News Archive... AKA The Old Blog

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Capsules: 'Punisher' and 'Penguins'

The Punisher
Music Composed and Conducted by Dennis Dreith
Perserverance Records, PRD 006, 39 Tracks, 79'22"
Rating: ***

This was news to me too, but apparently last year's forgettable Hollywood adaptation of Marvel Comics' The Punisher was actually the vigilante's second big-screen outing. The first was this 1990 Australian (?!) production, scored by Dennis Dreith (no, I hadn't heard of him either). One might reasonably enter this sort of score expecting the worst, but Dreith's music is surprisingly involving. The 80s pop elements certainly haven't aged well, but the score contains some surprisingly sophisticated action writing that recalls the most relentless music that Jerry Goldsmith was writing around this period (I'm thinking of Total Recall in particular). Granted, the hideous synthesizers occasionally recall some of the worst music that Jerry Goldsmith was writing in this period, but the grand orchestral passages are sizable and rich with genuinely interesting musical ideas. Anybody searching for a memorable theme is going to go home empty handed, but the album is well worth the risk for more adventurous listeners. - Paul Cote

March of The Penguins
Music Composed and Produced by Alex Wurman
Milan Records, M2-36131, 12 Tracks, 41'31"
Rating: ****

Alex Wurman's charming score for the little Penguin movie that could is one of 2005's highlights for me. In a year filled with bombastic, over-orchestrated thrill rides featuring classical music performer guest stars, Wurman's score singles itself out as quaint, and stunningly beautiful in it's simplicity. From the calming chord progressions in "The Harshest Place on Earth", which opens the Milan soundtrack album, to the tear-jerker "Going Home for the First Time", Wurman's quasi-new-age, quasi-orchestral score emphasizes micro ideas voiced on an assortment of solo instruments, primarily shimmering flutes, light strings and piano, and soft electronic pads that make for a comforting, and satisfactory listen. I realize this may not be everyone's idea of epic scoring, but the film never demands more in terms of volume, and in this case, an overtly aggressive approach would have steamrolled the delicacy of the story and our connection with those loveable penguins. There are many highlights here, including the insistent harp and vibes in the middle of "Walk Not Alone", which give away to a jaunty piano line and assorted percussion and gongs ("The March"). The idea here is movement and determination, and Wurman conveys this clearly. The composer's main theme is also repeated frequently, for those pesky theme buffs. The album is breathlessly sequenced, with tracks transitioning seamlessly into each other. The entire experience is an emotional transportation - a mix of heart-wrenching beauty ("Found Love") and sweet melancholy ("Walk Through Darkness"). One of 2005's best scores. - Ryan Keaveney