Archive for the Music Category

Black Meteoric Star – Black Meteoric Star

Posted in Music on July 9, 2009 by Scott

As a lay-person when it comes to Electronica, i often have a hard time distinguishing god from just ok, from really poor. My original attitude was one of complete disinterest because of the lack of real instruments, and the repetition of the beats throughout the songs, and albums. Sure, i listened to Prodigy’s Fat of the Land as much as the next guy, and obviously college brought Daft Punk onto my radar, but other than a roommate who had a huge collection of rave music (or maybe just a lot of copies of the same song, i couldn’t really tell…) i was almost completely unexposed.

Through the power of the internet and the influence of some people who i became acquainted with, i discovered the mad ravings of Richard D. James’ Aphex Twin, the brilliance of RJD2, and Does This Offend You, Yeah? just to name a few of the better examples.  None of that prepared me for the sound of Black Meteoric Star, and their self titled album. A duo, hailing from the east coast of the US and working in Germany, BMS was introduced to me by a tweet from a webcomic artist, and usually liking what he suggests, i checked into it.

BMS is an album of long songs. The shortest clocks in at 6.15, the longest at 18.34. It certainly calls for some time investment to get the full enjoyment from a listen. Contrary to the world of popular culture and pop radio, long songs are not bad songs. The three minute pop song has been a staple since the Beatles started in the 1960’s, and apart from some underground, small market, or college radio stations, long tracks have gone all but unheard, or have been edited to fit the formula. The reason i bring this up is simply to suggest that if you decide listen to BMS, be sure to have some time set aside to really get into it.

Excuse my complete lack of knowledge on the different types of electronica, but in order to classify this album, i would suggest that one would hear it at a rave, or as the score for a fast paced, techo-thriller movie, similar to Eagle Eye, or any of the subsequent Matrix rip-off films to hit the market recently. [No, i am not saying this came from that movie, but it sounds like the type of score that would suit the genre of movie very well.] The songs have an industrial feel to them, and get deeper as the tracks go on; a new sound emerges fairly often, layered upon a repetitive beat from the section prior. A little bit of research on the band says that the music created by BMS is meant to accompany art installations, and the repetition is part of the visual art as well, provoking a trance, which i suppose would qualify this as “trance electronica” then.

Black Meteoric Star gets it right. They see when the beat is about to go stale, and add a new element at just the right time, leaving enough of the old to keep a connection, and adding enough new to make it fresh, and to keep it from getting boring. There are no vocals on this album, which works to its benefit; the duo has enough going on that adding any vocals would make the tracks seem overly cluttered, and lose some of the mystique. Tey save one of their best tricks for the last track on the album, which coincidentally is the longest track. The start is a rain storm, you hear rain falling, just as if you were out in a cabin on the plains. It’s heavy rain, and for 25 seconds or so thats all you hear. Then the rain starts morphing, swirling and skipping, until you realize it has become part of the soundscape of the track. It’s a killer way to start a track, and an even better example of how to use a sound sample.

As someone who can listen to, but not really discern techno’s merits, i give this album 3.5/5. Solid, fun electronica, but nothing to write home about either. Maybe those with a more discerning ear will question this score, and are certainly welcome to do that, but either way, give it a listen. If nothing else, you can blast it on your stereo as you pretend to be recreating the elevator fire-fight scene from The Matrix.

Advertisements

The Mars Volta – Octahedron

Posted in Music on June 24, 2009 by Scott

The Mars Volta countinues to astound me. More specifically, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez continues to astound me. The sheer volume of work that he produces is enough to make any musician’s career, and he refuses to be satisfied with it. Soundtracks, solo albums, Volta albums, side projects… this guy has some inspiration. Octahedron is the newest effort from the Mars Volta, and doesn’t fail to meet my hopes.

Rodriguez-Lopez’s solo work tends to be a bit more subdued than his work with Volta, focusing more on the guitar and soundscape that is being created. On the band’s newest effort, however, this sound spills over, creating a lush, but downtempo  record. It starts off slow, with a build over 90plus seconds, each ratcheting up the tension just a bit more than the last, until the initial guitar sounds take over, gently picked, both acoustic and electric, and then the vocal. Ahhh, the vocal. Cedric Bixler-Zavala sings each song with amazing feeling and emotion, his voice sounding like another of the instruments in the band, played to perfection.  He uses the slower tracks to belt out some soulful singing, when the record gets more intense so do the vocals. I am hardpressed to find a singer who has such an emotive voice in modern rock.

