Tag Archives: Soundtrack

Mogwai – Les Revenants (2013)

Mogwai - Les Revenenants (2013)

I don’t know if you have been watching/have watched the excellent French dark supernatural drama, Les Revenants (The Returned). Here in the UK, we are five episodes in, with only three to go.

Les Revenants is a brilliant TV programme about the human stories surrounding the return from the dead of various members of a small community in the French mountains, overlooked by a dam. The programme shows the changes in relationships that death had brought and the effect resurection has on them, as we learn more about the circumstances surrounding the deaths, having revelation of the characters and second guessing motives and even who is dead or alive, all-the-while being immersed in mystery after mystery as new information is slowly dripped to us. The whole programme is the rightful heir to Twin Peaks’s crown.

It is quite a bold move on the part of Channel 4, here in the UK, to show a French programme with subtitles, but I am so glad they did.

One of the things that makes the programme so special is the atmosphere; it is so enveloping, at times dark and dense, and part of that is the music.

Mogwai were commissioned to record the soundtrack before the first shots were even made, and it is said that the director, Fabrice Gobert, played the soundtrack during filming to get the atmosphere right. If that is true, then Mogwai have had a hand in creating the atmosphere rather than just ameliorating it.

This album is great, just great. On its own, it is a great work, dark, brooding, thoughtful and evocative; it can hold its own in a context outwith the programme.

Mogwai are a well-known Scottish post-rock band, formed in 1997, who, to my mind, have released some great albums in the form of Mogwai Young Team (1997) and Come On Die Young (1999), before they dropped off my radar. Five albums and two soundtracks (including Clint Mansell’s fantastic score to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain), and Mogwai are still going strong.

The final track here, Wizard Motor, is a deep heavy fuzzy number, as claustrophobic as a casket, but wonderfully crafted. Most of the rest of the tracks aren’t as heavy, but are just as dark and oppressive. Whisky Time starts with a foreboding little melody, ever so evocative in the show as it precludes the coach crash in episode one, which is the first of many shocking moments. The track over the opening credits is the first track on the album, a sort of sinister nursery melody accompanied by a minimalist cello and piano combo: ominous, very ominous, but very beautiful!

All the pieces are instrumental apart from a rather curious but unsettling cover of Washington Phillips’ What Are They Doing In Heaven Today. As it stands, this track kind of sticks out like a sore thumb, and changes the atmosphere of the album. On its own, it isn’t a bad track, it is just so different to the rest of the album.

Overall a great TV programme and a great album to match; both are highly recommended.

Favourite tracks: Wizard Motor, Kill Jester, Fridge Magic

Spotify link: Mogwai – Les Revenants Soundtrack
Sneak peak: http://youtu.be/WJ7EV-HVTC0

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Johan Söderqvist – Kon Tiki OST (2012)

Johan Söderqvist - Kon Tiki OST (2012)

Some original soundtracks can work well independently of the moving images that they composed to accompany; others are more dependent on the film to fulfil their potential. Regretably, I feel that Söderqvist’s music here falls into the latter camp.

Söderqvist is a Swedish composer who has more than 50 film credits to his name, including the original of Let The Right One In, After The Wedding, and Things We Lost In The Fire. Here, his soundtrack is for the Best Foreign Language Oscar-nominated Kon Tiki, from Norwegian directors, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg.

The story of Kon Tiki is quite interesting; he film dramatises the saga of the true story of Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl, who, in 1947, set out to prove that Polynesia could have been populated from South America. So, by making a Peruvian-style raft, naming it Kon Tiki after the Inca sun god, he set out with a crew of five on a 101-day, ~7000 km journey from Peru to the Tuamotu archipelago, showing the journey to be ultimately viable. 

The titles of the tracks are fairly uninspired and seem purely functional, and to be honest, that’s what the music sounds like, fairly pedestrian incidental music, a few upbeat tracks, with a general feeling of hope, but nothing too exciting.

That said, it is unfair to criticise a soundtrack too harshly when I haven’t watched the film, but as I say, some soundtracks can live and thrive on their own, so it is worth listening; this is not one. I may readdress my opinion upon watching the film.

Spotify link: Johan Söderqvist – Kon Tiki (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

 

Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio OST (2013)

Broadcast - Berberian Sound Studio OST (2013)

The humble soundtrack: sometimes completely throwaway and not at all interesting but when used well, as integral as a character in the film.

I feel the music and film-making have a fair bit of overlap. In Jazz, the players intent is to take the listener on a journey, using harmonic tricks, a good musician can create tension and release, and even lead the listener’s ear along a path of their choosing, with the listener anticipating the forthcoming notes and either having those expectations fulfilled or denied, before leading to the tonic note. In my mind, the same is true of film. If done well, the director leads the viewer through the story and add tension and release to the story or the imagery, they toy with the viewer’s expectations before leading to the credits. The soundtrack is important in this respect and with good film making, an original score can do so much more than any popular music.

Whether or not soundtracks can stand on their own without their visual counterpart is another matter altogether. Some can and some can’t. Sometimes the narrative can be carried through the music and, after watching, can evoke the story.

But here’s the thing, I haven’t watched Berberian Sound Studio, so I am required to come at this album as a standalone piece. What I do know about the film is that it is a horror film set in a sound studio in 1970s Italy. Yes, I know what you are immediately thinking: Dario Argento and Goblin! I can’t help but feel that there is a great deal of homage here. One of the tracks is even called A Goblin (nudge nudge).

Musically, it is very simple; but, it is not what they are playing but how it is played. Broadcast utilise a number of devices to chill the listener. It is evident from the soundtrack that this is a thriller/horror; that is not to say that it is cliched, it certainly isn’t, but there are horror soundtrack elements here. Screams, ominous ethereal and big phasing synth (which actually reminds me of a film called Beyond the Black Rainbow, which I saw at the Leeds International Film Festival last year), nursery melodies, minor chords arpeggios slightly de-tuned instruments and overlayed organs resulting in constructive wave interference leading to piercing notes, all of which come together to send shivers down your spine. Counteracting that is a haunting allure and creeping mystery present across all the tracks, most of which are less than a minute long.

So, does it work on its own? Well, that all depends on you. If you come at this expecting tunes, then no, not at all, these are all short pieces, not fully formed songs; however, if you come at it expecting an aural experience, as you would with a modern composition or avant garde album, then I think you will find that it does work on its own.

Broadcast is a one-man British lo-fi indie project; after the death a couple of years ago of singer Trish Keenan along with the departure of other members, bassist James Cargill remains the sole member. As I understand it, the album was partially recorded prior to Keenan’s death. This album certainly doesn’t sound like the rest of Broadcast’s output and probably wouldn’t appeal to fans.

Favourite tracks: Mark of the Devil, A Goblin, Our Darkest Sabbath

Spotify link: Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio
Sneak peak: