ScreenSounds

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Saturday, September 18, 2010


CD REVIEW - THE LONE GUNMEN/HARSH REALM


The Lone Gunmen/Harsh Realm
Music by Mark Snow
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1135 (US)
33 Tracks 77:42 mins

Although live instrumental scoring of TV shows never totally went away, the trend in recent years has been for studio-produced electronic music which, though functional, for me, seldom offers little away from the images it serves. Probably the greatest exponent of the art however is Mark Snow, who has worked away on his trusty Synclavier on all manner of shows, and often comes up with music that stands out from the crowd. His name of course became more widely known thanks to Chris Carter's The X-Files, principally for his unique and popular main theme. Carter went on to create X-Files spin-off The Lone Gunmen, and then 1999's Harsh Realm, both sadly failing to receive airings on UK terrestrial TV. I was particularly disappointed we didn't get the chance to see the Gunmen in action, as I always enjoyed their appearances in The X-Files.
La-La Land Records has done fans of the shows a big favour in releasing this album of selections from the scores, with Lone Gunmen taking up the first 18 tracks, with a further 15 tracks of Harsh Realm following.
Lone Gunmen is the most organic and enjoyable of the two scores, featuring, as it does, electric guitar alongside Snow's keyboards. The composer must have enjoyed composing the music for this show, which gave him more opportunity to write in a light-hearted manner, something he was able to do only rarely in The X-Files, and mostly this was when the Gunmen guested. The main theme is a cool, propulsive affair and opens with a Hendrix-styled take on the "Star-Spangled Banner," before proceeding in guitar-lead, percussive, semi-martial fashion. The theme returns a number of times throughout subsequent tracks, and is always welcome. All in all, there's plenty to keep one interested here, and many moods are covered, though the overall feeling remains light and quirky, with that cool underlying spy vibe never far away. An interesting keyboards-lead alternate take on the main theme closes the Lone Gunmen programme.
The final 15 tracks on this album feature music from Harsh Realm, which was based on a comic book and saw Scott Bairstow play a soldier in an apocalyptic military simulation. Interestingly, Snow makes use of processed fragments of human voices, including speeches by Mussolini, in his insistent main theme. Again, many moods are covered in subsequent tracks, with wistful, airy sentiment, mixed with nightmarish atmospheres, again using fragments of human voice, including the Vienna Boys' Choir, as well as martial-styled percussion. As with Lone Gunmen, Snow demonstrates the inventiveness that lifts him above many of his contemporaries in the field of home-produced scores, but overall this is a darker, less attractive listening experience than Gunmen, and has more in common with his X-Files scores. Again, an alternate version of the main theme concludes the Harsh Realm selections, this a much lengthier and more developed affair.
As always, a splendid booklet accompanies the disc, illustrated with colour stills from both series, and interestingly featuring notes by screenwriter Julie Kirgo, someone with an insider's view, being the sister of Nicholas Kirgo, session guitarist on The Lone Gunmen.
Go to www.lalalandrecords.com/LoneGunmen.html for samples and to order your copy of this limited edition release of just 2000 units.

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