The instrumentation is sort of downplayed in these recordings; there are fewer Latin-influenced breaks, and as such the band seems to lose some of its roots, but makes up for it with understated play by Rodriguez-Lopez the percussion section of the band. Another reason for the record’s stripped-down feeling is the lack of horns, as well as some sound manipulation and guitar. According to the biography of the band on their site, the album has been made more pure than any of their previous efforts, paring the band down to just 6 members in studio. Rodriguez-Lopez also took a backseat in producing the album, choosing not to add every possible sound and effect, but rather allow for the music to create itself, and the new, organic feel really benefits the group.

In essence, this is the band’s “acoustic” album, in the sense of minimal production, and maximum performances. There are riffs aplenty here, so fans of old Volta need not be worried, but the new direction is a good one for the band. The guitar and effects production is as haunting as ever, Cedric’s vocals have just enough melencholoy to play up the album as a sad and personal one. Clocking in at 50 minutes even, it is the band’s shortest recording to date, not counting EPs. So much is packed in to that time, the album never feels short, until you realize that you want more just to keep the high going. Octahedron is a killer record. Not their best, but then again, it is a cut above anything else this year so far. 4.5/5

BONUS!!!!

Now that Volta has 5 studio albums, a live record, and 2 EPs, and some unreleased stuff,  there is enough material to cull a compilation from, and that is what i will do now. Their 12 best tracks, not promised to fit on one disc. Included will be track name and album, in that order.

1. Day of the Baphomets – Amputecture

2. Since We’ve Been Wrong – Octahedron

3. Golaith – The Bedlam in Goliath

4. L’Via L’Viaquez – Frances the Mute

5. Drunkship of Lanterns – De-Loused in the Comatorium

6. Viscera Eyes – Amputecture

7. Eunuch Provacateur – Tremulant [EP]

8. Back Up Against the Wall – Bedlam in Goliath [B-side]

9. Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt – Scab Dates

10. Francis the Mute – Frances the Mute [Vinyl Single}

11. Roulette Dares (The Haunt of) – De-Loused in the Comatorium

12. Son Et Lumiere/Interciatic ESP – De-Loused in the Comatorium

Asher Roth – Asleep in the Bread Aisle & Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing

Posted in Music on June 24, 2009 by Scott

Asher Roth – Asleep in the Bread Aisle

To say that I am a rap fan is a bit of an overstatement. I tend to find the posturing tired and the name dropping to be a distraction to some otherwise good flow. But what i find interesting is when a rapper comes out of nowhere, creates an album that is fun and exciting, and seemingly throws the cliches of modern rap back in the face of those still in the game.

Asher Roth first crossed my radar in January, when, while reading some indie music sites, i heard his name mentioned, and looked for some tracks. I heard ‘I Love College’ sometime later, and was instantly excited. A fun, if overly simplified rhyme about the joys of being in college. Now that Roth’s full album has dropped, i scooped it up, excited to see what else he had to offer. I was not dissapointed, but only after i had heard the whole album. At first, i was afraid i had inadvertantly picked up another rap album of questionable lyrical content, but after hearing the diversity of flow and Roth’s ability to shift vocal sounds at will made me think differently.

My first note for reviewing this album was the similarity of his flow and voice to Eminem. It seems most evident when the chorus starts, he has the same type of cadence that Em does, and sounds almost interchangable with the Detroit native, sans his inflated ego. Roth also sounds a bit like The Lonely Island’s Adam Sandberg on some tracks, most notably ‘Bad Day’, and not just in vocal sound but style (Listen to the first verse of ‘Bad Day’ and then ‘Jizz in my Pants’. Uncanny. He also has his own style, which suits the white boy type demograohic he is shooting to become popular with.

