Trigger Man / The Roost (Music from the Films of Ti West)Limited Edition
MovieScore Media (MMS08006)
Released: March 18, 2008
Format: CD (43 min)
Review: Roost, The
4.5 / 5 Stars
At last, a horror release this year worthy of a heartfelt accolade.
The genre of horror film scoring has been marred in the past years by an apparently insurmountable conservatism: the horror films they accompany are often made with cookie-cutting molds and it would follow that the music itself would be replicated almost unchanged from one movie to the next. The trend is a fusion of electronic textures and a very limited subset of avant-garde techniques which, while innovative decades ago, have since become predictable. The violins are always played in the same way; so is the brass; so is the percussion. Composers have gone through every possible way to design an orchestral sting and are running around in circles. In the middle of this recycling manufacture comes Jeff Grace, a pupil of Howard Shore, with two of his recent scores for little-seen indie horror flicks The Roost and Joshua. To say that Grace impressed me would be an understatement: these two scores made me realize that there were still fresh plots to be dug in the dark cemetery of horror film scores.
Grace\'s music for The Roost opens falsely with "Our Host", a delightfully old fashioned piece for organ and theremin designed to introduce Tom Noonan as the Host of a special late-night program. I say "falsely" because the score itself is not of the organ-and-theremin variety; rather, Grace makes virtuosic use of a string quartet to create an atmosphere of dread and alarm, going beyond the usual avant-gardiste trademarks. In technique alone, he has the lighter strings performing forcefully with urgent bow strikes over deep, resonating ostinati; he squeezes a sound akin to an electric guitar out of some of those instruments; in "Zombie Attack", two of the string instruments perform almost canon-like a disturbing glissando; in "Gunshot", he has the two violins emulate bats squealing and flying in the distance; in "The Shed", he has the whole ensemble whining like out-of-tune dogs in one of the most interesting "chord progressions" I\'ve heard in a while. Those techniques for the performers generate genuine thrills and scares on album, the string quartet being augmented on occasion by deep percussion, synthesizers, and a bit of digital manipulation. The score is held together by recurring thematic material: the heavily dissonant zombie attack motif and the slightly more consonant run-for-your-life theme of "The Roost" and "Transformation". The performances are great; the writing is nothing short of amazing and defies description.
The MovieScore Media digital release also includes fourteen minutes worth of Grace\'s score to Joshua, music that likewise spotlights a string quartet, this time exploring more consonant and rhythmic ideas. The opening and closing cues make use of an opera aria beautifully sung by Joanna Mongiardo. This aria, accompanied by solo piano, soon degenerates into dissonance by the introduction of the quartet in "Opening Titles", leading us from a world of classical comfort to one of disturbing revelations. The score itself, while not as innovative and fascinating to the ear as The Roost, is a solid piece of work brought to life by great, nuanced performances.
Jeff Grace has crafted two noteworthy and attention-grabbing works that, in a way, spit in the face of traditional Hollywood fare. I find it ironic that a movement as liberating and cutting edge as the musical avant-garde has been belittled in the past decade by an industry content to strip it down to its bones and recycle it on a monthly basis. There are influences and techniques from that era which have not been heard by the masses and which can be adapted into film music, especially in the horror arena. Low-budget projects offer a better opportunity for this kind of liberation to happen. Case in point: The Roost. Grace shows a breathtaking talent for adapting dissonant idioms and complex interlocking motifs into a coherent and listenable whole - unless one is completely turned off by the idea of intense dissonant passages and atonality. I have no problem calling The Roost one of the most satisfying and memorable horror scores of the past few years.
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