Review by Brad Green:
Innovative. Experimental. Ambitious. But is it any good?
This is one of those scores that is defined by its determined eclecticism. When
youíre partial to variety, like I am, you must be vigilant against being too easily
impressed by sonic montage. Even in this age of postmodern liberalism, only so many
composers are brave enough to mix and match and attempt to fashion new structure. Thus
those that do earn brownie points for effort, no matter. The further issue is one of
congruity. Thatís what separates the class from the contrived and the progressive
from the pretentious. Whatever the quality of components, stick them together without
structure and you can end up with the voice of a mutant chimera.
Gregson-Williams plunges headlong into boundary blurring here. The engaging pastiche of
Chicken Runís patterned parodies was chook-feed compared to this self-imposed
challenge. All manner of world music influences, of exotic scales and oriental
instrumentation are serried with driving techno beats, atmospheric sampling and
traditional orchestral composition. Itís a perilous venture, but the wonderful thing
is that the composer pieces these elements together into a complete and spectacular jigsaw
Cues such as Red Shirt begin with sequenced rhythms and sampled ambience, only to
stretch seamlessly into traditional symphonic fabric. The strings rise and fall, the
melody becomes romantic for a moment, the timpani enter to charge the drama and we think
we are back in familiar scoreland Ė until the next cue kicks off with a high energy
dose of electronica.
Electronic scoring is familiar territory for Gregson-Williams, and for those who find
the aggressive drive of plastic percussion uninviting there are moments in this score when
the pump and thud might seem like itís about to grind you down. But each time the
composer ameliorates such fears with a segue to a Middle Eastern flute or a beautiful,
transcendent choral passage.
Similarly, for those who balk at the thought of non-western modulations, the ethnic
influences make for far easier listening than say the equally ambitious, but more extreme
Moroccan flavours of Howard Shoreís score for The Cell.
Buried in all the experimentation are moments of genuine thematic romanticism. The
short, but lovely, piano motif of Muirís In The Hot Seat and Youíre Going To
Miss It could easily be cornerstones of a more traditional approach, but here the listener
must be on the alert, for any distraction will lead to the latter cue title.
There is no formula as to why this all works save for the Gregson-Williamsí
sensibility. It is his taste and timing that gives the score a sense of logic. Unbridled
eclecticism is a dangerous game, but this innovative soundtrack is a winner.
Published February 28, 2002