Mark Isham’s career was recently greatly boosted by his fabulous and very successful orchestral score for Racing Stripes. The New York-born, he is a talented composer and piano, violin and trumpet player. He began his music career as a trumpet player in the Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies and continued establishing his status in the rock area with electronic / synthesized music and jazz. Regardless of his other interests, trumpet-playing was always been Isham's
His film music career spans over two decades and numerous film and TV musical scores, including Never Cry Wolf , The Hitcher , Point Break , A River Runs Through It , Of Mice and Men , "Chicago Hope" and the Emmy-awarded "EZ Streets" .
Crash is a highly emotional, dramatic and sentimental low-key project, directed and written by Paul Haggis of the EZ Streets fame. Set in Los Angeles shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the picture tracks the intersecting lives of several different people making up a very interesting ensemble drama.
Isham delivered a distinctively moody and eerie score. As he states in the album’s liner notes, he chose a completely electronic / synthesized approach for this film with everything composed, arranged, produced and recorded by himself in his own studio. The result is astonishing and intimate.
For the movie, Mark’s music elevated each and every frame, accurately representing all the characters’ sensibilities through a distinctly emotional language, underlining all the dialogue and strongly aiding the humanly and dramatically intensity. Heard separately from the film, this score might prove slightly difficult for some, due to its strongly moody and minimalistic approach and its lack of overt themes, customary orchestration and development; but if on repeated hearings, its deeper meaning might be appreciated.
The album opens smoothly with a themeless piece focusing on electronic pads’ melodies, dark underscore and various synthesized solo instrumental motifs that altogether introduce us to the score’s general color. However, the pace of “go forth my son” that follows, along with “Siren” quickens with fast and rousing blendings of electronics and percussion. The textures are dense, the mood intense and trance-like ‘In Plain Sight” is one of the nicest cues on the score; gentle electric guitar and fizzling, edgy metallic sounds with glass-pads are featured, in this melancholic and strongly atmospheric piece. Notable in the score, is the frequent appearance of delicate and eerie female vocals, in cues like “…safe now”, where they make their first emergence, “Negligence”, escorted by a recondite electric guitar, “St.Christopher” and most notably, in the greatest highlight of the score “Flames”. The singer here delivers a great performance with a surprisingly strong ethnic touch. Some uplifting piano / synth lines take over for a while and lead to another flawless, heart-breaking performance in the same mood by the female singer, completed by passionate organ-like instruments and strong, pulsing electronics in what is the score’s most vivid and brightest point. Also notable is a main motif, firstly appearing in “No such things as monsters” and restated in “A Really Good Cloak” performed by piano and a music box / bell-like instrument, all laid upon dark electronic backing. “Find my baby” and “A Harsh warning”, are the darkest pieces of this work all due to their particularly gloomy electronic escort and piano lines that move in the same vein as the main theme.
For the last two concluding tracks, we find two source songs. “In the deep” by Bird York, fits quite comfortably into Isham’s score. Continuing the same moody electronic underscore, completed by soft percussion, mellow string orchestra and piano, this is a particularly heart-warming, nostalgic and strongly emotional song, fronted by female vocals. This is a very worthy and brilliant addition to the score that should serve as an object lesson to producers and studios on how to include appropriate, quality, source music and how to round off an appealing soundtrack CD. The Album concludes with a song by Stereophonics; in their typical and cheesy pop-rock blend that lets down the whole disc.
Crash is an amazing work. A singularly emotional, dark, atmospheric, somber and intimate score fraught with Mark Isham’s personal and sensitive touch, that quietly moves and stirs the listener, a score that will appeal to lovers of the said modern minimalism genre (Gustavo Santaolalla, Asche and Spenser, Cliff Martinez, Peter Gabriel and David Byrnes ). Isham continues to impress.