CD: Broken Horses (2015)

May 6, 2015 | By


broken-horses-soundtrack-john-debneyScore: Good

Label: Lakeshore Records

Released:  May 5, 2015


Tracks / Album Length:  32 tracks / 62 mins.

Composer: John Debney

Special Notes:  n/a




Running over an hour, John Debney’s score for Broken Horses has three specific recurring moods: a gentle waltz that’s heartwarming and simultaneously tragic; a grungy, grinding string motif that’s deliberately ugly, often functioning as a portent of danger but never smothering the listener with too many coarse details; and a delicate love theme that evokes the classical theme structure of a 1970s / 1980s film score.

Debney’s score has a very classical feel, especially in the theme arrangements which tend to shift between piano, guitar, and violin with subtle string accompaniment. His use of instrumental colour is very precise, especially in emphasizing warm tones, thick vibrato, and a sonic middle ground where he easily shifts between extreme moods.

The use of electronics in Broken Horses is fairly minimal, with “Midnight Wait” being a rare exception in which reverberating pulses, sustained piano keys, and an electronic shrillness co-mingle. “Psychopath” also features a few synth beats, but grinding, gnarled sounds are the cue’s main propellants, especially in the lengthy “Buddy Goes Nuts” which seems designed to enhance, from a distance, nasty visual elements.

Although Debney is best known for large orchestral works, Broken Horses is a much smaller scaled score, and although Lakeshore’s album offers a generous mix of cues, it also reveals the score’s limitations as a listening experience: the main waltz is oft-repeated, the grungy cues remain low in volume and aggressiveness, and there’s not enough dramatic variation to give the album a solid narrative. “The Escape” is a rare exception with orchestral samples that assemble many of the score’s core elements, but it too moves from a heavy, declarative intro towards a fast deceleration, then shifting from urgency to an ethereal closing with mixed voices and rumbling percussion before a sudden spark of distortion.

The fragmented, thematically repetitive, and brief nature of the score’s 32 cues makes Broken Horses a bit trying, and this may have been a case where editing down the selection could’ve yielded a more dramatic listening experience.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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