CD Reviews: Mulholland Drive and Il Conte di Melissa
Mulholland Drive *** 1/2
17 tracks - 74:04
Williams and Spielberg, Silvestri and Zemeckis, Badalamenti and Lynch.
Certain composers and directors are almost cosmically intertwined, not
unlike some of the unsavory characters in a David Lynch film. Mulholland
Drive, the latest collaboration from the team that brought you Blue
Velvet, Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart, is an atmospheric
effort that will, like most of the aforementioned films themselves, thrill
Lynch fans and leave innocent onlookers scratching their heads.
Badalamenti primarily employs layered, swirling electronic undertones
and effects with a somber accompaniment on strings (performed by the City
of Prague Philharmonic) and the occasional electric guitar. It's a familiar
sound, similar to that used in other Lynch films, but with the added warmth
and depth that real strings provide.
The album progresses much like a typical Lynch film, opening with a
quick, pleasant Jitterbug and then slowly delving into darker string passages,
the twangy guitar sounds of 50's diner music and, finally, the layered,
disturbing, often confusing underbelly of the score. Like the opening moments
of Blue Velvet, what appears pretty on the surface is a roiling
torrent underneath, and the music here has the same feel. The compositions
by Lynch and John Neff sound very "Twin Peaks-y" ("Pretty '50s"
and "Go Get Some" in particular) while Badalamenti's tracks offer some
of his more sumptuous melodies to date: "Betty's Theme" and "Love Theme."
Although I say melodies, they're really more like extended riffs. Nevertheless,
they're exquisite and perfectly capture the tone of the film.
While this CD is not as varied as Wild at Heart or as consistent
as the original Twin Peaks television soundtrack, it's a coherent
and listenable effort, much more so than, say, the Fire Walk With Me
soundtrack. For Lynch and Badalamenti fans, it's a must-have. Others, sample
with care. -- Neil Shurley
Il Conte di Melissa (The Count of Melissa) ***
27 tracks - 62:05 minutes
Written to support M. Ananaia's period tale of high tragedy and romance
in Italy, Marco Werba's Il Conte di Melissa score is a fine example
of hybrid composition -- a mixture of traditional 17th century sounds and
contemporary minimalist bass tones. For while the delicate plucks of the
harpsichord and harp take us back to a historical Europe, the presence
of modern Glass-esque riffs pulls the listener back to the present. This
is by no means a unique approach (witness Michael Nyman's The Draughtsman's
Contract or the techno classicism of Craig Armstrong's Plunkett
and Macleane) and will certainly alienate the purists who are looking
for a traditional score a la Newton Howard's Purcell-themed Restoration.
In addition to the Glass and Nyman comparisons, there's a sense of mid-
'70s Morricone or even Preisner (La Double vie de Veronique). But
while all this might suggest a mixed bag of styles, the disc holds together
as a coherent whole.
Structured around two main motifs, the soundtrack is basically variations
on these themes. The first theme is introduced briefly in "The Guards Arrive"
as a heraldic fanfare on brass, and is developed further in "Melissa's
Castle." It then weaves its way through the remaining tracks, either as
a full orchestral piece, or regressed into a chamber arrangement. The second
theme makes its entrance in "The Village," albeit as an ethnic folky variant,
and is fully expanded in "Eleonora's Portrait (Love Theme)" and "Eleonora's
Despair." It makes its presence known again in "The Delivery" and "Requiem
in G Minor" before evolving into the inevitable finale vocal track by Antonella
Neri, "Love was Fatal to me," which is sung in English. Not as bad as you
might fear, this coda boasts bizarre lyrics, no doubt a result of the Italian
to English translation.
As with most discs, the success lies with the buyer's acceptance of
the main theme, and this is doubly important on The Count of Melissa,
because if you take away its duo of themes, there's scant little else developed
across the hour-plus running time. (Note: The liner notes and track listing
are all in Italian. For ease of understanding, I've crudely translated
the track titles in this review.) -- Nick Joy