The popularity of soundtrack scores has increased in recent years thanks to the crossover of artists from scenes such as modern classical – Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds. A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter as well as other artists such as Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Mica Levi and Ben Frost heading the charge and changing the appeal of soundtrack releases. This could be part of the way in which film scores have a bit more of an immediacy and a greater role in story telling, while non score work an occupy itself with feel, emotion or soundscape influences. The two releases covered in this post include a just released score and score inspired release due out on January 31 and that show the variety of score work that is on offer.
“Logan has made some headwind in the film music world like many LA-based composers do, working on films and shows like “Monsters and Men” and “Dear White People”. He spent time at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions as well, but took inspiration from other composers – Jóhann Jóhannsson, Dustin O’Halloran and Rob Simonsen to name a few – who pushed their craft more square into the world of Modern Composition. A String quartet forms the backbone of the EP, including musicians from the Calder Quartet, as well as electroacoustic harpist Lara Somogyi (Nils Frahm, Hans Zimmer) and violinist Shawn Williams and more, whose contributions are manipulated by Logan on the production front.”
Logan Nelson is a LA based musician and composer whose music blurs the lines of live instrumentals, electronics and traditional instrumentation to create fluid pieces that incorporate different sounds and styles within this framework. Recently named the best young composer at the World Soundtrack Awards he has worked with dance performers, Television shows (Dear White People, Origin Stories and others) and this particular released was recorded at a studio in his local area, mixed at Air-Edel Studios by Nick Taylor and mastered at Abbey Road studios by Christian Wright (Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead, Alexandre Desplat) showing that Nelson is well connected.
This particular release was preceded by two singles “Glaciers” and “Lost In Translation” which are both included on this EP. “Lavender Echoes” finds itself released on the 1631 Recordings label who are not strangers to scores having released albums and Ep’s from the likes of Marco Caricola, Jakob Lindhagen and Endless Melancholy to name a few. The six track, twenty-two minute EP is a delightful journey through Logan’s very much expressive sound world.
The opener “Hjlóð” aka “Sound” sets the scene within its epic feeling as the music winds it’s way through electronica influenced passages while still sounding like it’s a Modern Classical piece. Nelson melds and steers the sounds around resulting in an ever moving piece that has so many flourishes like the jazzy near drum n bass moments or the soaring strings or the Japanese sounding electronica. The result is a contemporary meets Classical style with so many sound and cultural influences woven into the piece.
“Glaciers” follows on with ever the so slightest comparison as Nelson ventures more into experimental directions with a collection of colliding strings, rumbling undercurrents and a crescendo of jazz like noise meets electronics. A piece that feels divided in two in regards to the musical sounds, but they have a similar feel as if you are hurtling somewhere which, when given the title throws you off track.
“Satellites, In Orbit” returns the listener to the sound world of the opening track. A perfect blend of styles and instrumentation results in a piece that moves from organic to electronic with relative ease. By this stage you are trying to work out the mode of Nelson’s approach – does he come at music from the classical tradition and then re – interpret it through a contemporary lens, or is purely is case of an artist that is extremely fluid in the way that they can freely change the position of their music. What ever the case both a score-centric feel and a willingness to express themselves out of the expected style is apparent.
“Lost In Translation” another of the Singles and in the direction I have to admit I would be expecting throughout the EP. This is the first piece to sound expressively like a piece taken from a score with it grand sound. That is not to say that this is a pure classical piece as Logan still manages to add deft touches of electronics, but in a way that highlights and supports the piece, rather than as a steering it in a more contemporary setting. By doing this it highlights Nelson’s approach to the piece and how the little things can matter so much in the overall scheme of things.
“Lavender Echoes” The title track is a string monster with staccato playing in what feels like coming in at angles rather than layering. Minimalist piano holds it together before becoming the main focus through the middle movement before the strings return. This time as well as the angled playing they really add an extra accent to the music. As a person with zero musical knowledge I cannot comment on the rhythm of the piece, but it feels somewhat off kilter which adds an extra dimension to the track. The different paces of fast strings, slower more fluid ones and the consistent piano all work together to create an entrancing piece.
