CD: Southpaw (2015)

July 10, 2015 | By


SouthpawScore: Excellent

Label: Sony Classics

Released:  July 24, 2015

Tracks / Album Length:  14 tracks / (52:04)

Composer: James Horner

Special Notes:  n/a




Reportedly the last score composed by James Horner before his tragic death in July of 2015, Southpaw represents the type of quiet character work to which Horner gravitated, crafting a simple theme and relying on a much smaller instrumental palette, often with seamless fusion between organic and synth sounds. Horner’s older Class Action (1991) comes to mind, although Southpaw’s harder story of boxing and use of source songs undoubtedly shaped the score’s design with a greater emphasis on synthetic colours – gentle keyboards, snarling feedback, and a middle ground where the two sides kind of duel, and sounds trickle, pulse, clatter, rumble, and coalesce.

The main theme’s very redolent of Roy Budd’s Get Carter (1971), although Horner’s spin is to reduce his full theme to sets of one-two punches, ascending, descending, and shifting, sometimes with background resonance for dramatic effect, and it’s a structure that allows the composer to effortlessly glide between various moods, and when permitted, develop material into much longer, meatier statements.

“The Funeral, Alone…” is quiet and intimate, and features subtle processed sounds as keyboards present a more uniform, fluid theme statement, whereas the snarling “Suicidal Rampage” surrounds the step-like theme with snarling electric bass and tapped backbeats. “Hope vs. Escobar” starts with electrified bass before Horner eases in a little orchestral background support, and the onscreen battle is largely scored with heavy synth percussion which periodically subsides for a faint, if not exhausted theme quote.

Fans of the composer’s work will find several stylistic signature elements, but it’s an interesting quiet score that shows Horner’s adeptness in tackling smaller-scaled stories, extracting character essentials, and building music that’s almost stealth – a different skill that’s often overlooked in favour of his epic, large orchestral music. I’ve a preference for both styles, and yet perhaps the proof of his scoring brilliance lies in being able to state material cleanly, simply, with no fanfare, using only the most essential sounds whether by design or due to budget restraints.

This may not be the epic swan song fans may have wanted, but its deceptive simplicity shows Horner could still impress after being in the film business for almost 40 years, and in this case, leave us with a somber epitaph.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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