December 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Evan H. CHEN
Crusade Television Score   SONIC IMAGES 878 278 910 [68:16]

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Crusade is another Sci-fi series created for TV by J.Michael Straczynski who also created the popular Babylon 5 that was quite successfully scored by Christopher Franke.

Straczynski did not collaborate with Franke this time but hired newcomer Evan H.Chen instead to score the new series. The intention of the creator was to submerge his series in a different sound, not quite heard before. And Chen did exactly that. He created a synthesized, atonal, beat-driven score, deprived of the sort of memorable melodies, rich orchestration, grand themes and lush strings and brass we have come to expect from Space movies/series. Stylistically it is similar to Kamen/Orbital's Event Horizon, although even that did not sound that incoherent.

More to the point, Main Title fires off with a distant brass-sounding synthesizer tune, which might create the illusion that this is about to be another Star Trek episode, until it reverts to beat and synthesized ambient music. Synth effects persist in the next track, 'Hyperspace', which, along with atonal music, manages to convey the feeling of vastness and coldness of Space, in a way similar to Goldsmith's Alien, but never reaches the same artistic levels.

'Future Pleasure' introduces an extremely simple theme performed with a synthesized flute-sounding instrument mixed with various beats and effects. 'Elizabeth', on the other hand, is the first (and only) attempt to introduce a listenable melody. It doesn't quite succeed though, choosing to maintain the loose and atonal feel of the whole. It gives the impression of a dissonant love theme. Nevertheless it is a track that stands out (of the rest that is!). In 'Shanghai Tan', we have the rare opportunity to listen to Evan H.Chen himself accompany the incoherent music with equally obscure lyrics and whispers.

'Alwyn's Story' contains Eastern music blended with beat and synth tunes to a point that loses everything exotic and cryptic that characterises this music. The attempt for action music that is made in 'Battlestation', hindered by synth sound fx, does not manage to build anything suspenseful. Mr Chen returns in 'Rainbow' with another set of Indian-sounding chants! 'My Way', even includes a baby giggling and calling his mother, over a medley of boing-boing sounds. How refreshing!

It is one thing to experiment to produce something new, but another to mix synth tunes and sound effects, Chinese music, beat, incoherent vocals and ambient atonal music in a chaotic attempt to be original. I can't see the value of this music in the context of the series. In pure musical terms though, it is by no means an easy listening experience and probably it won't be visiting your CD player that frequently. It is weak and lacks any connectivity, cohesion and memorable themes. All in all, it sounds more like a compilation of a series' sound fx than a series' score.

Perhaps Mr Straczynski should stick with Mr Franke.


Kostas Anagnostou


Kostas Anagnostou

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