CD: Anonymous Rejected Filmscore (2014)

February 19, 2015 | By


AnonymousRejectedFilmscore_sScore: Excellent

Label: Taped Noise

Released:  October 25, 2014

Tracks / Album Length:  12 tracks / (67:02)

Composer: John Murphy

Special Notes:  Available digitally, on CD, and on LP.




Having scored a hefty share of horror (28 Days Later) and action films (Armored), John Murphy’s next work was reportedly more in the drama genre, but in spite of crafting demo versions for the pleased director, the music was eventually rejected in favour of a different approach, thereby admitting Murphy into the select Rejected Film Score Club whose members include legends, contemporary icons, and composers who occasionally took on a film project (John Corigliano being dumped from Mel Gibson’s Edge of Darkness being a perfect example).

Murphy’s material remained in stasis for a few years, and the rejection gave the busy composer an opportunity to both reflect and take a needed break, but after a few years away from active film scoring, an interest in revisiting the demos permeated. With more free time, the renewed project developed into something that on album, sounds more free-form in that cues were allowed to develop, blossom, and explode without specific scene or performance beats, nor be victimized by scene edits and changing lengths.

Anonymous is a very organic piece where Murphy applies his brilliance in reworking a theme’s components into completely different guises; in most cases, it takes a deep listen to realize where the thematic underpinnings reside amid the sometimes radical mood shifts of certain cues.

“3:59 am” is classic Murphy in the sense that it builds quietly, gradually, establishing the main theme with a special combination of eeriness and beauty before there’s a massive eruption of sound, here in the form of guitars drenched in roaring feedback and a steady trip-hop beat. It’s also a track that works through electronics, rock, and orchestral elements, notably with Murphy’s fascination for pliable strings with Middle Eastern harmonics. At nearly 8 and ½ minutes, it’s probably his most epic composition to date; almost operatic, but still intimate because the theme is rooted in that special blend of angst, melancholy, and hope which is a recognizable quality in Murphy’s writing.

Anonymous’ main theme unravels like a lullaby – its first statement comes from a child-like voice, and soon after a woman in the pulsing, guitar riffing “1-2-3-4” – but as the album develops, the theme is reconfigured in a James Bondian lament (“Ghosts”); a whimsical keyboard variation, whose melodic line flows like an Ondes Martinot; full orchestra, with absolutely gorgeous strings (“Dead Ballerina”); and ambient sounds evoking a dark sound cloud ready to hurl a mass of melancholy (“Sacrifice”).

The finale (“Fade to…”) unravels with elements highly evocative of early seventies prog-rock, but with a special gentility in the way the strings support rather than rapture, and keyboards mimic a semi-tragic organ instead of a triumphant rock anthem. The album may close on a (relatively) optimistic note, but Murphy stays within a specific harmonic realm that’s semi-tragic; there’s closure, but there’s been a heap of loss through the journey.

The main action cues are standouts – “Automatic” is an extrapolation of the feedback and raging distortion from the first track, but goosed with industrial strength clamor that almost incinerates the listener – but the album’s best cues are its simplest, in the sense it’s Murphy exploring his theme in its most tender forms. “8mm Dream” initially unfolds like an audio mobile, with tones drifting off, reversing, and organically morphing back to rejoin the melodic line; and there’s the addition of flute with just a slight amount of edge distortion to relate to the surrounding cues, but also give this rare moment of peace and tranquility a portent of the rage that still exists within the body of Anonymous. Strings undulate and swell, and piano notes come in hesitant pairs, stepping up and down but never taking over the main theme.

The last gem is “California,” starting again with another reconfigured theme statement, but instead of developing into a broad statement, Murphy starts the track quietly, adds strings, brings in a guitar strum and a whispering female voice, and then snaps to a clean guitar with a recurring 3-notes. The melodic spin-offs occur later in the track, with synths emulating a kind of sailor’s anthem before the cue winds down and evaporates in a mist of eerie strings.

Murphy’s album is available digitally, on CD, and as a 2-LP vinyl release. A lengthy podcast interview with John Murphy is also available.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Soundtrack Reviews

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