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Wiseman impresses with fine ideas, but they are stretched rather thin over course of long album

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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 The Flood Productions Ltd; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall

It seems pretty scandalous really that it's 2007 and there are only two film composers of any particular fame who are female.  While many of the technical disciplines of film are dominated by men (and one or two by women), it seems curious indeed that the music remains such a male-dominated field.  In a century of film music, not a single really high-grossing blockbuster has been scored by a woman, despite the trailblazing efforts of the late Shirley Walker, and Rachel Portman's career has included a number of high-profile projects, but virtually all of the notable ones can be pigeonholed into the chick-flick category.

Indeed, there remains a curious attitude that if women do score films, then they must be that kind of female-centric one (does this mean that men shouldn't write the scores for romantic comedies?)  Blazing her own trail to try to counteract that argument - though admittedly, mostly on relatively small-scale British films and television projects - has been Debbie Wiseman, who has written countless scores so far in her career, in a very wide variety of genres, and with much success.

Flood is a British film as obscure as they come, despite having a relatively large budget for this nation's film industry.  It's about a tidal surge which engulfs London and seems to be a home-grown attempt to get on The Day After Tomorrow territory, but the fact that it was only shown in one cinema does not indicate its distributor had much faith in it (no doubt it was at least partially financed by my taxes, as many of these overblown home-made vanity projects tend to be).  Where it is indisuptably better than The Day After Tomorrow is in its music; whereas that film saw Roland Emmerich's musical taste desert him completely (it is a hell of a drop from John Williams on one film to Harald Kloser on the next), Wiseman was the perfect choice for this.

The score has two main ideas, each of which is beautifully-done.  The main theme is a kind of requiem for the city, and the various lives lost, and is truly beautiful - I think I hear a hint of the great Georges Delerue there, certainly his gift for conjuring heart-melting melody, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is joined by the voice of the comely Kiwi "crossover artist" Hayley Westenra - it's beautifully effective - indeed, it is simply beautiful.  The other main idea is the action music, which is based around a single rhythmic idea, frequently with fairly subtle electronic percussion loops joining the orchestra.  Once again it is hugely impressive - reminding me in an odd way of Trevor Jones at his finest in scores like Dark City - it's extremely exciting, quite pulsating in fact, some of the most effective orchestral action music of the year.

So, after two cues, this is shaping up to be the score of the year.  Indeed, anyone who were to listen to those six minutes of music would rush down to their nearest record shop and buy the album without hesitation.  The problem is, that listener could take those two tracks, copy them to his computer, repeat them ten times each and have an album which would not be discernably different from this one.  I don't know how many of the 59 mintues of music contained in tracks 3-18 are not directly lifted from those in tracks 1-2, but I suspect you could count them on the fingers of one hand with plenty of room to spare.  It's a shame Wiseman didn't develop her ideas further (she reportedly had an extremely tight schedule to write the score, so perhaps that explains it - but the strength of the music is such that it is still an album I can easily recommend.


  1. Flood (3:08)
  2. Granny's Cottage (3:17)
  3. Overwhelming the Barrier (1:58)
  4. Struggle to Survive (2:10)
  5. Destruction at Wick (2:13)
  6. Crisis Control (1:47)
  7. Too Late? (4:17)
  8. Evacuation (6:01)
  9. Trapped (1:42)
  10. The Raging Storm (2:39)
  11. Personal Differences (3:32)
  12. The Capital at a Standstill (3:14)
  13. Devastation (2:36)
  14. Heroes or Victims (6:21)
  15. Race Against Time (2:22)
  16. Difficult Decisions (4:42)
  17. No Way Out (4:11)
  18. High-Risk Plan (8:36)