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Soundtrack Review

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His Dark Materials
Series 2
Original Television Soundtrack


Composer: Lorne Balfe
Label: Silva Screen Records
RRP: £13.99
SILED1636 (download)
Release Date: 20 December 2020

Silva Screen releases the Original Television Soundtrack to His Dark Materials: Series Two. HDM is based on the book trilogy by Philip Pullman. Season Two transposes the second book, The Subtle Knife. The story follows Lyra and Will, two children who are prophesied to bring multiple worlds together on the eve of a war. The BBC series, produced by Bad Wolf in association with New Line Cinema for BBC One and HBO, is very well realised. The music is scored by Grammy Award winning, EMMY and BAFTA nominated composer Lorne Balfe. Originally from Inverness, Scotland, Balfe has created music for the genres of major studio and independent films, critically acclaimed television series, animated features, documentaries and video game franchises. The music to Season One of His Dark Materials was universally well-received. The Series Two music is available for download...

The score hooks you in right from the beginning. It’s a dramatic opener which hints at the epic events to come. This is great music to lie back and listen to on headphones. It encapsulates all of the feelings and emotions you would hope to experience. At times you are carried away on the thrilling ride of a lifetime, and others soothed to the point of a comfortable sleep. The composer has the ability to inject a rumbling discordance and underlying menace without slapping you around the face with stereotypical thrashing and shrieking. Sometimes there is only need for little nuances; however, never is a track left at that. Instead, it always adds substance so that you never feel that you are being served fillers. 'The Chosen', for example, informs us this is an intriguing and special moment. Every track employs a different tactic, which moves the score along in a flowing and unstilted manner. Having viewed seasons one and two of this BBC Sci-fi fantasy drama, I can say with confidence that the specificity of the music places you directly into the relevant scenes.

There are no flourishes in the conventional sense; everything is purposefully structured without ever coming across as forced. This is once of the most varied orchestral soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. There is not only light and shade, but mood and presence. Also, it’s nice that the majority of the characters seem to have their own encapsulating theme. I like the otherworldliness of 'Journey Ahead', whilst incorporating a warm and grounding accompaniment. 'A Once Great City', whilst being Pagan-like, has a moderate but grand orchestral melody. 'Queen of the Southern Lanes' is wide and majestic. 'Fly Spectres' gradually builds, like a creeping malaise. 'A Mystic Explorer' has a thudding beat with a sweeping, soaring – almost Marvel-like – grand piece playing along. 'The Eve of the War' leads like a Christmas tune before turning into a shorter but darker version of the main theme.

It would be a difficult matter to describe every piece of music, as there are 35 tracks. But there is something for everyone on this impressive soundtrack. If I have one complaint, it’s a common one with decent movie and TV scores. Each track averages two to three minutes in duration, so the moment you’re into and enjoying it it’s gone again. I fully understand these snippets have been recorded to fit specific scenes on screen, but for the sake of the standalone album editing some of these into a much longer suite would be really welcome. Listeners would experience the music in a new light, in a relaxed setting, rather than being solely background music. Nevertheless, fitting music of which the composer should be proud.


Ty Power

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