Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Man behind the rock - Graeme Revell

Graeme Revell was one of the first movie composers I could name other than John Williams, mostly because of The Craft. I bought the soundtrack, not the score, and it included a track from the score and so his name was on the track listing. Around the same time I learnt he wrote the score for Spawn, another soundtrack I bought and listened to excessively. So the name stuck but until now I didn’t know much else about him.

Turns out he’s a kiwi who worked in Australia for a while – in a psychiatric hospital. His first film score was actually the Australian thriller Dead Calm, for which he won an AFI. Here's a selection from it, it features some operatic singing and even rhythmic breathing all with drum machine and electronic sounds which are quite evocative.

His music is often electronic and quite dark but he’s got some orchestral scores in there too. A quick look at his film credits shows mostly action films and horrors, which works with the darker side of things. A good example of all that is this music from Aeon Flux. Also see the opening music to - The Crow, Spawn and Tomb Raider

He certainly demonstrates great versatility and a willingness to experiment with instrumentation. The first piece I knew of his – Bells, Books and Candles from The Craft – is quite esoteric. Then there's the theme for Elektra as a character in Daredevil (as in not the theme to the movie Elektra) which is stripped back, no electronic stuff, just piano and acoustic guitar until synth and voice section comes in with a string section. It is utterly haunting and captivating.

As both those examples and the stuff from Dead Calm shows, the use of voice as instrument is something Revell is interested in and he took this further in the score for Red Planet which made extensive use of the voice of Emma Shapplin. The opening of the movie doesn't but here's a bit anyway because it's piano and strings and truly beautiful. I can't actually find a good example of the use of her voice under the score sadly but here's a song she sings for the movie - The Fifth Heaven.

So while he seems stuck in a particular oeuvre, his music is emotionally rich and explores many ways of making music itself. So Revell is well and truly worth checking out. The trick is most of his best work is hidden behind the rock soundtracks it works with.

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