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Maps to the Stars
  • Composed by Howard Shore
  • Howe Records / 2014 / 39m

A Hollywood satire written by Bruce Wagner and directed by David Cronenberg, Maps to the Stars has appeared at a few festivals and has had a limited release in a small number of countries, where it has received generally mixed reviews but with good notices for its cast, led by Julianne Moore.  The film sees the continuation of one of cinema’s most enduring director/composer relationships – it is the fifteenth Cronenberg movie to be scored by Howard Shore, who has worked on all but one of the director’s movies over the past 35 years.  In common with many of them, it makes a rather challenging album likely to have a rather narrow appeal, thanks to its highly intense psychological nature, which is created very effectively by the composer and the very small performing ensemble, comprising a handful of strings, electric guitars and percussion with constant accompaniment from keyboards.

The first couple of cues set the tone with an alternative rock vibe, keyboards, bass and percussion creating an enveloping, claustrophobic atmosphere which is impressive but so unpleasant it’s hard to imagine many deriving much entertainment value from a listening perspective.  “Stolen Waters” is more my cup of tea, a haunting piece for the strings which is the sort of thing Shore does so impressively; later, “Love is Stronger than Death” is just gorgeous.  Then comes the electronica of “Wildfire” – again, impressively done, but a musical style I don’t want to listen to.  There’s an elegance to some parts which reminds me a little of Mark Isham’s Crash, and in its more soothing moments there is some enjoyment to be found.  For the most part though, despite being an impressive composition without any question, this is just not an album of music for me – it ticks the boxes it tries to tick and does so very effectively and those with an ear for a more ambient style of film scoring will find one of the better examples of it in recent times.

Rating: ** | |

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