His beats are amazingly tight for a debut, and production values are very high. is lyrics run the gamut from typical party boy, drug culture, highly inflated self image (“Pass me a blunt and some captain chilling with an Ashley/Heading to the mall/ Sitting in the backseat getting jerked off/10 feet tall with the balls of a matador” from ‘Lark on my Go Kart’), smart pun (“Mario kart skills are outrageous/Play me any day and I’ll be the best racist/Wait no erase it meant to say racer” from the same track), to political skepticism (“Donate your dollars/Raise a dollar/Help a mother/Save a father/Cause poverty is probably our biggest problem/And it ain’t gonna stop with Obama/To save the world we must start at the bottom” from ‘Sour Patch Kids’).

I almost felt bad for the kid when i heard ‘As I Em’, a lament of his Eminem soundingness, but upon repet listenings, if you are going to complain about being compared to someone, don’t sound exactly like him, especially not on the track doing the complaining.

In essence, Asleep in the Bread Aisle is a solid, albeit kinda holow debut. Tight beats, guests ranging from no namers to Cee-Lo (of Gnarls Barkley) and Busta Rhymes, and lyrics that can be taken at face value, or seen as a bit of a jab at the types of themes rap has become, Asher Roth created an album that makes me excited and pensive. He has come up with a set of tracks that would soud right at home in the richest of college Fraternaties, which seems to be where he aimed. Congrats Asher, you win, but make a better album for everyone next time. 2.5/5

Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing

Fuck Buttons is a band which i was introduced to just a few days ago, and immediately was interested in. With a name like Fuck Buttons, one has to be curi0us. This curiousty has panned out well for me in the past, Holy Fuck turned out to be one of my favorite electronic acts, and Starfucker is an alright group, nothing awesome but listenable none the less.

Fuck Buttons is an electronic group, but in a different way. Imagine Mogwai. Like “Young Team” era Mogwai. Got it? Good. Now imagine that, but done with electronics instead of instruments. The tracks, swelling as they build, gaining momentum like a rock, slowly rolling down a hill. It starts slow, but in the end, you are all but bowled over by the sheer force of the track.

Fuck Buttons uses a lot of feedback and distortion, so if that bothers you, dont even attempt to listen. But underneath all of this aggressive and dirty feedback is a sound which is begging to be heard, someone anting to imitate the best f what post rock has to offer, all without having to learn to play guitar like Explosions in the Sky, or incorporaing the “lyrics” or Sigur Ros. The only real voices you hear are treated more as parts of the beat than as lyrics, which makes an pretty unusual sound. Check it out if you have the hour to spare. It sounds like the soundtrack from a scary, almost tribal horror movie, and is all the better for it. It is not for everyone, be adised that you will need patience to be able to get into it, but you will be rewarded. 3.5/5

Carbon Leaf – Nothing Rhymes with Woman

Posted in Music on June 17, 2009 by Scott

This is my first post to use “colorful” language. If that offends, apologies, it won’t happen again. It is not meant to be offensive, and hopefully isn’t, but feel free to tell me different.

Carbon Leaf is a band which has either just hit the big time, or has finally come onto my radar in the last couple of weeks for some other reason. Seemingly by desitny, maybe, since they have opened for Dave Matthews Band in their 17 year history, i was fated to review this album next. The album itself is the band’s 7th full length effort, and 8th release, counting their live album. Finding this out with in the last 12 hours, i had no way to go and find enough of their music to compare sound, so most of what will come out in this review is the type of insight that i would give to a band’s first disc, keep that in mind, Carbon Leaf fans.

The disc starts off with a fairly straightforward alt-country song, hooking me immediately. Alt-country is a hard thig for me to defend, since i am such a staunch anti-country activist, but for some reason the use of a dobro on a rock record is a great (greatest?) thing. Not just Dobro mind you, but basic country song tempo and lead guitar. The impression i got fromt he first track is a young band, sitting in a bar in East-Fuck Nowhere, dirt floor and drunken mechanical bull riding, while the band plays on a cramped, dingy stage. Then comes the second track, and the banjo (see the DMB post for my feelings on banjo) mixed with a pretty basic two-step country beat almost make up for the lyrics. There is my major criticism of a very strong album; the lyrics are very unevenly written. Some tracks are so strong, expressive, and creative, and some seem like cop-out rhyme (and sometimes not). But given the strength of the rest of the album’s production values,  sheer talent on the part of the band, and the genre that sometimes goes underutilized, Carbon Leaf has something special here.

