May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Beach

LONDON RECORDS 4344311362 (40.41)
Purchase from:  Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

With its at times striking mixture of strings, synth, drums and reverberating sound effects, Angelo Badalamenti has concocted a score that despite its ultimate shortcomings, certainly cannot be accused of being predictable.

‘Bizarre City’, all synth embellishments and pounding drums, kicks things off before making way for the very different approach of ‘The Beach Theme (Swim to Island)’ featuring traditional strings, piano and some restrained choral work. This is a lush, old-fashioned romantic melody, although it does switch mid-way into ominous synth and rhythm, before finally returning to the tinkling, syrupy main theme.

This gushy ultra romanticism is nothing new for Badalamenti and has been evident in past projects such as ‘Twin Peaks’. Although some may find it appealing, in this particular case I found it hard to take very seriously. It’s so overtly schmaltzy that it becomes almost like a parody. If that was the intent then it was very successful, but if not, it really is a quite nauseating.

These first two pieces sum up quite succinctly the main styles used throughout the score, with on the one hand ‘The Beach Theme’ dominating tracks like ‘Starnight’, ‘Mythical Waters’ and ‘Waterfall Cascade’, while strong synthesizer and rhythmic work highlights cues such as ‘Vision of Fantasy’ and ‘Killing Fields’. This latter piece is actually one of the most effective on offer with the imposing drum work really getting the adrenaline pumping, augmented mid-way through by a simple but powerful ascending four-note motif.

Probably the best of the string based pieces is ‘Mournful Myth’ which also incorporates some more subtle vocal work and really is as mournful as the title suggests and all the better for it! Another of the stronger pieces, ‘Pure Victims’, employs strings and brass in a powerful, disturbing cue with additional rumbling sound effects, that eventually trails away into low-key foreboding.

It’s a pity really that the highs do not outweigh the lows, because this does undoubtedly have its moments. But inevitably the cloying main theme undermines the entire score and I’m left with the distinct impression that Angelo Badalamenti’s dark side is far more interesting than his sweetness and light.


Mark Hockley


Mark Hockley

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