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FINAL FANTASY: SOUNDTRACK

If you think the CGI looks realistic wait until you hear the orchestra. It is. The digital boffins have been at the caper in music for a couple of decades now of course; giving us electronic versions of everything from violins to vibraphones. But with young maestro Goldenthal assembling a mob of musos who call themselves the London Symphony Orchestra, and who can apparently play a bit, it is a tad ironic, and more than a little comforting, to find this landmark animation backed with the most traditional of scores.

I haven’t seen the film, but the trailer’s enough to apprehend the State of the Animation. The CGI wizards have conjured pseudo-photorealism of eye goggling impressiveness, but the pseudo prefix is still warranted, and the music world knows that it’s a mightily persistent prefix.

The next stage will be the electronic actor. The geek behind the computer that is. He’ll have the tools to create a diabolical Nicholson grin or a Betty Davis glare, but will he have the subtlety and timing? Not many electronic-inclined composers with the latest digital string sample have matched the emotion of Menuhin’s bow.

There is an iota of electronica embellishing this score, but by and large Goldenthal has determined that the LSO can provide a rather splendid sound on its own. Although he does seem to have enlisted some support from the bench, beefing up the brass section to cosmic proportions, calling in the chorus and reinforcing the percussion with the indulgence of a man who believes you can never have too many people hitting things.

It all sounds mighty fabbo obviously, although it is the very sound of this soundtrack that is its strong point, rather than any finesse of composition. Which is a trifle disappointing from the young and brilliant talent behind the thrillingly eclectic Titus soundtrack. Granted this is a very different gig, but animation usually invites innovation in the music department.

While Goldenthal demonstrates that he’s a dab hand at arranging for a super-sized symphony orchestra—the sound is big, bold and beautifully balanced—he has filled out much of the score with competent action cues, whereas moments of chaotic inventiveness such as in Toccata and Dreamscapes and a touching romantic theme suggest that the overall result has come in under potential.

There is no shortage of energy, with the regularly accented, tempo-gathering string cycles of Flight To Wasteland raising the pulse and Winged Serpent taking flight on a rumble of timpani, heavenly chorus and ceremonial drum rolls that reach for the firmament.

The main theme is minor key but romantic; evoking a poignant nobility. It is introduced with delicate piano in The Kiss, reprised with flute and strings in Adagio and Transfiguration and given voice in song by Lara Fabian, whose pure, unmannered tone is a delight. Her beautiful vocal, backed by a myriad of interwoven percussion, raises this track above many of the contrived songs that are often wrought from orchestral scores.

However, the rock song that follows it, to conclude the CD, is from another musical galaxy; entirely out of context and comprehensively average. The bass line is funky though, and thumbs up to the engineer who boosted it in the mix. There has long been a synergy between the artistry of technology and the artist; and there’s a whole new world of it to be explored in cinema.
Brad Green

Published August 2, 2001

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SOUNDTRACK CLIPS:
Track 9 - Winged Serpent
Track 17 - The Dream Within

TITLE: Final Fantasy

ID: 399700 089424

Sony Classical

SCORE: Elliot Goldenthal

ORCHESTRA: London Symphony Orchestra

ALBUM PRODUCER: Teese Gohl

SONG PERFORMERS: Lara Fabian, L’Arc-en-Ciel

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