are ‘I Dropped a Mini-Van On Him’ and ‘You Screwed My Dad!?!?’ – need I say more. Joking aside, both cues offer some of the more dramatic brassy moments on the disc - the latter seeing an amusing shift on the wedding march. This is a delightful score and no mistake – a real breath of fresh air for the ears.

Heroes (LLLCD1091) and The Last House on the Left (LLLCD1092) are both available from, while Just Buried (MMS-09003) is available on CD via and as a download from the usual platforms. For more information visit

If you’d like to know more about Jennie Muskett then take a look at her newly launched website where you can see and hear what she’s all about –

With thanks to Beth Krakower at Cinemedia, Mikael Carlsson at MovieScore Media and Jennie Muskett.

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