Upon repeat listenings, the album gets stronger. Every time i hear it, there is something i hadn’t payed attention to the first (second, eighth…) go-round, and it just increases the feeling of enjoyment i get from it. I think the best part of the record is the ability of the band to create such catchy, singalong choruses. The repeated chorus of each song will have you tapping your toe and humming on just the sec0nd pass, and singling along within 5. But never in that way that makes you feel dirty like most pop music; instead in a way which makes you feel connected to the band.

Carbon Leaf reminds me of 2 groups specifically, and while my last favorite thing to do is compare bands to other bands, i think it is warranted here. The general groove and feel of this album reminds me of Ryan Adams’ second album, Gold. His was the first real alt-country i had heard, and while i haven’t listened to it since i was to young to appreciate it, ‘New York, New York’ is such a great track, and it is what came to my head as soon as i heard the upbeat songs on Nothing Rhymes with Woman. The other group i think of is a small band based in Pittsburgh called the Clarks. Both bands have the ability to create pop sounding rock songs that are so much more than their first impressions, and both have similar vocals. Carbon Leaf seems to share a spirit with Calexico, not so much musically but in the way that they break the boundaries of their genres to make something reflective of their own personal histories.

Nothing Rhymes with Woman is probably my favorite album this summer so far, but having said that, it won’t get my highest marks. I enjoy listening to it, in fact i have listened to it more times than any other album that i have reviewed (excepting Hazards of Love, which i had before i  decided to review it), but it is not necessarily something i will go back to. I am unsure of its staying power past a few key tracks, namely “Cinnamindy”, “Mexico”, and “X-Ray”. Having said that, it earns a solid 3/5, as fun summer music, but will you remeber it in the fall?

Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

Posted in Music on June 10, 2009 by Scott

Let me preface: Dave Matthews Band and i have a very spotty history at best.  Starting around the time of Crash, i started to get really into them, listening to that album pretty regularly, followed with a purchase of Under the Table and Dreaming. I kept finding more and more to like, but then i discovered punk. Punk, in essence saved me from becoming the rabid DMB fan you see in colleges and at Burning Man. While i still liked what i had heard, i decided that it wasn’t for me, and that punk was the new way to go. Fast forward to high school, hearing Before These Crowded Streets and only taking in the seeming confusion that was the album, i realized that DMB might be worth looking into again. I sought after The Lillywhite Sessions, walked miles to get a copy of Busted Stuff, etc. Long story short, I took in all forms of Dave, he and Tim Reynolds solo albums, DMB live albums, anything with his name attached.

That is until the quality of the product started drooping. I somehow missed Everyday upon its release, and went back to it later. It was, for lack of a better word, poor. The songs were too pop, they style of the album seemingly changed to get the most airplay possible, instead of playing unbridled jams as they did in concert, or restrained (but only a little) jazz-jam fusion as they did on the superb Before these Crowded Streets. I gave Stand Upa chance, but still was turned off. But when i heard buzz for Big Whiskey, i felt i owed it to the band to check it out.

And i am still undecided as to whether or not it was a good find or not. Don’t get me wrong the album is very ambitious, and i respect the band for playing on and recording (and using) material after the death of founding sax player LeRoi Moore’s death last summer.  After Moore’s death, the band recruited Jeff Coffin, a sax player from Bela Fleck’s  band to take his place.The album does nothing to tell you which tracks were played by which player, and interestingly enough, it strengthens that material for me.

But even as good as the album is, there is something missing, but it is something i am unable to pinpoint. The songs are all very good; stylistically they hearken back to older DMB tunes, 70’s horn sections, (especially on ‘Shake me Like a Monkey’), and electric, almost balls out rock. 2 things ground this as a DMB album, one being Lessard’s percussion, which is an almost unmistakable feature of the band’s albums, and stay true to the jam band roots that Dave has grown from. The other is obviously the vocal. Matthews’ vocals are unmistakable, and he does nothing different here. Take it as a good thing or not, but it is mre of the same patented howl that moves over the upbeat tracks and the same brooding that haunts the slow ballads.

