If you follow me on any other social media, you’ll know that I am a sucker for a good film score. To be able to pick them up on my vinyl helped influence me to get my record player and I have a nice, albeit small, collection of film or television scores on vinyl. I plan to increase this collection, it’s just not a cheap hobby! There are so many that I am a fan of, so it seems like a good excuse to gush over them if I post one or two a month that I’ve been listening to and what it is about them that I enjoy.
First up, In the Heart of the Sea. Safe to say the film didn’t do so well, this is a score that will probably fly under the radar more than it deserves. If pushed, I’d agree that I prefer the score to the film, but I enjoyed it more than most seemingly did. Frustratingly, I’ve yet to find this on vinyl, so I’ve not been able to add it to my physical collection.
Roque Banos composed one of my favourite scores of 2015 here. It’s one that perfectly sits within the film but is equally enjoyable played separately. It also does that treasured thing of conjuring up images and themes from its beats and percussion. Everything about this screams the sea, travel, adventure and stepping into the unknown.
The score opens with the rather haunting at first ‘Arriving at Nicholson’s Lair’. It’s a track with an opening that would suggest more of a horror story, of something daunting and to build up. With around a minute left, it becomes something more sprawling and lighter. Full percussion is used to lift it and it really does have a sense of a story beginning.
There are moments within the score that have a folk vibe, for me it resonated as something you might have heard in an Irish fishing town, so again, it did a good job of audibly setting its scene. Although much of the score is purely instrumental, there are a couple of parts that feature singing. One of the highlights of the score for me is ‘Young Nickerson’ which, despite being primarily wordless, has a gorgeous voice that chimes in midway through. It’s a piece of the score that perfectly uses percussion and is one of my favourites.
It does a fairly good job of balancing the quieter pieces with the tense ones composed to support the action scenes, which are relatively sparse in the context of the film. A lot if it is more about atmosphere and demonstrating the hard, often dangerous and risky world of whaling and of being out at sea with no easy means of communication should anything go wrong. The music for these scenes has to carry the story, as there’s little dialogue, so it can afford to be more showy. That said, Banos knows when to build to a crescendo or tone down on each one well, ‘Blows’ in particular demonstrating both, but with a fabulously, elegant and gentle close to what is fairly tensely-paced in its previous six minutes.
Another highlight on it for me is ‘The Story is Told’ which from start to finish doesn’t put a foot wrong. It brings in familiar pieces or beats from the tracks that have proceeded it but done in different ways and does a superb job of tying up both the score so far, and the film itself. The standard version is composed of sixteen tracks, closed by the gorgeous and again, haunting, ‘White Whale Chant’, but there is a longer version that Spotify kindly carry, with six bonus tracks. It’s worth checking out the bonus pieces, they are equally good in their own right, though don’t top the official listing.
A long score, as they go, I remember hearing it during the film and knowing that I absolutely had to go and listen to it independently of the film straight after. I connected to it very quickly. Perhaps because it’s an emotionally charged score too. ‘Farewell’ and ‘Abandon Ship’ in particular twinge the old heartstrings. The same as the score knows when to have fun and to bring in the more playful side of being out on the ocean.
I like to listen to scores and soundtracks while I’m working or writing as I find they help me focus, but with lyrics a rarity, the risk of distraction is lowered. This was my go to while doing some data heavy work for a project and even on report, I was never bored. Admittedly I hadn’t knowingly come across a score by Banos before this, but it peaked my curiosity to hunt down more of his work. He’s done a lot of work over the years and certainly on films I’ve seen. Composers don’t always get the credit they deserve though, even if it does feel they are more recognised now than a few years ago. The fact that soundtracks themselves can be so popular has probably helped with this.