The Best New TV, Movie & Video Game Soundtracks On Vinyl
Great new records from screens both big and small.
Back in January - and what a long time ago that was - we chronicled some of the most exciting soundtrack releases we’d got wind of at the time. Three months on, we’re doing so again.
Whereas January’s roundup focussed solely on TV & movie soundtracks, we’ve expanded the remit this time around to include video games as well. Some of the scores here come from seasoned vets - Warren Ellis, Thomas Holkenberg - while others represent the first forays into soundtrack work for the respective composers. Either way, they’re all well worth a gander regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the film/watched the show/played the game.
Laurel Halo’s first film score is something of a departure from the faded futuro-techno of her previous LPs. First off, she didn’t make the music for ‘Possessed’ alone, instead enlisting two esteemed helpers for the sessions in Oliver Coates and London Contemporary Orchestra leader Galya Bisengalieva. Secondly the soundworld that Halo inhabits here is one far, far away from the dancefloor. Classical music, drone and avant-garde approaches are at the centre of ‘Possessed’, a set which may point the way towards an exciting new chapter of Halo’s career.
Like ‘Possessed’, this entry finds a familiar artist trying something new. Devonte Hynes ditched the R ‘n’ B of his fabulous Blood Orange project on this score for Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe’s ‘Queen & Slim’. The impressionistic, knotted chamber vignettes that Hynes turned out perfectly complement a film of great intensity and emotional clout. While this is Hynes’ debut film score, you’d think that ‘Queen & Slim’ was the work of someone who had far more experience in composing for the screen - Hynes is just good like that.
Someone described ‘Marriage Story’ to me as “the most New York film ever … but a lot of it is set in Los Angeles”. Sounds good - I’ve got a Sunset Boulevard body and an Empire State of mind, baby! Randy ‘Toy Story’ Newman clocked in with the music, so you just know that the ‘Marriage Story’ OST is going to be a damn fine set of cinema orchestrations. This one’s out via Lakeshore Records, a label who know their onions when it comes to screen scoring.
Sonic chronic from Sonic Erinaceidonic here. Yes, after much revising, the ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ movie hit screens earlier this year. The music for the film was done by Thomas Holkenborg, an artist you may know for composing the soundtracks to films like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and ‘Tomb Raider’ but one you will DEFINITELY know as the Elvis-remixing big-beat artist Junkie XL. There’s a lot of swashbuckling orchestral work in his ‘Sonic’ score, but Holkenborg’s previous for electronic bombast does come in handy on tracks like ‘Welcome To Green Hills’. Cop the LP edition and receive a bonus insert with some stills from the flick.
You may already be familiar with Augustus Muller through his work in the EBM duo Boy Harsher. Muller is the musical muscle in that group, and as such it’s no surprise to find that the two scores collected on new LP ‘Machine Learning Experiments’ are as sleek and sultry as anything released by his band. The first half of the tracks here derive from the more techno-indebted music Muller composed for a flick called ‘Orgone Theory’ while the droning, abstract electronic moodscapes of tracks six-ten are drawn from the movie ‘Hydra’ - both films were made by the arthouse adult operation Four Chambers.
Ezra Furman may be well into her thirties by now, but the singer-songwriter’s heart-on-sleeve indie-rock still captures the bluster of youth better than people half her age. As such, Furman’s music has added colour and depth to Netflix’s hugely popular ‘Sex Education’ series. This new Bella Union tome collects the nineteen Furman songs used across the show’s two seasons - that means new tunes, Furman classics like ‘My Zero’, and trio of covers which includes a particularly moving rendition of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘I Can Change’.
You’ll doubtless be aware that Nick Hornby’s classic novel ‘High Fidelity’ is set in a record shop. As such, the makers of Hulu’s new TV adaptation needed to get the show’s soundtrack right, lest grumbling clerks such as I strike down furiously upon their weak selections. Fortunately for the Hulu crew, this eleven-track compilation is filled with cast-iron bangers that even jaded, cynical musos like me can’t fault - Ann Peebles’ ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’, William Onyeabor’s ‘Fantastic Man’, that sort of thing. Even the original compositions here ain’t half bad.
Warren Ellis loves a film score, eh? Usually spotted making movie-music alongside Sir Nicholas of Cave, the bearded fiddler goes it alone here in soundtracking Arno Bitschy’s ‘This Train I Ride’. The film itself is concerned with two women who ride trains old-timey hobo-style. It would appear that Ellis took the scoring brief literally - he recorded and composed most of the music for ‘This Train I Ride’ while … riding trains! The result is a set of gritty drone-concrete at once vivid and grainy. You can definitely tell this one was done around the time of ‘Ghosteen’.
The soundtracks to the first two classic ‘Tekken’ fighting games are here, allowing you to relive those late nights when you used Nina to batter tiger-headed creature King into K.O, or vice versa. Landing at arcades and on Playstation 1 in the mid-90s, ‘Tekken’ became an immediate critical and commercial smash, rivalling the likes of ‘Mortal Kombat’, ‘Super Smash Bros.’ and ‘Street Fighter’ (the same can’t be said of the 2009 live-action box office flop). The two ‘Tekken’ vinyl issues include thirty tracks on each from both the PS1 and arcade versions, spread across four sides of wax.
