Thursday, 16 January 2020

PLATZSPITZBABY Score Review (and a lot of rambling about stuff)


In a niche community, it's the little details and the semantic battles which prompt years of argument and bickering between those who share an unusual interest. The film/video game/television scoring community serves as the apex of "niche" in the world of music, and we represent this "devil is in the details" hostility with gusto, defining the genre's express purpose in superlatives and absolutism. One of the arguments that's most prominent, at least historically, is whether a score is meant to be more suggestive than literal, or whether music underscoring a visual medium is an integral part of the story itself. You can find evidence of directors and composers utilising one or the other everywhere: one of my favourite scores of the past decade, Max Richter's work for the television series The Leftovers, is made up of an assortment of primary leitmotific statements, interspersed within a vast tapestry of vague, ambiant noise, that provides of bed of sound for the emotion of the show to shine through. Alternatively, take Steven Price's score for 2013's Gravity, and note how the synths and strings pan between directions during the piece 'Debris', to further compliment the disorienting movement of the characters and the camera. Even without the context of the film, you still get to experience some degree of the dizzying pandemonium of the visual form. 

I used to be in the camp that preferred the latter, and to an extent, lamented the former. I didn't really like ambiance; I found it obtuse. My early teen self revelled in providing scathing rebuttals to the most translucent of scores. You haven't lived until you've sat yourself up on a pedestal and demonized the emotionally stunted middle-age fans of Trent Reznor, who were so firmly attached to his nuts for The Social Network and Gone Girl that they clearly didn't understand film music's intention. They can't be right if they haven't completely immersed themselves in the intense intricacies of the genre. What about the dumbies reviewing any number of Cliff Martinez' wavering electronic codswallop (hey, it's not a review for a score if you didn't consult a thesauras; shout out the redcoats for contributing this one) on the Amazon store and having the sheer audacity to call it innovative... it's like these laymen accidentally drifted into a proctology course at their local community college, because their thoughts on music are straight ass. Fuckin' normies.

But hey, I guess I've switched classes, cause Gone Girl sounds dope, The Neon Demon bops, and Matteo Pagamici's score to Pierre Monnard's Platzspitzbaby, a Swiss-German language film about a young girl and her drug-encumbered mother moving to the countryside, is pretty damn cool. It's like if Desplat's The Tree of Life (specifically the absolute chooooon that is 'Circles') had a secret lovechild with Daniel Pemberton's opening track to Steve Jobs, and then went on to have a two-week long relationship with the best work of Jed Kurzel in 4th grade. It's a really short, succinct score that includes some top-flight patetico piano refrains (lament the sad reality of ole' pop abandoning you with the appropriately disheartening 'Dad'), and the best glissando string work you'll be able to find this side of Sicario. I don't think it's anything exceedingly special, and certainly nothing that I haven't heard before, but hey; it was enough to get me to write about something after 1202 days of twiddling my fingers and love-reacting Craig Lysy's pleas to keep up on my birthday every year. If that doesn't count for something, I don't know what does.

The Max Richter namedrop towards the beginning of this weirdly accusatory jumble of words seems especially appropriate when you take note of the effective simplicity that defines the majority of the piano work throughout this score. It's not like the tempo on 'Closure' is particularly high, but the music remains damn evocative, regardless of cheap positing on what constitutes good technicality. The strings pluck away with a consistent "crescendo/decrescendo" pattern, intensified by violin arpeggios, and the only thing breaking up this process, filling in the blanks, is a simple piano melody doing its thing in the foreground. Simple stuff, but it works for me. In the middle of the score, a female vocalist who sounds like she's trying to do an impression of the boy's choir from Horner's Avatar while sleeping shows up on tracks like 'Let Me Go' and 'Overdose', and it works a treat, the hushed cooing of the performer laden with desperation and sadness. If you're in the mood for a cheeky stare-off-into-the-distance-and-contemplate-where-you-went-wrong session, Pagamici's score might be the treat for you. 

The vibrato of the string section as the piano emotes stone-cold melancholy is trademark "sad mode" Desplat, and half the score sounds like a half tempo, minor chord Cloud Atlas, but I'm not gonna argue with that; sad Desplat made 'Farewell To Christopher', and Tykwer's Piano For Dummies: The Score murders my heart every time and then hides the weapon. I haven't heard any other Pagamici work, but he has a keen ear for textural disturbance, in that he'll establish a bed of ambiant sound that he'll usurp with a melodic statement that draws your focus and concentrates your emotional reaction. Again, nothing obscenely unique, but it's successful, which is perhaps the most important thing. You can listen to Platzspitzbaby on Spotify here

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For a full track-list for this score, you can consult soundtrack.net here.

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