Thursday, 17 October 2013

Gravity Score Review

One of my most anticipated scores of the year, Steven Price's score for Gravity, has hit the air, and I had a listen to it the other day. After much talking to myself, the score settled it's place in my head, and I've felt a good time to review possibly the best score of the year.

Steven Price has had an awesome year so far, having done the pretty awesome score for the movie The World's End, one of my favorite comedies of the year, and now getting to do one of my favorite movies of the year in general, Gravity. One of the things I really noticed about this score, is how it breaks up the atmosphere of the movie, and this is something that slightly bugged me in the theater. The movie still earned itself a 5 out of 5 from myself, but I was tempted to downgrade the movie for this one reason. I suggest that you listen to this score immediately after you see the film, so that you can really digest the score in it's entirety, without the influence of the film.

The score starts off incredibly jumpy, and no one riff is stuck to for very long. Despite this, Above Earth has to be one of my highlights of the score. The first big riff, where the music builds up and suddenly disappears, is truly breathtaking, and the rest of the piece is really powerful and beautiful. This piece sets an awesome standard for the rest of the score. Debris is less majestic than it's predecessor, and is focused mainly on overwhelming you. After reading interviews with Price, I realised this was his main goal for the score. Overwhelming you, so that you have no control of the situation. This is one of the key things about the film, that Ryan, our main character, has almost no control of the situation for the first half an hour or so. Debris really takes advantage of this, and in that context, overwhelming, it really does well.

The next piece, The Void, starts the heavy synth riff's. This piece, unlike the past 2 pieces, starts loud and powerful immediately. Despite these, it urges you in slowly, and it builds up in intensity over time. But when it reaches it's climax, it really takes hold and delivers some powerful grunt. Around the 2:20 mark, a powerful riff starts, and you're in. Some bass really adds to this whole thing, appearing and disappearing multiple times, for around a minute. This piece is the first long piece in the score, being 6:16, and hints that there are many more to come.

Atlantis is our next piece, and unlike The Void, it starts off softer, which gives you time to release the tension that has built up in your body. I noticed around this point, that I was keeping very still, transfixed by the intensity and power of the score so far. We get some jump riffs within the piece, but it lasts for a short period, before returning to the basic rhythm the piece sets. The piece ends with a sudden stop, and we're thrown into the longest piece in the entire score, Don't Let Go. Price sets himself a big job, with 11:12 minutes of music to be played. This is the first time we get to see synth and orchestral mixed together, in one of the big highlights of the piece. We hear the theme for the score for the first time in this piece, and it urges you in lightly. It's a heroic theme, and it's light in comparison to the rest of the score that we've been listening to. But it is not long before the synths start revving up again, and they start the big build up riffs, and the basic rhythm set in Debris. Various instruments are heard in the background, such as a bass, as was in The Void, and the piece starts really capturing you. Around the halfway point, orchestral sounds are heard, and we actually get to hear a whole section of violins humming away. I'll admit, it's a very big relief, after the past 4 minutes. The heroic theme is once again heard, and it's absolutely beautiful.

Airlock is next, clocking in at 1:58, and we start with pianos. It's slow and beautiful. It's simple, and it's very well done. This piece reminds me of Take Care of Janet, from the End of Watch score, because of it's simplicity. ISS follows, and we start with a slow and intense synth, before getting a sample of some of the incredible vocals that are thrown all over the score. Once again, it's simplistic and powerful. Fire is next, and it's intense and fast paced. The piece drops off towards the beginning, but picks up and starts blasting you. Make sure you turn the volume down! The gracefulness of the past 2 pieces is lost, and there is a definite sense of urgency in everything written in this piece, whether it be the main rhythm or the music in the background. Despite the energetic and intense beginning, the piece drops off and goes a little slack towards the end.

And Parachute begins, clocking in at 7:41. The piece starts fast paced, as did Fire, and it really urges you to pick up the urgency levels. But the piece drops off, and goes back to slow and delicate music. It feels like we take a break, making it about halfway through the score. But we don't get very long to break, with the piece starting it's big synth riffs again, and picking up the intensity. The rhythm is very powerful and has an almost suffocating feel to it. And the piece once again picks up and drops off, and begins its slow ascent once again. But for some strange reason it never feels like it's repeating itself. Percussion is expertly used to create a very large sense of urgency, a recurring theme. Violins and bass and both used in various points, and vocals make their way in.

