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Soundtrack Review

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The Woman Astronaut
Original Concept Album


Composer: Penka Kouneva
Performed by: Hollywood Studio Symphony
Label: Varèse Sarabande
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 10 July 2015

The Woman Astronaut is an original concept album composed in cinematic orchestral-electronic style. The album contains 14 tracks (48 min, 07 sec), broken into three acts. It follows the life journey of an astronaut: adolescence and homeland; young adult; maturity.  The album was produced with Hollywood Studio Orchestra, top LA soloists and choir. A Kickstarter campaign raised $35,000 and provided the funds for the orchestral recording.

I never thought I'd say this... but thank goodness for Kickstarter. Finally, a project that is worthy of crowd funding. If, like me, you enjoyed Penka Kouneva's A Warrior's Odyssey (2012) concept album, then you'll be please to hear that her latest project is available to buy. The Woman Astronaut is another concept album which acts as a showpiece for Kouneva's ability to compose both epic, busy pieces as well as slow, heartbreakingly beautiful music.

When the press release appeared in my inbox, I was looking forward very much to hearing if Kouneva could possibly top A Warrior's Odyssey. I have to admit that I had doubts - that album was a masterclass in holding the listener's attention. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only had she delivered the goods once again, but she'd also matured as a composer to deliver a score that was even better than her last project.

A big part of this is no doubt down to Kouneva managing to acquire enough Kickstarter cash to enable her to hire an orchestra to perform this work. But it's not just that. Once again the attention to detail, and the ability to paint a picture with music result in an incredibly rewarding experience.

I couldn't help but draw a few parallels with some of my favourite composers work. The use of flute on tracks like 'The Forest' reminded me of John Barry at his peak. 'Taking Flight' and 'Alarm and Rescue' brought to mind David Arnold's music for the Stargate movie. And 'In Space' reminded me of James Horner's Apollo 13 score.

Concept albums like this, to me, always sound closer to classical music than they do scores. This is mainly down to the fact that they are usually the creation of one person and have been written without the necessity to fit a scene. Kouneva does have a story to tell, but it's one that the listener can imagine themselves, allowing her the ability to compose her music and present it as she had originally envisaged it.

The album also comes with notes on each track so that you can see what was in Kouneva's mind when she was composing each track. The end results speak for themselves. This is a sumptuous feast for the ears and mind. Much like the woman astronaut, you will be catapulted on an epic journey.

Don't even think about it... just buy the album now.


Darren Rea

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