Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






AEON FLUX (2005)

Music composed and produced by Graeme Revell.

15 Tracks (Playing Time = 48:50)

Orchestrations by Tim Simonec, Dominik Hauser, and Larry Kenton. Music programmed by Boris Elkis. Performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony conducted by Tim Simonec (uncredited on CD). Music edited by Ashley Revell. Mastered by Erik Labson.

Varese Sarabande 302 066 707 2

Rating: **1/2

Those who saw Karyn Kusama’s take on the live-action adaptation of this MTV cult favorite may still be trying to wipe it from their minds. (Ironically, one of the best tracks on the CD turns out to be “Destorying the Memories.”) It looked great but turned out to be this year’s Catwoman. The film was high on style and ideas but had little real substance. Perhaps it matched its roots better than some would admit. Enter into the fray Graeme Revell who has created musical soundscapes for many lesser live action-adventure comic book heroes. 2005 was a productive year for Revell who provided music for two of Robert Rodriguez’s projects, more notably and effectively in Sin City.

For this score he brings his blend of atmospheric and ambient sounds with orchestral writing for a score that sounds like a cross between Isham and Arnold, especially the latter’s score for Changing Lanes (2002). The piano motif that winds its way around different score material provides for some interest as the score unfolds. Otherwise the interesting electronic experiments here are the primary focus of the score.

Unlike Arnold, Revell’s scores do have a kind of drum machine effect but they always seem to go in a far more complex direction kicking their techno sounds up a notch. It is what Revell excels at and it is in full display here, most impressively in “ Torture Garden.” While this can be very effective on screen, it can make for a decidedly more difficult listen but at least Varese was willing to release the score for Revell’s fans who receive a fine amount of material here. As a listening experience though, it is a bit harder to sit through since things do not really connect from one track to the next. It feels like Revell has had to take a musical road that involves what amount to set pieces. To try and bring some coherence to what images are before us, we are given some motivic development. “The Kiss” is probably the track that does this the best and fortunately comes at a point in the disc where some tone-related sounds are needed to provide a break from the mostly percussive and non-tonal electronics. In “The Relical and Keeper” one can hear Revell’s way of layering various ideas into his dense musical textures. But they do not feel like they are really headed anywhere. One can still marvel though at the sheer inventiveness of the score and manipulation of electronic sounds that are Revell trademarks. Here though they often make for mickey-mouseing without any contexts to hold them together. As a demonstration of how far electronic scores have come, “Aeon Flux” is filled with a lot to recommend it. I just cannot see someone sitting back to make it through this generously filled disc. Tracks like “The Cherry Orchard” just seem to drag on forever, but it is more a sign of the overall length of the disc than that particular track coming towards the end.

Sin City is worth checking out to hear Revell’s style in relief with two other composers (Debney and Rodriguez). It is a good introduction to his style and helps clarify what great gifts he brings to a picture—if you are less appreciative of his efforts generally speaking. The CD booklet is filled with plenty of photo stills and a brief director’s note praising Revell. Most amusing is the shot of Theron doing the splits across the central insert with a staple in the middle of her head and a breast on each side of the crease.

This score is recommended to Revell completists, fans of the film, or those who revel in electronic science fiction scores.

--Steven A. Kennedy, 18 January 2006

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