Sunday, 2 February 2014

47 Ronin Score Review

Title: 47 Ronin
Composer/s: Ilan Eshkeri
Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Track Count: 22 tracks
Year of Release: 2013

Hello again! I'm back with a review that should have been out around 2 weeks ago! It's just my time management skills are fairly pathetic, and I'm incredibly lazy. This review wasn't working for me, so I decided to shelve it. But I'm back for the long run now! Here we have 47 Ronin; a film that has been heavily panned, but a score, by Ilan Eshkeri, that has been critically acclaimed. It's a Japanese-inspired score, and one that I quite enjoy. Let's enter this review now, before I shelve it again!

47 Ronin, like I kind of mentioned, is a very Asian sounding score. It has a lot of Eastern chimes and percussion, and some horns and woodwinds known only to be native to these regions. In the hands of a decent composer, these sorts of instruments can be utilized in a wonderful way, as has been done before. The most recent score, with that Japanese sound to it, that I can remember at least, is last year's The Wolverine, by Marco Beltrami. Unlike many, I really loved that score and the way Beltrami used the Asian inspired sounds and instruments. Here, I think it's done much better, to my utter delight! Here, Eshkeri manages to interweave the Asian inspired instruments with the more commonly found orchestra, to create a wonderful blend of powerful, modern music and delicate, culturally diverse sounds, with hints of synthesized riffs here and there. 

Eshkeri has managed to find the perfect balance of soft, delicate, slow pieces, and action packed brilliance, which is something that is not so easily done. I've seen many a score like this turn upside down; too much action over subtlety, or vice versa. There are few which manage to uphold the balance. My personal favourite which adheres to this description would have to be Hans Zimmer's The Last Samurai, which manages to create a blend of peaceful and calming music, and powerful action grandeur incredibly seamlessly. I'd almost call 47 Ronin as good; unfortunately, though, there are a few pieces here and there which fall short of the perfect mark. The Last Samurai consistently holds the excellence, whilst 47 Ronin drops off at various points. Piece 5, Ako, is the first of these few pieces. It feels a little too quiet and uninteresting. My interest dropped when this piece took hold. Piece 15, Kira's Wedding Quartet, surprisingly, was also another one of these piece. Whilst certainly not composed to an unjust level, I found my interest lessening. If it wasn't for these short moments of less than perfection, than my Junkie Score may have been a perfect 100; alas, that is not the case. Nonetheless, the vast majority of this score is some of the better music that 2013 has had to offer us score lovers.

We have a theme presented to us in the first piece on the card, Oishi's Tale, in a short 6 note burst. Being so short, it allows for a lot of interpretation, and is repeated quite a bit within the piece. Fortunately, the theme is so subtle that it allows for constant, different renditions without the feeling of repetition seeping in. That's certainly a master stroke on Eshkeri's part; I can recall so many action scores from last year which used their incredibly distinctive, long theme much too often, leaving me wanting more variety. With what Eshkeri has put together, that is not a problem! 

Eshkeri loves his longer pieces, and here is no different. 47 Ronin has 2 pieces which last for upward of 6 minutes; a risk for certain. Generally, I do not agree with longer pieces. It seems that I have a lack of an attention span, and normally, I don't make it through anything longer than 4 minutes. The longer pieces here, though, seem to be incredibly enjoyable, and some of the best music on the score card. Tengu is a 6:29 minute piece, which boasts some of the best music I've heard recently, and it is very much the best piece on the score card. So many pieces last for upwards of 3 and a half minutes, which is fairly long. The vast majority are executed perfectly, and hold your attention the whole way through. As one of my favourite reviewers of scores, Jorn Tillnes, has said before, the only ones who can really hold your attention for very long periods are Hans Zimmer and James Horner, who manage to utilize length for quality; something that very few composers are capable of doing. Eshkeri, though, very much is capable of doing just that. This score is valid proof. He can carry a longer piece perfectly, and it's wonderful to listen to.

Conclusion:
47 Ronin is incredibly well composed, fast paced, and offers a lot of variety. Ilan Eshkeri offers us some fairly long pieces; something that I usually dread. Here, I found them a welcome delight, all very well executed. 47 Ronin is a must listen to for all, and is one of the better scores of 2013.

Highlights:
1. Oishi's Tale
2. Kirin Hunt*
3. Resentment
4. The Witch's Plan
6. Shogun
7. Tournament
8. Bewitched
9. Assano Seppuko*
10. Dutch Island Fugue*
11. Reunited Ronin*
12. Tengu*
13. Shine Ambush
16. Palace Battle
17. The Witch Dragon*
18. Return to Ako
19. Shogun's Sentence*
20. Mika and Kai
21. Seppuku*
22. 47 Ronin

Junkie Score: 96.70
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