Friday, December 2, 2011

Perfection In The Background: The Batman Returns Soundtrack!

The Good: Amazing orchestral work. Very moody, deep!
The Bad: ? None
The Basics: Buy this if you like orchestral music or simply something deep and different!

The essential album of night and winter is the Batman Returns Soundtrack. Even without Tim Burton's visual images, Danny Elfman's music holds up as a solid body. The magic of how Elfman's score worked with Burton's images was that the music was complimentary to the scenes, but on its own, this work still is evocative of cold desolation and darkness.

Anyone who likes orchestral music will love the Batman Returns Soundtrack because it does not hinge on the film. That is, unlike my problems with the nature of the VR.5 Soundtrack, Elfman's score is not matching up sudden visual images to music. The pieces are not choppy, they are not simple pieces that seem out of context. That is to say that this soundtrack has longer, musically developed pieces than most soundtracks and that lends it to an interpretation of strength and completion often lacking from shorter instrumental works.

In fact, like a classical work, the Batman Returns Soundtrack tells a story. There are cohesive musical elements, chords, bars, that have the feel of characters and the whole album traces the progress of whatever characters the listener creates to make sense of the album.

The strengths of the music from Batman Returns (reviewed here!) continue without the film; that is the music is big, there's a sense of boldness that overcomes the auditory senses and indeed, the whole body and it frees the listener ultimately.

This album is composed mostly of strings. The tracks feature violins, cellos and bass'. As well, the more moody woodwinds and brass are tapped and on several tracks, there are noticeable oboes, bassoons and French horns. The percussion section is defined by the snare drum and fleshed out through the use of both bass drums and tympanies. Moreover, the ranges of each of these evocative instruments is fully explored. The woodwinds go from contemplative on "The Lair" to harsh and violent on "Selina Transforms." All of the music comes together in the complete, rousing sound of "The Finale" and it's enough to make us remember why people bother to play an instrument at all.

The album is an exploration of longing, sorrow and triumph and it's largely what you bring to it. But more than that, it is big and it's refreshing to be immersed in something so big and so powerful and ultimately cathartic. This is a musical journey of the best type.

On the album's lone vocal track, "Face to Face," Siouxsie and the Banshees continues the gothic musical tone with the addition of the guitar. There they impressively blend their voices to a story of duality that has been running through the album with the contrasting strings and woodwinds. In many ways, their end to the album brings words to the emotions expressed implicitly through the twenty musical tracks that precede it.

Even if you don't like Batman, have never seen Batman Returns the album is worth it, perhaps even more than if you are either of the former. The music itself has a purity to it that, when unencumbered by the expectations of images or the pretense that this belongs to a certain movie, reaches perfection. It's simply great music and Danny Elfman is the best unsung composer of our day.

For other soundtrack reviews, please visit my reviews of:
What's Love Got To Do With It? Soundtrack
Christiane F. Soundtrack
Twelfth Night Soundtrack


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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