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IN THE ELECTRIC MIST
Engrossing drama score from Beltrami full of colourful atmosphere
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Electric Mist Film; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
Tommy Lee Jones leads an excellent cast in In the Electric Mist, Bertrand Tavernier's first English-language film since 1986's Round Midnight (a film which will always hold a special place in the heart of film music fans). Based on James Lee Burke's novel In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, the film sees Jones playing a detective investigating a murder in New Orleans. The film went straight to DVD and attracted less-than-favourable reviews - surprising, given the talent involved in front of and behind the camera.
One of the key contributors is composer Marco Beltrami, whose career lately seems to have veered between idiotic action films and serious adult dramas. In the latter category can be found the two finest scores of his career, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and 3:10 to Yuma. I'm pleased to report that the duo can now become a trio - In the Electric Mist is a very fine album indeed. It was released in limited numbers by Varese Sarabande direct from their website, in a new series; but is still available in general for download (in the US).
The score - in Beltrami's distinct style and certainly a spiritual cousin to those two scores mentioned earlier - begins with his terrific main theme. A swirling string figure has a constant presence underneath a melody played by (and I will state this with great assertion, even though I am almost certainly wrong) a dulcimer. It sounds weird and colourful, perfectly evocative of the deep south atmosphere. The amusingly-titled "Score vs Airboat" continues that carefully-constructed atmosphere, this time in an action context, with a driving little motif proving surprisingly dynamic and effective.
The third cue - "Post Coital Investigating" - confirms his ability to create a vibrant and consistent atmosphere with his film music, something most modern film composers don't bother even trying. The piece - almost dirge-like - is completely compelling, yet when one breaks it down it doesn't seem to amount to much at all. And that's the skill of a talented film composer - using his compositional chops to create music which is dramatically vibrant. It's what separates the men from the boys, and Beltrami is firmly one of the men.
A word is presumably also due to Beltrami's long-time associate Buck Sanders, credited here with "sound design". I don't know exactly what that involved, but the atmosphere here is so carefully-crafted, it's hugely impressive. It's quite rare these days to hear a film score borne of such a singular vision, a vision so tightly controlled and maintained for all 35 minutes of the album's running time. This is easily one of 2009's most impressive new scores and comes highly recommended.