Latest reviews of new albums:
  • Composed by Brian Tyler and Keith Power
  • Lakeshore Records / 2016 / 72m

A dead CIA agent’s memories are implanted into an ex-con in order to finish the assignment in Criminal.  The ex-con is played by Kevin Costner, and support comes from Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman, with the trio who starred together in JFK reuniting.  Directed by Ariel Vroman, the film’s initial reviews have not been good, but a 2016 action movie starring those actors sounds interesting enough to make me want to see it.

The score is by Brian Tyler and Keith Power.  Power has been working with Tyler for over a decade now, but I believe this is the first time they’ve actually shared joint billing on a film (though they have on the tv show Hawaii Five-O).  Tyler may be known for his orchestral wall of sound action blockbusters (which are invariably hugely entertaining) but he clearly has a great passion for a number of other types of music and here he gets to do something very different from his signature sound, with some very hardcore electronica, and even the first appearance on one of his film score albums of his dance music nom-de-plume Madsonik.

Brian Tyler and Keith Power

Brian Tyler and Keith Power

In fact it’s a song by Madsonik that bookends the album, “Rise and Fall Again”, a very modern track featuring a haunting vocal by Lola Marsh.  I like that, but I’m afraid the style of the bulk of the score in between is really not my cup of tea at all.  Abrasive and electronic and often angry, it’s clearly done with great style and sounds like it would fit the film like a glove – it’s just not the kind of thing I enjoy.

What I do like are the parts of the score when it is at its gentlest – “Distant Memories” appeals to me the same way some of Cliff Martinez’s music does, even though it retains an edgy undercurrent it is emotionally stripped bare, beautiful and haunting.  “Waves of Intuition”, too, just seems to glide through the air – I find it arresting, turn into a rabbit caught in headlights.

But the bulk of the score isn’t really that – it’s got an anger running through it, it’s dirty and by design it’s unsettling.  This isn’t your standard “film composer writes grandpa music for synths”, it’s the real deal and if you’re into the style, you’ll love it.  I can appreciate it a lot, particularly the hypnotic, trance-like feeling it induces, but apart from the most serene moments I singled out, I can’t say I enjoy it very much.  It’s probably not really an album designed for someone like me though.

Rating: ** | |

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  1. Si (Reply) on Monday 18 April, 2016 at 16:03

    Usually when a big composer finally “co-composes” a score with his or her longtime additional music writer (or in Brian Tyler’s case, “musical score arranger”, per IMDB), it’s unlikely that the big composer wrote a single thing on the project. Usually the arrangement involves the lesser-known composer handling the entire project in exchange for being thrown a bone and receiving a co credit.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I think it’s unlikely that Tyler did any of the ‘getting to do something outside of his signature sound’.