“Anamorphosis” means the distortion of an object through a mirror or lens. With such a definition in mind you would expect a piece with a certain amount of warped sounds going on, probably electronic as defined by what has passed before this track. Instead you get a piece of shimmering beauty that is largely piano and string driven with an ethereal / ambient feel that adds to the overall feeling of falling into something safe and comforting.
The ending impression that you get from this EP is that there is a reason why Nelson is held in high regard. While not as narrative driven as a soundtrack score would normally be, you get to see the way that Nelson constructs his pieces, his fusion of styles and his ability to transcend style and genre to create pieces that resonate with the listener. “Lavender Echoes” is available Digitally from January 31.
“Colin Stetson, born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, spent a decade in San Francisco and Brooklyn honing his formidable talents as a horn player before eventually settling in Montreal in 2007. Over the years he has worked extensively with a wide range of bands and musicians, including Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and The National.
Stetson has developed an utterly unique voice as a soloist, principally on saxophone and clarinet. His astounding physical engagement with his instruments (chiefly bass and alto saxophones) produces emotionally rich and polyphonic compositions that transcend expectations of what solo horn playing can sound like. He is at home in the avant-jazz tradition of pushing the boundaries through circular breathing and embouchure, and his noise/drone/minimalist sound encompasses genres like dark metal, post-rock and contemporary electronics.
More recently, Colin Stetson has focused on scoring a number of original soundtracks, including Lavender (2016), which he co-scored with Sarah Neufeld, A24 production Hereditary (2018) and Hulu series The First (2018). He also contributed to the score for award-winning game Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018) and is set to score the new Adult Swim anime miniseries Uzumaki, an adaptation of Junji Ito’s renowned horror manga, which arrives in 2020.”
Colin Stetson has been releasing music for some seventeen years with his profile increasing in the early ’10’s with is series of releases for the Constellation label. Since then he has worked with the 52Hz and Milan Records label. The album is the soundtrack to the movie “Colour Out Of Space” which was first published inn 1927 and has several film and TV adaptations or influences derived from the original short story. The short story is a horror/Science fiction one which centres around strange occurrences in a fictional town caused by a meteorite that crashed there several years later. Naturally with a horror and science fiction feel in the story and film, the music reflects this.
For an artist that is traditionally known for his Saxophone work the noticeable thing is how for the most part this particular instrument is not heard obviously. You get the impression that Stetson is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Julia Kent, Jo Quail, Andrea Belfi – those artists familiar with an instrument that transcend the typical sound that you will expect and experiment with their instrument. As the press release above notes the techniques and instrumentation that he uses and the ability to travel through different genres his music has.
On “Color Out Of Space” Stetson shares some of the characteristics that appeared on the “Hereditary” score which was darker than his one for “The First”. The pieces on this particular album are sonically dense resulting in little separation of sounds as Stetson builds up a tension and a intrigue. Pieces like the warped “City Hall” or the eerie and extreme “Contact” demonstrate this nicely, but other pieces such as “The Gardners” has a melancholic side with a definite edge to it while “Dinners Ready” evolves from a slightly menacing ambient piece before totally leaving the listener on the edge with the crescendo at the end. There is a musical edge to the score which has this feeling of you never know of what is lurking around the corner and despite the horror/science fiction vibe of the story and presumably the film, the music has this way of sustaining this intrigue and also not falling into the tropes of either styles (horror or science fiction) inspired music.
The longest piece on the album “Taken” shows Stetson in full mode sustaining tension and varying the tone and sounds throughout, ever so gently building up the piece before all hell breaks loose. This particular piece manages to encompass ambience, drone, electronics, free jazz, noise and delicate piano. It shows given the time Stetson is adept at building up a piece and taking the listener on a journey.
“Color Out Of Space” is the type of soundtrack for those who want more than a piano based score and want a score that has a physical feel to it. If you think you are going to be hearing a predominantly saxophone based work because of Stetson’s association with the instrument you will be mistaken. What you will get is a descriptor defying work which takes you on a sonic journey and won’t leave you settled in one particular place. “Color Out Of Space” is available on Milan Records / Sony Masterworks.