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Soundtrack Review

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Lovecraft Country
Soundtrack from the Series


Composers: Laura Karpman and Raphael Saadiq
Artists: Various
Label: WaterTower Music
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 19 October 2020

WaterTower Music releases Lovecraft Country, the soundtrack to the HBO original TV series. Based essentially on the classic weird fiction writings of H.P. Lovecraft – but more specifically on the book of the same name by Matt Ruff – the story follows the character of Alticus Freeman as he meets up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George for a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father. Along the way they come across racial terrors and the terrors of creatures that seem to be ripped straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft story. The show stars Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, and Courtney B. Vance. The score is by multiple Emmy Award-Winning composer of film, TV, videogame, and concert music Laura Karpman (Miss Virginia, Set It Up, Paris Can Wait, Underground) and Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated musican Raphael Saadiq (best known for his R&B group Tony! Toni! Tone! and his solo work with Snoop Dog, Lady Gaga, and Stevie Wonder. The pair were given a wide scope to explore every conceivable genre, but focussing on the hearts and souls of the heroes...

I won’t attempt to tackle the nuances of every track on offer here, as there are 62 of them, and I would end up writing a book rather than a review. It is sufficient to say that the first 10 tracks are credited to The Lovecraft Country Cast, The Lovecraft Country Band or, in the case of 'Bésame Mucho', Julian Sung Joo. This Mexican-style Latino piece is pretty good and, along with the instrumental 'Lovin’ Machine', is the best of this first batch. Don’t get me wrong, Wunmi Mosaku has a half-decent voice but this recent tendency to get cast members to sing cover-songs for the soundtrack doesn’t really work. Nevertheless, this one does succeed to a greater degree than on the soundtrack to Lucifer.

Now, onto the rest of the score, which is the meat on the bones I’m most interested in. The remaining tracks are listed in order of episode, with anything from two pieces (Whitey’s on the Moon) to 13 (A History of Violence) representing each instalment. I really expected to love this collection. I’m a huge admirer of the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft, and assumed that the music would be eerie and otherworldly enough to fit the master wordsmith and his very distinct Elder Gods (including The Cthulhu Mythos), inducing sights and experiences which bring characters to the edge of madness and beyond. In the same way it has proved extremely difficult to sufficiently adapt his words and situations to the big screen with any real conviction, similarly, the precise fitting music proves elusive. There is nothing aesthetically wrong with this score; it’s simply that it conforms to standard horror tropes. 'Ardham' from the episode Sundown is intriguing and suspenseful; 'Sundown Town' has horror movie edginess; 'Shoggoth Attack' has a chase-like eerie bugle and percussion; 'Museum Break-in' from A History of Violence has good use of cello and woodwind; 'The Pendulum' wrings-out some tension; and 'Mummy Transforms' uses a cacophony of noises to emulate terror. Perhaps I’m expecting too much, but it doesn’t do justice to the man in the same way that Metal band Rage did with the classic albums Black in Mind, and End of All Days.

Furthermore, the vast majority of these tracks are relatively short. It would have been great to have had some much longer suites to showcase the undoubted ability of the composers, and to obtain a fuller understanding of the direction and atmosphere of each piece.


Ty Power

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