Latest reviews of new albums:
Solis
  • Composed by David Stone Hamilton
  • MovieScore Media / 66m

A man is trapped inside a capsule heading straight towards the sun, in radio contact with the person trying to help rescue him. Solis stars Steven Ogg and Alice Lowe in the two roles, and for the music writer/director turned to up-and-coming composer David Stone Hamilton. Given it’s 2019 and what much film music sounds like today and given there probably wasn’t much budget, you know exactly what sort of score to expect – and will be as surprised as me to find that that’s not the sort of score Hamilton actually wrote.

There’s an electronic presence but this is an orchestral piece – and a smart one, at that. The classic space adventure sound of “Debris”, the brooding menace of the “Main Title”, the desperately tense action of “Coolant Chamber” – the album gets off to a fantastic start. There’s emotion, too – “We Had a Son” showcasing a tragic vibe, movingly so. The tension is back in “Cauterization”, nail-chewingly so, with a menacing sound lying under the orchestra.

David Stone Hamilton

There’s a distinctly otherworldly sound in the kaleidoscopic “Memories”, dreamily slow and smooth. A drive and determination is unmistakable as we head into “Best Odds I’ve Had All Day”, with the countdown timer musically ticking down here through col legno strings, and the music most closely resembling Steven Price’s Gravity (written for a superficially similar film, so it makes sense). But this piece gets much bigger than that (fine) score ever did, with a truly explosive finale.

Then we head into the centrepiece of the album, three cues which actually take up half of its length, called “A Solis Triptych” and subtitled “Death”, “Space Walk” and “Finale”. I don’t know if these are actually film cues or if they’ve been constructed just for the album, but I do know how good they are – from the über-dramatic strains of the opening, through the outward expressions of emotion, into much more uncomfortable territory with some pronounced dissonance, particularly in the nerve-jangling middle section, then it goes genuinely huge for the rousing final section – it’s beautifully-conceived film music, with a very clear narrative structure – and it’s great music, to boot. I love the eerie calm that Hamilton manages to conjure at times, despite the chaos that is happening elsewhere – and the various techniques he employs to convey the desperate shortage of time are clever. For the kids, there’s even a motif that (probably unintentionally) reminds me of some of Hans Zimmer’s more compelling work for Christopher Nolan.

Hamilton’s not quite done yet – after that exhausting half hour there are actually still ten minutes to go on the album. The conventionally heroic “Let Me Save You” is excellent – Hamilton keeps the lid on things just enough before letting it burst off – then there’s a satisfying end title piece focusing on a Korean haegeum (obviously I know this from my legendary ability to identify Korean instruments and not because it is mentioned in the album PR) to draw things to a close. I really enjoy Solis – credit once again to MovieScore Media for bringing out a top score that deserves to be heard. It’s a very satisfying blend of classic film music techniques with modern elements which suggests if David Stone Hamilton can get the break on a big enough film he could have an exciting career.

Rating: ****

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