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Tooth and Tail
  • Composed by Austin Wintory
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2017 / 66m

Everyone is at war in Tooth and Tail, a strategy game.  And they’re at war over food: eat, or get eaten.  It is set in the 19th century, which as the history books show was a time of animals all rising up against each other in order to eat.  Except the pigs, obviously.  There was only one way for Austin Wintory to go with the score, and that was to combine drunken-sounding gypsy jigs with guttural Slavic-ish singing and, of course, tangos.  I mean – what else could he have done?  And I have to say, the thing is just brilliant.  I can’t remember the last time a soundtrack album made me laugh out loud because of something other than the overuse of the HORN OF DOOM, but this one does – it’s magically creative, ridiculously entertaining.

While it may be rather silly some of the time, don’t assume that means it’s a piece of throwaway fun, because it somehow manages to be quite substantial too: it’s entirely tuneful, the main theme is one that sticks in the mind, and Wintory manages to put some genuinely lovely moments into it (there’s a section of “Who Becomes the Meat?” that’s just gorgeous; “Archimedes’ Tango” is brilliant; the music hall piano version of the main theme in “The Ivories of Beasts” startlingly good) and – especially as it progresses – some real drama (the six-minute “The Hungry Face a Stiff Wind” actually sounds pretty epic, “Snikaree Liberation” dynamic and exciting, “The Siege of Ragfall Road” totally compelling).  There is an orchestra but a lot of the value comes from the quirky ensemble of soloists – a dulcimer of some sort (maybe more than one), what’s credited as “various guitars”, electronics, pipe organ, those vocals.  Speaking of the vocals, the brilliantly wacky stylings of the opening cue, “The Food of Beasts”, really brings to mind Ennio Morricone when he was at the height of his dazzling creativity in the late 1960s/early 1970s.  Tooth and Tail is one of those albums that’s very difficult to describe, even harder to convey that actually the extremely unorthodox blend of things come together to produce something so much better than the words can convey.  It’s very different from Wintory’s most famous works – another side to him, one that’s so much fun – give it a go.

Exceptionally witty, unusual hour of fun | |

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