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Into the West
  • Composed by Geoff Zanelli
  • La-La Land Records / 2013 / 107m

An ambitious miniseries whose rather grand aim seemed to be to tell the whole history of the American West through the eyes of one particular family and one particular Indian tribe, Into the West was a handsomely-produced series with many fine points, but ultimately it overstretched itself and tried to squeeze in too much at the expense of really compelling storytelling (which is a pity, since it’s obviously a riveting story to tell).  Comparisons with Lonesome Dove were inevitable, and it fell rather short (despite the presence of Dove director Simon Wincer on one of the episodes).

Musically it fell short as well, with Geoff Zanelli’s score sadly sounding rather amusing during various key moments the show – as if Nicolas Cage were about to arrive on the back of a nuclear missile, or Ben Affleck drive in on a great big tank, at any moment.  The action music – which actually isn’t that plentiful, but is what makes the biggest impression while watching the show – is generally written in that 1990s/early 2000s Media Ventures/Remote Control style, utterly inappropriate for the show.  Fortunately, the bulk of the score – which you don’t hear so much in the show because of the mix – is far more palatable, shining on its own terms on the album.

Geoff Zanelli

Geoff Zanelli

The opening title, with its synth Indian features, is a bit of a weak point, but the adrenaline starts to flow in “Hunting the Buffalo”, the first of the Last Samurai moments.  It’s so badly-matched to Into the West that it is difficult sometimes to disassociate the music from the show while listening to this CD, but if you can achieve that then it’s very enjoyable.  Unfortunately the samples and loops are all over the place, and so as usual the orchestral contribution sounds a lot more limp than it should – much of the action would sound so much more dramatic and be so much more effective without the synths, and it would have the added benefit of not being so anachronistic. I guess the idea was that the percussion would add a native American element to the music, but it just doesn’t do it for me.

The music’s highlight is the tremendous tragic love theme heard throughout the score.  Indeed, the bulk of the dramatic underscore is pretty impressive.  Melodies weave their way through much of the score and, while none is especially memorable, the atmosphere created through the tunes themselves and the various ethnic winds which play alongside the standard orchestra is a pleasant one.  It is never quite as vivid or colourful as you might hope for a series of this scope (is the music from a western, a courtroom drama, an action film? – doesn’t really matter when you’re at Remote Control, I guess) but nothing is unpleasant or, in musical terms at least, offensive.  (It’s staggering to read an assertion in the very detailed, interesting liner notes that the composer “meticolously studied Lakota music” – if true then the music of the Lakota must have been unerringly similar to that of Hans Zimmer.)

The album is exceptionally long (almost two hours) and repetitive and you’d have to be a pretty close blood relative of Geoff Zanelli to listen to it from start to finish very often, but the core material’s there to produce something a little more palatable – and perfectly enjoyable – if you have the time to invest.  Into the West is a nice, easy-listening score whose appropriateness for key moments of its show could be called into question, but on the album that’s not so much a problem.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Kalman (Reply) on Wednesday 4 September, 2013 at 12:21

    Well, I am certainly not a blood relative of Zanelli, but I do return frequently to this score. I don’t feel any of the music inappropriate, not more so than in any other contemporary scores. It’s a melodic, varied album that is very welcomed. 4 and a half star from me.