Elysium Soundtrack

Elysium

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The curious thing about the soundtrack to Elysium is that it is a debut by Ryan Amon as a film composer. His works consist of trailers and adverts and it is interesting to see how this could affect his film scoring. The soundtrack comprises of 29 tracks over 72 minutes and is a mixed bag of music with tracks being fresh and innovative, others being generic electronics, some being action packed and others seemingly superfluous. It consists of modern and sometimes innovative musical techniques to suit the futuristic setting yet it also contains mind-numbing or overly aggressive sounds which seem to lack a theme to tie them together, which perhaps reflects Amon’s experience in composing excerpts rather than full soundtracks.

The soundtrack opens with Heaven and Earth which introduces the modernity with a strong resemblance to Hans Zimmer by using electronic sounds backed by percussion. This track, although not particularly revolutionary, does set up the final two tracks nicely. The sounds are very similar to the generic electronic music of films like Pacific Rim and Man of Steel and therefore lack originality and personality.

The score alternates between ambient melodies in tracks such as Darkness to aggressively electronic songs. This is necessary though as the action tracks can be quite overpowering and require the slower songs to restore the balance. The slower songs in comparison however can become quite monotonous and almost boring and seem to be included just to give the ears a rest. The Raven, a track towards the end of the score, is a simple, throbbing percussion which does not alternate in tempo or timbre and seems to add no value or meaning to the score. A Political Sickness simply overuses the electronic horn so characteristic to Pacific Rim and Transformers while adopting a fast drum beat to amplify tension. These tracks seem simple and appear to lack any real depth or thought.

Some of the more interesting pieces use techniques to add a bit of texture to the electronic synths however this does not necessarily make them pleasant pieces to listen to. You said you’d do Anything is a track which introduces an electronic throat singing paired with a repetitive three beat drumming. The singing and percussion gives the piece quite an eerie feel while the electronic spin casts the image of a modern civilisation. Breaking a Promise is a track which really stands out, using wordless vocals and slow strings to portray a sense of loss and impending sadness. The voice almost freezes time which builds tension effectively. Elysium follows this track and is a harmonious mix between orchestral and vocals which increase in intensity, concluding the composition with a beautiful yet melancholic atmosphere. For this reason, this track would have served better as the final song however Amon then added New heaven, New earth which re-invites some dramatic stabbing of synths which perhaps rises the action again instead of ending it like a final track should.

On the whole, the Elysium composition does now flow as a stand-alone score and does not make a pleasant listen without the visuals to accompany it. It comprises of such mixed quality that it makes it difficult to judge. The soundtrack contains overpowering, aggressive tracks which are supposed to heighten the action yet they do not develop, making them fade into the background as annoying throbs. Despite being an action film, the slower songs are the strongest. It is evident that Amon has attempted to introduce some techniques to vary the electronics however they are not strong enough to make up for the lack of quality and abundance of simplicity. One major flaw with this soundtrack is the inconsistency – the balance is on both ends of the scale and with no themes, the pieces appear disjointed which perhaps indicates Amon’s experience to crafting short trailers as opposed to lengthy soundtracks. Many of the tracks could be cut out as they add no meaning and make the composition seem all over the place, without thought or revision. The use of electronic synths lacks the personality and originality that perhaps a debut composer needs. The bits that are good are very good however there are not enough of these highlights to make Elysium a successful composition.

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Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Soundtrack Review

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The soundtrack for Black Flag was designed by American composer Brian Tyler, whose works include The Expendables, Iron Man 3 and the video game Far Cry 3. The latest Assassin’s Creed instalment is based upon Caribbean pirates so the soundtrack needed to generate a nautical authenticity, which it does very well. The overall composition is 34 tracks and is a wonderful blend of extensive orchestral and rock instrumentation. The tracks may have a familiar sound to them as they are strongly inspired by Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt with their work on Pirates of the Caribbean. The main opening theme for the game has a strong resemblance to the lively folk jig of the first POC film.

The tracks in Black Flag really create a seafaring atmosphere and vary in timbre to compliment the player’s actions. The three prominent tones vary between jovial jigs, dramatic combat and calm exploration. The jigs are used when the player visits the towns and comprise of Irish folk music using percussive drums, strings and brass. This maintains the nautical feel while providing some light hearted music to accompany a pirate’s errands. When exploring a relatively safe location like a jungle for example, the music takes a more minimal approach. The drums are quiet and light in the background while strings play delicate yet lengthy notes. As tension increases when entering battle, the strings are shorter, sharper and used in repetitive bars. The drums become dominant as they increase in volume and tempo. A key instrument to this soundtrack and other music depicting the Golden Age of piracy is the Marimba. This is a percussive instrument made up of wooden bars. It originated in the West Indies by African Slaves in the 16th and 17th century, making the sound characteristic and relevant to the Black Flag soundtrack.

When sailing the high seas, the music disappears (unless in combat with another ship) and is instead replaced by sea shanties. These are collectable in the game and allow your crew to sing while sailing and include famous shanties such as Drunken Sailor. The singing can be turned on and off by the player. They add a charm to the game and reinforce the authenticity of the setting however if the player is not a fan of drunken chants they can become quite irritating, especially when you find yourself singing along even when not playing the game as they are extremely catchy. When the shanties are turned off, there is no music at all apart from the gentle lull of the waves which although slightly boring, is an accurate portrayal of being a pirate.

Although wonderfully composed, the integration of the soundtrack can be inconsistent at times. The music tends to alter in tone, becoming tenser which makes the player think they are approaching danger when they are not. It then ebbs away again into the previous music which can be confusing. It can also phase in and out randomly leaving the player nothing to listen to but their own footsteps, for quite some time until it kicks in again. With 1 hour 38 minutes of play time, the music can become quite tedious as there are no tracks which really stand out. The tone does change to accommodate battles, but there are no individual songs which really represent a character or a place and they all tend to sound quite similar. Even when listening to the soundtrack when not playing the game, there is no song which really sparks an association.

Overall, Tyler’s composition is outstanding representation of 17th century piracy and has been beautifully crafted to fit around the needs of the game. It produces such an authenticity that it really enhances the setting and atmosphere of Black Flag. Except for a few small inconsistencies, the music is flawless and lends a hand to making this instalment evolve from the other Assasin’s Creed titles.