Gone also is Matthew’s as the lone guitar player. Tim Reynolds, a (read: more talanted) guitar player and frequent collaborator of Matthews’ plays here, injecting some much appreciated guitar oomph. Rashawn Ross makes his studio album debut, after being the band’s stage trumpeter since 2006, and his input is also for the better. Banjo makes an appearance as well, and i have to say, a good banjo in a non-country song almost makes said song instantly likeable.

The subject material, as can be assumed, is fairly morbid. The death of a close friend will do that to a person, but somehow this album comes out ahead of Busted Stuff in terms of positive mood. Expertly written tracks have catchy hooks, and the choruses had me singling along after just a few listens. The single ‘Funny the Way it is’ is the perfect example of why peoploe used to buy albums based on singles;: it has a catchy riff, a singalong chorus, and leaves you wishing it was just a bit longer.

But with al the positives, there is something lacking. Maybe it is the free spirit of pre-breakdown Dave, maybe it is just the change in style which is necessetated by the passage of nearly 15 years since their fresh sounding debut album. Whatever it is, it holds this effort back from being perfect. I think after listeningto the album a few times, it hints at the greatnes that was Before the Crowded Streets, and inches so close to it, flirts with it, and then ultimately climaxes just short of where it could have gone. With this effort, Dave Matthews Band has solidified their place in my collection, and are now on my concert and new album radar again. 4/5

Eminem – Relapse

Posted in Music on June 3, 2009 by Scott

I never thought i would be in this position. Reviewing an album by Eminem of all people? A bit of a history lesson… In 6th grade, when The Slim Shady LP was released, I was still a pop music/culture kind of guy. I had yet to discover the joys of indie music, and as such was impressionable enough to  buy and enjoy it. And to be honest, I still might. I haven’t listened to it in years, as I decided to grow up and listen to something other than foul-mouthed white rappers with mommy issues. It took me 3 albums of his to learn this lesson. By the time his 4th was released, i had fully moved on, with no interest in it at all. Then he slipped into annonymity. Finally right? The first i heard of Eminem recording a new album was the single “Crack a Bottle”, which was on every pop station on the east coast, seemingly on repeat in the middle of March. It was a throwaway pop single, but it marked the return of Eminem into the public collective music scene.

This piqued my curiosity. What was it about Eminem that made me so enamored with his work in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s? Would this still hold up upon another listen today? I decided to find out, and give Relapse a chance. I tossed it into my player, expecting something, but not sure what. The first track was about Dr. West, supposedly Eminem’s rehab doctor, telling him not to worry about the steps of rehab, just give int0 temptation. Great message, eh? Anyway, the next track s where the album starts, for real. The first track starts off witha fairly generic beat, and Eminem’s voice comes in, his flow identical to the last album he cut. But then it starts…the pure and unadulterated whoreishness of the album. I can’t listen to it all again, but there are so many pop culture references the album might has well have been commissioned by Hannah Montana and Kim Kardashian. Over the course of the album, he talks about masturbating to watching Hannah Montana, having a relationship with Mariah Carey, and a whole host of other things that the average listener will identify with, and i suppose this would add credibility with the fan base?? The bridge of the track “3AM” is basically just Buffalo Bill’s speech from Silence of the Lambs”…“It puts the lotion on its skin….”Pointless…

I’m not sure what purpose these references serve, or why there needed to be so many in the songs. If it isn’t pop culture, it is his mother. He seems to be falling back on old crutches that made him the icon he was. Remember when a song about Eminem’s mom didn’t sounds like a rehash of 10 other songs? Most peopel who buy this album i will assume are too young to know the full extent of his mommy issues, and will not be as bothered as i am.

Those are my main issues, but i feel like i need to justify my postion from a music fans perspective. Eminem has talent. His flow is certainly distinctive, and when he is in his groove, there are few people who can match his style or energy. But it seems like he is stuck in a rut, and making the same record as last time, however many years ago that was. Eminem’s production has suffered since he has taken over from Dr. Dre. Dre, who produced the beats for Em’s first and second albums guests here, but the production is more consistent with Em’s own productions than Dre’s. His beats tend to be more simplistic, but also more bombastic somehow, more in your face than Dre’s. It doesn’t suit his style of vocal play, he was better when the subject matter was silly, or very serious, but offset with a complex, yet somehow simple beat.

