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CD Review: Alias Season 2

Alias: Season 2 ****


Varèse Sarabande 302 066 622 2

23 tracks- 61:48

Varèse's recent release of Michael Giacchino's music for the second season of Alias is a real treat. As with the first season, the disc opens with creator J.J. Abrams' title theme. Then it's off into Giacchino's heart-racing music. If anything, the music for Season 2 leans more toward filmic symphonic underscore than its predecessor. This is in keeping with the dramatic events that take place in the show. As an avid watcher of the series, I found Season 2 to be the most intriguing mostly due to the addition of Lena Olin's stoic portrayal of Sydney's thought-to-be dead KGB mother who turns herself into the custody of the C.I.A. in the season premier. With family dysfunction woven into the fabric of the elaborate plot lines, Giacchino's underscore moved from supporting action packed situations to evoking the high emotions. In essence, it became a character unto itself.

One has but to listen to "Mother of a Mother," with its somber cello solo over Middle Eastern female vocals to understand the anguish and mixed feelings of Sydney's character toward her estranged parent. Giacchino wisely plays the drama in the show like an opera, assigning motives and themes, even instruments, to characters that will resurface throughout the genesis of the season's overall storyline. For example, on "Emily's Eulogy," another somber piece that accompanies Sydney's recollections on the passing of a Sloane's wife Emily, the cello is re-introduced in a solo passage amidst the elegy. Even though Sydney is speaking about Emily, the music reveals her to be reflecting on her own mother. This kind of attention to overall plot and character development is part of the reason why Giacchino's talents were exploited for Brad Bird's Incredibles.

The tenor of this album, while still containing plenty of staples of the "Alias sound" including tight beats, agitato strings and pulsating synths, leans more toward the dramatic side. Tracks like "Post A-Mortem" marry the gravity of dramatic events with a hyper beat. Season 2 also offers a little more insight into Giacchino's abilities in modernist scoring tendencies. "Sloane's Revelation" features amazing textures including quarter tone choral utterances, string portamentos and glissandi, all leading up to a massive brass crescendo.

One doesn't necessarily have to watch the show to enjoy listening to this disc. The musicality and dynamism found in Giacchino's music, along with the thematic cohesion and continuity tells its own story. Varèse's disc includes liner notes from the composer and a very healthy running time. I've heard complaints about the Russian choral music not being included, but perhaps re-use fees governed its omission or else the fact that other more integral cues were required to lend cohesion to the soundtrack. I believe the latter was true as the disc plays out quite well -- in fact, better than Season 1.

Regardless, it's a treat to hear this kind of high quality orchestral writing in a television series and even more enjoyable to listen to this great writing on its own. This is required listening for any Alias or Giacchino fan, and anyone who likes good old fashioned dynamic music.     -- David Coscina

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