Saturday, 9 February 2013

Soundtrack Review: Nobody Walks by Fall On Your Sword (Lakeshore Records 2012)

Led by Will Bates and Philip Mossman, FALL ON YOUR SWORD is an electronic band making a name for themselves through their scores for independent films. NOBODY WALKS is one of their most recent albums, accompanying the dramatic American independent film of the same name directed by Russo-Young. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, and due to its limited release not many have seen it - including myself. Therefore I will be approaching this soundtrack by FALL ON YOUR SWORD as a collection of music without any specific context. Does it hold up? Let’s see...

The initial assumption is that an indie score by an indie band such as this will blend a modern musical sensibility with a risqué stable of unusual styles to achieve a mood which is feel-good with a constant reminder of its disturbing dramatic centre. As it happens, this is essentially what you’ll find in NOBODY WALKS.

The “Opening Titles” (2) track introduces the main theme of the score with a upbeat, modern style. A style which doesn’t appeal to me, but the three note theme itself is scrumptiously delicate. And somewhat catchy. Following this piece in absolute contrast, “Kolt” (3) builds an eerie ambience of hollow dread, a gentle hint of piano keeping us centered. Piano-based track “The Family” (4) takes the simple and repetitive melody of the main theme and explores it in a beautifully lurid approach worthy of Clint Mansell.

“Gallery Drive” (5) brings us back to the up-beat and feel-good. Beautiful layers and textures are ever present, managing to be both spacious and intimate. The end of the track dissolves smoothly into Kolt’s mellow theme. The off-kilter notes in “Guilt” (6) are strikingly effective at arousing a sense of unease, especially as the beat builds in magnitude. Even without knowing the context of this track in the film, it actively tugs at the emotion of the listener. The chirping of crickets keeps the beat in “Voyeur” (7), a hollow-centered, dream-like piece that sounds like it would suit a retro science fiction film.

Diving back into the upbeat, “The Dinner” (8) uses a unique combination of strings and electronic tones to achieve a sound which I found jarring at first, but as the track evolves I relaxed into the beauty of the piece. I had a similar experience with a lot of this score: feeling stressed on first encountering a new piece, but enjoying it thoroughly once I learned to relax into it. You have to go with the flow to properly appreciate this soundtrack - there’s nothing big and bold to drag an uninvolved listener through the album.

The final few tracks of the album are undoubtedly my favourite, starting with “Kolt’s Poem” (12), in which the hi-hat rhythm is a very welcome addition to the continuing ensemble of electronic effects. The main theme returns in all its delicate beauty in “Leaving Town” (13). As the track builds we hear some of the most exquisitely emotive strings on the album, forsaking the pop of “Opening Titles” (2) for a more classical style. Finally, “Kolt’s Reprise” (14) also uses powerful strings in accompaniment with ambient electronic textures and a sporadic drum beat for a heartbreaking rendition of the album’s sombre secondary theme. Its a perfectly mellow note to end on.

Though there’s nothing truly amazing here, it’s hard not to like this album by FALL ON YOUR SWORD. They’ve jam-packed the soundtrack’s short runtime (38:51) with creativity and confidence. NOBODY WALKS’ repetitive chord progressions prove effective at mixing a beautiful and intimate collection of unique sounds. I did not find being unacquainted with the context of the film to be distracting; the rhythmic and often simple nature of the score lends itself to the individual interpretations of the listener. I was impressed and rather entertained by this superbly crafted score, and I believe that any listener will hear something worth appreciating.

Click here to jump over to the full review at Tracksounds, including track ratings.