I think i found what it is that drove me away from Eminem int he first place, aside from growing chest hair and a more discerning set of ears…and it is the complete loss of fun in the lyrics. I used to think that Eminem was trying to be offensive, saying things that were going to upset people because he like the publicity. But i realized that it seems to be his only vocabulary. There is nothing on this album that shows me that he is evn trying anymore. How many songs can you make that talk about killing people, hating your mother, and how much of a badass killer you are? Appaently after a 4 year break, he came up with 16 songs and 4 skits that follow his same formula.
The wordplay is weak, the rhymes would be suited to come out of the mouth of a 15 year old boy trying to be cool and learning to swear and say naughty things, and the beats leave me fealing bored and wishing for the days when listening to his foul-mouthed stories waqs fresh.

2/5

PS: I dont know how many peopl this bothers, but a lyrics from this album goes “It was 3am in the morning…” Hopefully as a 35 (approx) year old man, i figured Eminem woudl be able to tell that AM means morning, so this is a redundant statement.

Music Review of Star Trek: Music from the Motion Picture

Posted in Music on May 21, 2009 by DTB

TrekSoundtrack

The first thing I noticed when looking at the track listings of Star Trek was how short a whole slew of them are.  Track one, “Star Trek” is a mere minute of playing time, and the aptly named “To Boldly Go” a miniscule 26 seconds.  Though 15 tracks in length, the total playing time is only 45 minutes.  By comparison, last summer’s 14-track The Dark Knight OST ran for a whopping hour and thirteen minutes.  To be fair, TDK was a longer film whose composer is known for long, suite-like tracks, but I can’t help feeling slightly cheated by how Trek seems to whiz by.  I suppose the burning question is: are the 45 minutes actually good?

In short, yes.  They’re quite excellent actually.  Composer Michael Giacchino has created a wonderfully nostalgic yet refreshingly original piece of sonic entertainment.  Alexander Courage’s original Trek themes are subtly hidden throughout the soundtrack until their triumphant emergence in “To Boldly Go.”  Giacchino’s new themes are fresh, fun and in constant motion.  In fact, Star Trek is the perfect vehicle for Giacchino’s frenetic style of composition.  Following the stately grandeur of Jerry Goldsmith’s Trek scores, the bombastic energy of James Horner’s, the Holstian rumblings of Cliff Eidelman’s, and the cheesy-yet-enjoyable made-for-TV Courage scores, Giacchino’s jazz-laced, whistle-able and fast-paced soundtrack is a perfect compliment for a re-furbished Trek.  Bringing a youthful energy and enthusiastic exuberance that’s never been present in a Trek soundtrack, Giacchino effectively channels elements of all who came before and takes them somewhere entirely new.

For example, the afore-mentioned one-minute opening title “Star Trek” is not a trumpet fanfare, it’s a slow, tense, flowing horn introduction of the new theme that perfectly establishes a sense of the unknown and concludes with jarring dissonance that segues into the intense “Nailin’ the Kelvin.”  This second track captures the frantic nature of the opening scene and its main villain Nero.  Undercurrents of the main Trek theme are present beneath blazing string runs, driving percussion, and emphatic brass dissonance.  Never, though, does Giacchino go entirely atonal.  This decision, so unlike the styling of more and more film composers, grounds the action with a sense of purpose and motion.  Rather than punctuating tension with screeching strings and jarring, indiscernible chords, Giacchino builds a tonal momentum that never loses its wind.  In fact, the third track, “Labor of Love,” is an even more powerful conclusion for this energy.  The track, which coincides with Jim Kirk’s birth and the heroic sacrifice of his farther, is not grand or noble.  A slow, sweeping string motion of romantic angst and tragedy, “Labor of Love” proves that a talented composer can effectively create edge-of-your-seat tension with beauty.

