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CD Reviews: King of the Ants and Maigret

By Steven A. Kennedy



King of the Ants ***

BOBBY JOHNSTON

La-La Land LLLCD 1024

19 tracks - 34:03

Stuart Gordon's latest film, King of the Ants (2003), made the rounds of a few film festivals before appearing on video in April. Gordon's most familiar film, Re-Animator (1985), has a big cult following. Other more recent projects like Fortress (1993) and Dagon (2001) did well at specialty festivals. Gordon is something of a modern day Roger Corman, creating entertaining independent films for unusually low budgets. With King of the Ants, he turned to Bobby Johnston for the music.

Bobby Johnston is a new voice in film. At the time of his hiring for this score he was still a kindergarten teacher. He uses all acoustic and "found" instruments to create his unusual sounds. He provided music for several short features before scoring his first film, A Little Crazy (2003). This is then his "second" full-length feature film score. The main title track might leave you a bit amazed -- it's refreshing to hear real instruments instead of a lot of synthetic percussion, even if you can't necessarily tell what any of the instruments are! Many of the ensuing tracks are multi-layered works with Johnston performing everything himself. The music has an urban sound appropriate to the film's setting. If you can imagine something like Gregson-Williams' score for Spy Game stripped of all its Hollywood gloss, synthesizers and drum machines, you'll begin to get an idea of what's going on here. No single instrument stands out on its own, but there are sections of guitar background solos, high piano melodic lines with rhythmic accompaniment, unusual bell/bottle tones that sound like a cross between a steel drum and a marimba, and much more. The more traditional drum loops are fortunately used less than the more experimental textures.

Johnston is currently at work on Lee Shallat Chemel's family film, Greener Mountains, another independent feature. But if King of the Ants is any indication, Johnston should be able to soon find a comfortable niche in larger productions.

La-La Land is commended for allowing this music to be heard. The score, however, is relatively brief, with four minutes devoted to a remix of the music by the score's studio mastering technician.




Maigret *** 1/2

LAURENT PETITGIRARD

Play Time 5785572

14 tracks - 55:02

Georges Simenon's Maigret is one of the great literary detectives, standing next to Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and many others. There have been a multitude of adaptations of these novels and over the past decade or so, French TV has produced many telefilms featuring the detective played by Bruno Cremer.

Laurent Petitgirard has provided the music for most of these films, and now fans of the series have the pleasure of revisiting the music on a marvelous disc that collects themes from several of them. Most of Petitgirard's work has been in television (with an occasional film to his credit), so he may be somewhat unfamiliar to soundtrack fans. On the other hand, he is an accomplished musician and composer who has released a recording of his Violin Concerto and his Cello Concerto. For this disc, he has pulled together performances from three different orchestras (France, Monte Carlo and Prague) to provide a survey of his work from Maigret, beginning from its inaugural "episode" in 1991.

The opening "Generique" is instantly likable and appropriately spans the kind of mystery and humor that's an integral part of the genre of detective fiction and film. The inclusion of a accordion/bandoneon adds character to each track. The music is an intriguing mixture of musical influences with strong roots in French impressionism, so if you enjoy that style of music this may become a favorite. Many tracks have a hint of a dark side mixed in with a delightful playful quality. The music definitely captures this great character of Maigret. After a series of brief tracks from various Maigret episodes, the disc concludes with an extensive symphonic suite of over 20 minutes.

The disc is attractively packaged in a cardboard case that foldouts for notes by the composer. The disc is available through FGL music at www.fglmusic.com.

MailBag@filmscoremonthly.com

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