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Beyond the Summit
  • Composed by Paula Olaz

A Spanish film about a man who suffers an accident on the first day of his attempt to climb Annapurna and the relationship that develops with the woman who rescues and cares for him, while he obsesses with resuming his ascent, Beyond the Summit has had only a limited cinema release so far but has attracted some good notices. Paula Olaz’s score is really interesting, going firmly against the grain of what you might expect from this sort of film. Her instrumental palette is striking: a saxophone quartet, strings and piano mix with various ethnic instruments and electronics to create a unique sound. Interestingly it’s the saxes and not the strings which seem designed to portray the warmer side of the relationship between the two characters – the main theme which opens the album certainly does this, with some vaguely Thomas Newman-like percussion joining the fun – and she does so much with the theme. She twists it right round at times – the same saxes sound so completely different in a piece like “Searching for Mateo”, now cold and harsh and distant.

That harshness is also expressed at times by some discordant textures for the strings. While at times Olaz does push this into jump scare territory, in general she maintains a beautiful sense of calmness which is very cleverly set against some musical ideas which the brain is desperately trying to unscramble as being harsh, dissonant – great technique. There are some desperately sad passages for the violins which seem to speak to the endless danger of the landscape. The final ingredient in the musical mixture are some chimes, gongs and other similar sounds which represent the Nepali spirituality of the mountain and the environment. What I love most is how expressive the music is – most of us who love film music probably do so because it is so easy to associate the music with imagery and drama in our minds – Beyond the Summit is really compelling in the way its musical journey is set out. “The Storm is Over” in the album’s middle is a real standout, all the different textures of the ensemble coming together as an action motif plays on an endless loop – it’s done so well. Don’t come to the score expecting big themes – this is a very intimate endeavour, pulled together into a beautiful package which makes for an excellent album. It might not draw you in immediately – but give it a chance and it soon casts its spell. Very impressive.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Thursday 14 April, 2022 at 23:22

    I just bought this on your recommendation and through your affiliate link – great catch! The saxophone is used in such a subtle and unique way, the only thing I can think of that approaches it is Sneakers.

  2. Sivakumark52 (Reply) on Wednesday 20 April, 2022 at 06:35

    This is such a gem of a score for a Thomas Newman fan. The album length is also a huge bonus, there are no repeat melodies expect for the opening and end tracks. Thanks a lot for reviewing and bringing this into our radar.