The first transitional point in the soundtrack occurs with track 4, “Hella Bar Talk” (clearly a pun on the name of composer Bella Bartok).  Starting with a melancholy string rendition of Giacchino’s new Trek theme, it segues into a more percussive, optimistic run (coinciding with Kirk’s decision to join Starfleet).  The next track, “Enterprising Young Men,” introduces the shuttlecraft theme (a six-note, staccato motive) which precludes the first bombastic fanfare of the new Trek theme and escalates into a canon-like snippet as the Enterprise punches into warp.

Track 6, “Nero Sighted” isn’t especially revolutionary.  Essentially a rehash of the Nero themes introduced in “Nailin’ the Kelvin,” it is notable for the forward momentum it generates without introducing many new elements.  A brief visit to a significantly more percussive shuttlecraft theme is also noteworthy.  “Nice to Meld You,” to me, sounds like an amalgamation of elements from Goldsmith and Horner.  Vertical string ostinatos ring beneath brass bombast sans very much percussion.  Over the course of the track, new layers of sound are added upon each other, culminating in a very thickly textured work which dissipates into a new theme: the Spock theme.  The following track, “Run and Shoot Offense,” starts percussive and punctuating, perhaps the most traditional action cue Giacchino has composed on the soundtrack.  A fairly short, two-minute track, it concludes with string sweeps that add urgency to the situation (Kirk and Sulu fighting on the mining platform).  Track 9, “Does it Still McFly,” begins Giacchino’s introduction of emphatic percussion.  A vibraphone motive underlies a transition into a fast action cue.  Xylophones, timpani, snare, and bass drums move the track forward into a low, slow, final diminuendo.

“Nero Death Experience,” the tenth and most singularly epic number on the soundtrack, incorporates elements of each previous theme.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect, however, is Giacchino’s instrumentation.  The track begins with a grating string harmonic buzz, but establishes minor tonality almost immediately and plunges into a chase-like tempo punctuated not with brass but with strings.  The incorporation of a choir adds a decidedly dense, operatic feel.  Interspersed within the chase are brief glimpses of Spock’s theme and the main theme.  This intensity, juxtaposed with the darkness of Nero’s theme, the majesty of Spock’s and the heroic nature of the main theme creates a decidedly unique track.  Track 11, “Nero Fiddles, Narada Burns,” keeps the heroism and epic choir of track 10, and brings an end to Nero’s theme.  Essentially, it’s the track where the bridge crew is all finally in the right place and triumph over adversity.  There is an ethereal quality to its concluding cadences, which leads into the recapitulation of a brassy main theme in “Back from Black,” another one-minute track.

The concluding three tracks of Giacchino’s Star Trek soundtrack are amongst its strongest.  “That New Car Smell” is a sumptuous flow of strings and winds, beginning with an all-string Spock theme with flute embellishment that progresses into a trumpet solo of the main theme.  The five-note underlying cello/bass motive may be a quotation of Goldsmith’s The Motion Picture score, but it’s very subtle and probably unintentional.  The track concludes with an establishment of Goldsmithian grandeur which is quickly invigorated with a jazz-influenced burst of energy.  The 27-second “To Boldly Go” is a simple visit to the Trek fanfare we all know and love.  “To Boldly Go” leads PERFECTLY into the “End Credits” which treat us to a full-blown orchestra-and-choir arrangement of Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek theme for a triumphant two minutes.  Visitations of the other film themes are present after the Courage quotation, from Spock to Nero to the shuttlecraft to the last recap of Giacchino’s main theme (the track lasts for over 9 minutes).  The soundtrack finishes with the familiar Trek fanfare.

Overall, Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek soundtrack is wonderful fun.  An energetic, fast-paced and fresh take on the subject matter, it brings in the new while remembering the old.  Strongest tracks include “Labor of Love,” “Enterprising Young Men,” “Nero Death Experience,” “That New Car Smell,” and “End Credits.”  Unfortunately, it is too short of an album to stand amongst the best film soundtracks (I still feel cheated out of some great music).  Additionally, the five strongest tracks are almost too phenomenal.  All other tracks, though quite good, pale in comparison.  Still, Star Trek: Music from the Motion Picture is great aural fun for the casual or serious fan of film score music.  An 8/10 in my book, I’d recommend it with few reservations.  Necca out.