It’s no secret that the music composed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop - particularly its work on ‘Doctor Who’ - is some of the most revolutionary sound ever laid down both in the worlds of soundtracks and electronic music. Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Dudley Simpson and Paddy Kingsland all cut their teeth at the Maida Vale studio, twiddling away with synthesizers bigger than your average drum kit. Simpson’s ‘The Sun Makers’ served as the musical backdrop to a planet under the grip of a corrupt multinational business (sounds familiar, right?), whilst the sci-fi tones of Kingsland’s ‘The Visitation’ underpin a plot involving plague-spreading aliens.
Rockstar Games certainly have a knack for a videogame soundtrack. I’ll never forget hearing the likes of Rage Against the Machine, L7, Eric B. & Rakim, Dillinger and Augustus Pablo for the first time when ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ came out, though I probably shouldn’t have been playing such games at an early age. Rockstar continue the trend with the second of the massively successful and acclaimed ‘Red Dead Redemption’ series, a game which plunges the player into the depths of the Wild West so you can take your horse down the old town road. Composed by frequent Rockstar collaborator Woody Jackson and featuring big names in experimental music including Norman favourites Arca, Colin Stetson, David Ferguson and more, the original score blends Ennio Morricone’s cinematic scope with dusty ambient. Yeehaw indeed.
Part of what makes survival horror games like ‘Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ so unforgettable is the music which forges their atmosphere. The suspense created when gameplay merges with the score in certain chilling sections is enough to make you either put down the controller for a breather or go ahead and terrify yourself half to death. Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama and Saori Maeda brought the undead of ‘Nemesis’ to life with its jarring industrial, orchestral and horror synth-indebted dark ambient. If you’re pining for music similar to Akira Yamaoka’s ‘Silent Hill’ work, then look no further than this slab of moody, inventive brilliance.
You won’t find a score more opulent and lavish than the orchestral and classical stylings of Jeremy Soule’s backdrop to the sprawling RPG ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’. ‘The Elder Scrolls’ is a series of high fantasy games set in historical settings which take their pick from the best bits of Roman, Viking and Medieval mythos. You’re likely to bump into unearthly delights like goblins and dragons - and all whilst Soule’s jubilant compositions, similar to Howard Shore’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ or Ramin Djawadi’s ‘Game of Thrones’, play on. SPACELAB9 have graced us with this lavish boxset edition of the ‘Skyrim’ score.
Mick Harvey is a busy man. Not only has he formed three bands with Nick Cave (The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party and The Boys Next Door), he’s also helped produce records for Robert Forster, Rowland S. Howard and PJ Harvey in addition to penning many a soundtrack. Presented here on one vinyl are his scores for ‘Waves Of Anzac’ and ‘The Journey’, two powerful films regarding the First World War and asylum seeker detainees on the coast of Australia respectively. Both are gorgeous pieces - it’s evident that Harvey has put his heart and soul into this music.
Google ‘Kayobi No Onna’ and you’ll only get results for the music behind the television show and nothing related to the obscure Japanese suspense-drama. Masahiko Satoh’s music for ‘Kayobi No Onna’ is just as curious as that little revelation. Flaunting an exquisite cocktail of classical, improvised jazz and fusion grooves, Satoh topped off ‘Kayobi No Onna’ with a kitsch 70s flair not unlike those Maraschino cherries which capped many a cocktail of the era.
Speaking of the 70s, Scott Bomar’s score to Netflix original film ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ takes many a cue from the Blaxploitation genre which birthed classic soundtracks like Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Super Fly’ and Isaac Hayes’ ‘Shaft’. The film itself sees Eddie Murphy returning to form by portraying comedian Rudy Ray Moore and his larger-than-life pimp character Dolemite - a figure who starred in a few features of his own back in the 70s. Rudy influenced hip-hop culture a whole load too, remaining a huge inspiration to Snoop Dogg and appearing on records from Big Daddy Kane.
The third volume of the ‘Esterno Notte’ compilation series concerns itself with tunes that thrill, whether that’s the stirring qualities used in Giallo horrors or brassy movies which breed carnal desires. Across the two slabs of wax that make up ‘Esterno Notte Vol. 3’ you’ll find tracks from the likes of Goblin, Alessandro Alessandroni and Stelvio Cipriani, all of whom present their unique brands cinematic prog, rhythmic jazz-funk and death-disco. Yet another great collection from Four Flies here.
John Williams - Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [picture disc]
Look. It’s week four of the lockdown. I've sat in front of the same screen, both for all of my work and all of my social interactions, for what feels like an age. Shaving is but a distant memory to me now, as is not eating biscuit spread straight out of the jar for breakfast. For the past two hours I’ve been listening to a mashup of The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ and T-Pain’s ‘Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)’ on loop, and the thought of hearing anything else is making me anxious. My brain has broken.
This is ‘Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker’. Rebel Alliance good, Death Star bad. John Williams music nice. Baddies are coming - dern-dern-dern-der-der-derrrr, der-der-derrrr. Picture disc make vinyl look pretty. Something something baby Yoda. Buy you a draaaank, money in the baaaank.