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ISLAND OF LOST SOULS
Terrific, enormous fantasy action score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
JANE ANTONIA CORNISH
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Nordisk Film; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
Every two or three years, some film music fans latch onto a certain score for an obscure film, by a new composer, and proclaim it like it's the second coming, and I rush out to buy it. Sometimes I'm left scratching my head (Nomad, anyone?) but other times I'm delighted to have taken the plunge... and such is the case with Island of Lost Souls by Jane Antonia Cornish, surely the biggest, baddest action score of 2007. It's only her third film score (she has also done some orchestrating for familiar Hollywood names) and the obscurity of the film (a Danish fantasy) means perhaps that the powers that be might not notice it, but if this is anything to go by, Cornish could become a major film music force.
There are echoes here of John Williams when in fantasy mode, though I suppose in truth the music shares more with things like Independence Day or Cutthroat Island - and that is no bad thing! The main theme, an heroic fanfare, is a delight whenever it's heard; and there are several other themes too, but the USP here is the action music, which is quite magnificent in the way the orchestral forces are deployed to create a relentlessly exciting atmosphere. A lot of composers write music this way - though, it has to be said, probably moreso for computer games than films right now - so you need something a little extra special to set yourself apart from the crowd, and it comes here with the florid orchestrations.
True, it's an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, but that's not to say it doesn't retain great clarity for music of this scope - you can hear the little individual ideas going on, making up the whole (it's aided by a fine recording by Stephen Krause). Brass dominates, which is not unexpected in a fantasy action score - and the brass players of the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra play as if for their lives, giving real power to the music. It's to Cornish's credit that in the brief interludes for romance (the charming "Lulu's Theme") and occasional choral wonderment, everything seems to flow entirely organically.
The album opens with four songs - believe me, it's best not to dwell on them - and then presents just under 40 minutes of score. That's perfect for this type of music - it's so relentless that any longer, it would probably become a bit too much, but as things are it never becomes overbearing. Island of Lost Souls is one of those film scores which comes out of nowhere, but will surely be looked back on extremely fondly in the years to come, particularly if Cornish gets the break and makes it big, as her talent would seem to imply she could. It's great music and will appeal to all fans of those big David Arnold scores, or John Williams's fantasy music. Highly recommended.