April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings/ April/

Music composed by David Julyan
Following (1998) [21:45]
Memento (2000) [8:12]
SPIVS (2004) [14:42] (Performed by David Julyan)
Conducted by Nick Ingman
Orchestrated by Martyn Harry
Performed by Unnamed Ensemble
  Available on Cinefonia Records (CFR 017)
Running Time: 44:38
To purchase this release direct from Cinefonia’s website, go to the ‘Cinefonia Records’ tab, place the mouse over ‘Catalogue – CFR’ tab and select ‘Cinefonia Records’ here.

See also:

  • Insomnia
  • Crash
  • David Julyan is a British composer whose fortunes rose with fellow national, director Christopher Nolan. Together they worked on Doodlebug (1997), Following (1998), the groundbreaking Memento (2000), and at the height of their partnership, Insomnia (2002). Sadly for Julyan, the ‘Danny Elfman effect’ did not take place, Nolan moved on to collaborate with Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard on Batman Begins (2005), and Julyan’s work since the impressive thriller score for Insomnia has been mostly low budget British films, including SPIVS (2004), Inside I’m Dancing (2004), The Last Drop (2005) and The Descent (2005). It remains to be seen whether Nolan will be renewing the partnership for his upcoming tale of magician rivalry tale The Prestige (2006).

    Until now, Julyan’s only work available on CD was for Insomnia, a mood-driven score with an orchestral-electronic blend that recalled the works of Angelo Badalamenti at times. Cinefonia Records redresses the gap with this new release – a compilation of three of his other scores, including excerpts from the oft-requested Memento score. Following told the story of a young writer taken under the wing of an older thief, and did so without the benefit of the budgeted gimmickry of most films. The most experimental the film gets is in its chronology – even before Memento Nolan was experimenting with non-linear scene ordering for dramatic effect. The film had a very limited budget – if imdb.com is to be believed, a total of eight dollars were allocated to the music budget. With those kinds of parameters, it’s not a surprise to find that Julyan chose to score this with an ATARY-ST keyboard and some samples.

    And I suspect it’s that reliance on electronic instrumentation that will limit the appeal of this album for soundtrack collectors. I can’t say I share the sentiment. Acoustic textures are incredibly powerful, but my ears do get tired of full orchestral scores after a while, especially when the content is utterly derivative as scores often are these days. Not that I’m making excuses for sampling substituted in place of acoustic textures – I don’t think that really works either, the listener always being aware that this music could have been so much better if only they’d spent more money on it. Where electronic instrumentation shines is in scores like Following and Mark Isham’s Crash, where the only imitated sound is piano, the rest of the sounds being more unique electronic textures.

    It couldn’t have hurt my appreciation of the score that I listened to Following while walking late at night through empty streets. Julyan’s melancholy ‘Theme’, with its expansive harmonic chords and keyboard melody, is a subtle and beautiful accompaniment for the urban night-time. It features again in the ‘Closing Titles’, a beautiful synthesized cue. The rest of the short score can be divided into two elements. ‘Opening’ showcases urgent mechanical rhythms and high-end almost-distorted screeches, a pattern repeated intermittently throughout the score. Most typical of the score is ‘Blond’, an arrangement of synths in a slow rising-falling motion that is incredibly simple (it basically a repeated two-chord idea) but remarkably effective in its description of emotional state. The abrasive ‘Opening’ and the meditative ‘Blond’ are frequently counter-pointed throughout the score, as in ‘Photographs’. Though the cues are generally short (the longest – the moving ‘Confessions’ – is just under four minutes), the score tends to play as a single movement – one cue flowing naturally into the next – and you hardly realize that you’re listening to…

    …Memento. A strangely detaching film that told a story in reverse that would have still been a powerful story played in the correct order. I was a bit detached watching it, because the issues were so strong, and the ending so weighed down by the knowledge that it would result in the beginning, that it was probably the only way to view it without getting depressed. The score for this is very much like Following, but a bit richer in synthetic orchestration – the liner notes mentioning that the cues presented were ‘improved for this album by the composer’. The samples here only give a suggestion of what is probably a larger score. ‘Trailer Park Chase’ is a blend of suspense and action, with samples suggesting strident cello strokes. (Reminiscent of Brad Fiedel’s Terminator music.) ‘How can I heal?’ is more dramatic in intent, the culmination of the hero’s regressive journey. Long synth chords intermingle between different samples, creating a sense of closure but at the same time denying fulfillment. The legato style chords fall away into more staccato effects at the end, mirroring the pessimistic ending of the film. Again, it’s very simple, but that’s the beauty of film music – when budgets are tiny, simplicity suffices.

    Most interesting to score collectors will be the fourteen minute suite from SPIVS, a film about shady men featuring Dominic Monagham. (He of the hobbit Merry from the Jackson Lord of the Rings movies.) Despite the title suggesting a British mob film a la Snatch, the score tells a completely different story. The film’s budget afforded the resources of an orchestrator and session players, and while the acoustic colours aren’t evident in the opening ‘Mr Villa’, woodwind and string textures peer into the sound mix in the beautiful ‘Driving the Kids’. ‘Auntie Vee’s House’ showcases cello writing over gentle string harmonies, with harp and piano writing leading into an oboe piece. Gorgeous cello closes the piece, its warm range especially effective when put in context of the two scores that have come before. The theme presented here is reprised in ‘Victoria Park’, with a gorgeous expressive violin solo. ‘Flirting’ is jazzier in feel – with acoustic bass, marimba and piano entering into the spirit of the seduction. Whoever ‘Jenny’ is, she seems to be one of the darker characters in the piece, the heavily-flanged rock theme for her standing out like a sore thumb in an otherwise attractive score. ‘Plan’ features a hint of violin (reminiscent of the acoustics of David Byrne’s Young Adam), and the suite concludes with the most richly orchestral pieces on the album, the melancholy ‘Jack Leaves’ (Geoffrey Burgon and George Fenton come to mind) and the lyrical ‘Goodbye to the Kids’ (the theme of which recalls Richard Gibbs’ Book of Stars, though I’m sure this is coincidental).

    It takes a little getting used to, and to some the budget restrictions of the films these scores accompany will make the music uninteresting. But this is good film music, and I hope we’ll hear more from David Julyan. Cinefonia are to be commended for putting out on CD an album that few distributors would have bothered to.

    Michael McLennan

    Rating: 3

    Return to Reviews Index

    Reviews from previous months

    You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: