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Schifrin teaches the youngsters a thing or two
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Aleph Records; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Lalo Schifrin has always had far more feathers to his bow than just being a film composer, with a series of intriguing jazz concept albums and symphonic compositions for the concert hall behind him, and he regularly appears in concert around the world. While those "other feathers" have continued to form a major part of his life, his film output has diminished considerably over recent years; virtually the only films he's scored in a generation that anyone's actually seen are the two Rush Hour movies (and what wonderful scores he blessed those with). He has scored a few smaller movies, and has achieved much critical recognition for most of those scores, but his latest effort has certainly attracted a large number of positive notices; Abominable is the directorial debut of the composer's son Ryan - who was blessed indeed to be able to call upon his father to write an orchestral score for this movie about the Yeti / Bigfoot / Abominable Snowman, which otherwise would surely have ended up with a cheap synth effort.
Schifrin has worked in horror before, most notably of course with The Amityville Horror, for which he received an Academy Award nomination - and this is his first venture back to the genre since then. With so many modern horror scores consisting of extended periods of synth padding and harp arpeggios punctuated with the occasional violent moment from the brass section, it has taken an old master to remind the present generation that it's perfectly possible to write an appropriate score for a film like this that also functions musically away from the film.
For sure, Schifrin spends much of the score in suspense, not outright horror, territory, doing so using very high strings with low brass harmonies to create a gloriously tense, taut atmosphere. When things to explode into action - check out "There is Something Out There" - it seems so natural, musically, in stark contrast to what we have become accustomed to these days. "Monster Vision" is a decent piece, over six minutes long, with the composer once again laying on the suspense in spades. There's a rare melodic interlude in "Preston and Amanda" with just the slightest hint of romance, but it's still rather dark stuff.
Schifrin pumps up the pace in "Squatch Revealed", with far more action-orientated, brass-dominated music which is really quite stirring, and this continues in the thrilling "Rampage", magnificently orchestrated for the brass section of the Prague orchestra, playing with great flair. For an example of a first-rate piece of suspense music, this score's "Setting the Trap" would do - no swirling strings, going nowhere and doing nothing, the composer builds the piece around piano, fluttering winds and subtle horns - it's classic Schifrin almost in Mission: Impossible mode.
Another beautifully dynamic action piece comes in "Escape Attempt", with the composer this time opting to use his strings to provide the thrills. It's so wonderful to hear such richly-orchestrated music written for a film like this - I'd almost forgotten that it was possible! With Schifrin having attracted a fair amount of attention for Abominable (and rightly so), it's just possible that the veteran composer may get a few more films to set his teeth into - let's hope so, because he's crafted one of the year's finest efforts to date with this one, and the finest horror score in as long as I can remember.