This is an extraordinary score: a heady mix of choral and orchestral baroque
pastiche, heavy rock and synth styles. It begins unusually with the cue Hymn
which is self-explanatory and devoted to a cappella choral singing. From
heaven we descend to the opposite extreme for the following colourful,
kaleidoscopic cue unseen full of subterranean growling from synths
and cellos and basses, drowning out the choir. At one point in this cue a
persistent cantering rhythm from some electronic source seems to suggest
a whinnying cantering horse. The orchestral music is mostly led by the lower
strings moving forward slowly with a melancholic tread underpinning the choir
singing in Requiem Mass mode. Two cues named Ruby and
Rebecca introduce warmer more lyrical and romantic material,
the latter with piano. Rochester is something of a pastiche of
classical Baroque orchestral forms. Robbery brings a startling
contrast for the instrumentation is Indian and Far Eastern exotic
and eerie with a large array of percussion instruments plonking over creepy
strings; it works surprisingly well. The sounds of the Age of Enlightenment
soon give way to the head-bashing modern day rock music for Ball
too long this track by half. Chance brings electronic
hokum with synthesised choir sounding distorted and ghostly; I was reminded
of the modern choral music Kubrick used for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
and another view from Jeffrey Wheeler
According to the previews, "Plunkett & Macleane" is a mutated motion
picture -- one deliberately disinterested toward the formalities of creating
a period piece -- about a pair of highway robbers in 18th century England.
Good or bad, the score contains no interest in historical details either...
Craig Armstrong is another film composer whose chief talent is combining
his classical experience (most recently, a symphonic piece for the Edinburgh
Festival 1996) with his popular talents (most recently, string composer for
the group Massive Attack). There are many, too many, composers falling out
of the woodwork with similar ambitions, and few succeed; the whole deteriorates
courtesy of several earsplitting consequences. Oh, these predictable crossbreeds
make me weary! Armstrong's "Plunkett & Macleane" has just a few listenable
moments and, I suspect, is equally appropriate for its cinematic base.
(Whether the film is appropriate for anything, I cannot say.)
It is a shock when the cybernetic beats kick into high gear following the
extremely effective wordless (and *real*) chorales of the opening track.
The bait-and-switch introduction reminds one of Elliot Goldenthal almost
immediately, despite a weaker, more disadvantageous dramatic bite. The
combination of ambient electronics and sung texts from the Requiem Mass appeared
many times before. Still, the score does try for its own special voice, and,
noticeably with the choral pieces, it achieves a sort of individuality that
is refreshing. There are some solid melodies; namely a slightly comical tune
in the track 'Rochester,' and a terrific classically inspired motif is the
basis of 'Business.' On the other hand, there are vomitus, repetitious collages
of pulsating noise (the tracks 'Ball,' 'Chance's Men,' and pieces of several
others) that are pure pain. The score exhibits schizophrenia toward musical
styles -- the orchestral brilliance, Mr. Armstrong's impressive symphonic
mastery, receives torturous contradictions by the onslaught of cacophonous
synthesized waste. Maybe that is deliberate as well, but my ears find it
more agonizing than any explanation can fully justify.
There is enjoyable music here, music I feel obliged to highly recommend,
but it mixes with audio horrors that may be previously unknown to mankind.