In The Blind begins, and some foreign noises are introduced. The noises a space shuttle would make. It sets the mood very well, a very isolated feel, and intensity begins to build once again. The piece captures all it's themes incredibly well, and happens to achieve perfection in it's hair raising riff. Aurora Borealis is our next piece, and it starts like Airlock. Slow and simple. I feel like the simplistic pieces are all so incredibly powerful, and Aurora captures this perfectly. Aningaaq comes in next at 5:09, and starts a repetitive rhythm, that has some piano in the background, incredibly well done. I hear some cello, or an instrument like a cello, and it sets the mood perfectly. The stringed instruments take center stage, and they really capture emotion. You have a sense of isolation, with the foreign space shuttle noises playing in the background, whilst being played this incredibly emotional riff. It's a real highlight of the score.

Soyuz is a short but powerful piece. It feels as though, from the on set, that we are preparing for something bigger. The vocal talent is showcased in this piece for a short time, as is the theme. Price is really holding his cards to his chest at this point in time, before we are thrown into the next piece, the beginning of the end, as I like to call it, Tiangong. Tiangong reaches for 6:29, and we begin with a very powerful violin. Foreign noises enter the piece, both space and Earth related. This makes it feel as if the end is coming, that we are nearing Earth. The synths play a minor part in this piece, and the orchestral riffs steal the show. Percussion enters the show with a bang, and joins the rest of the ensemble, and we're at a neutral stage, not ascending, nor descending, before vocals return for another short period. Price is simply teasing us at this point! You can't put a finger on a single riff for a few minutes, before the vocals finally pick up, and we're in! The strings are strumming away at a frantic pace, and the entire ensemble delivers the ending of this piece perfectly!

Shenzhou starts, and with no hesitation, begins with intensity and urgency. Synths are still in motion, but they're playing a secondary part now, with the strings controlling the action. A simple drum beat change the entire mood of the piece, and we're finally given a look at the theme, in real depth. This theme reminds me of Hans Zimmer's Time, with a slow buildup, but a wonderful delivery! The rift we have now, is a powerful and emotional one. The entire ensemble comes from different places, and comes together to create this wonderfully embarrassing riff. You're engrossed, and we're only 2/3 of the way in! But the gracefullness is lost, and we return to the almost irritating noise we had near the start.

And our final piece begins, the title piece, Gravity. We start, like a lot of the pieces, in a slow build up. The piece doesn't feel like it's going anywhere... and then our percussion kicks in, slowly but surely. They're in the background, hammering away slowly. The ascension begins with violins, before more instruments involve themselves. A bass guitar is hammering away in the background, and the rest of the ensemble makes themselves known. We finally get a good, proper listen to the vocal talent. The strings start an emotional and powerful backdrop for the vocals. And the whole ensemble combines, with another urgent feel to it. And then, the heroic theme! It finally arrives, and it feels as if you've been waiting for it for years! The main female steals the show delivering some incredible vocals with the rest of the orchestra ripping it up! Finally, the final note is sounded, and then the entire piece goes blank, like so many other pieces. And Gravity, my friends, is finished.

Gravity is, to be honest, a marvel. The problem with the score in the sense of the movie is that the movie takes place in space, and there is no sound in space. So these cues took me out of the sensation that I was in space, which was slightly disappointing. But despite this, the score by itself is beyond brilliant. It's possibly my favorite score I've ever had the honour of listening to. It introduces you to so many emotions and sounds, and it will not leave your thoughts for days on end. Some of the earlier pieces feel a little jumpy and don't have any personality or a really distinctive sound. But the final 3 pieces are easily my favourite cues of the year, rivalling My Best Enemy by Hans Zimmer for Rush and Waking Up by M83 for Oblivion, both incredibly awesome scores. I urge you to check out the movie, which is pure brilliance, and the score, which captures you and doesn't let go until the final blast synth at the end. A must listen to!

Highlights:
Above Earth
In The Blind
Aningaaq
Tiangong
Shenzhou
Gravity*

Individual Piece Scores:'
Above Earth-95
Debris-80
The Void-78
Atlantis-89
Don't Let Go-100
Airlock-100
IRS-98
Fire-83
Parachute-95
In The Blind-100
Aurora Borealis-99
Aningaaq-100
Soyuz-96
Tiangong-100*
Shenzhou-100*
Gravity-100*

Junkie Score-95