This is my first Mark Korven score and it will most certainly be filed in the "frightfully strange" area in my soundtrack collection. It also contains one of the most eerie and nail biting cues ever...one which I can barely stand to listen to. Pino Donaggio's cue "The Mannequins" from the film "Tourist Trap" originally held top honors of being one of the weirdest things I've ever heard in a score but I think I'll replace it with "Witch's Coven" (track 14) from this film. I'm usually listening to film scores all the time in my man cave at home and my wife has become accustomed to hearing all of the various music coming from behind the door over the years. This is the first time she busted in screaming for me to turn it down! It's that good...I mean bad...no scary....it's just weird and all that was just mentioned. This is definitely not a score for everyone. Your certainly not going to kick back and relax with this, nor probably play it in the background while doing homework or reading a book (well...I guess if you were reading a horror it would work). I'm still trying to figure out if it should even be called a score. Some parts are very score-like...but a large portion of it would probably best be considered ambient soundscape designed to maximize psychological horror. The effect of the "music" is very profound and unique indeed.
There really is only a handful of musicians contributing to the horror here. Composer Mark Korven plays the Tenor and Bass Nyckelharpa (a very interesting looking stringed instrument played with a bow and has wooden keys near the frets...had to look that one up), cello, and waterphone. Katherine Hill plays the Viol, Nyckelharpa, and provides vocals on "Standish" (track 16) and "Isle of Wight" (track 15). Ben Grossman plays the Hurdy Gurdy and the Jouhikko (another interesting stringed instrument originating from Finland). As you can see, there are a lot of unique and old world instrumentation that is used in this score. The Element Choir, directed by Christine Duncan, also provides the strange vocals heard throughout the soundtrack. The choir is amazing and I would love to see some footage from the rehearsals for this soundtrack....just because of the unique sounds they produce. I have the CD version of this release and I'd have to say that the recording is really amazing. For example, "The Goat & The Mayhem" (track 12) has these rattling stick sounds that come out of the speakers like they are falling on the floor of your room. There is another sound within this track that sounds like a percussion instrument (might be more sticks) that tap in such a way that it sounds like someone is running from a distance and into one speaker and out the other. This one track then crescendos into a massive dissonance of sound that is just wrenching in the end. There are some cues that are a bit more like....music. The opening cue entitled "What Went We" (love that title) uses some of the unique instrumentation and cello in a more melodic way. "Isle of Wight" (track 15), performed by Katherine Hill is very well done and has a very "old world" vibe to it, as well as, "Standish" (track 16). The composer uses some interesting percussion throughout the score as well. It's often disjointed and unsettling creating the feeling of tripping, falling, and up again rather than serving a function like keeping time or rhythm. You'll hear this in cues like "William and Tomasin" (track 10).
This score is certainly a strange one. If your a fan of Joseph Bishara's film scores, you might want to check out this one from Mark Korven as well. Both composers toss traditional film scores out the window and prefer to toy around with experimental techniques in conveying atmosphere, mood, and musical psychology upon their listeners. Who is Mark Korven anyway? Doing a little research and I found out that he did the music for "The Cube" (1997) but has mostly composed for documentaries, TV movies, and film shorts. I love his use of really old instrumentation in this film (some which I've never heard of). I haven't seen the film yet but I've heard good things about it. Very excited to see this film and see how the music...or soundscape...plays out in it.
The CD version of this soundtrack contains 16 tracks and runs about 39 minutes. It's released through Milan records and comes in a digipack but no insert. The inside cover contains musician and choir credits while the back cover has track listings. It's a very strange release indeed and certainly not for every film score fan. It's not something that I am going to pop into the CD player everyday by no means but I have some ideas for that "Witch's Coven" cue during the Halloween season! It's certainly a soundtrack to appreciate and I especially like hearing some of the unique instrumentation that you don't find traditionally in film music. I do think that Bishara fans might want to check this out however. Enjoy it, be puzzled by it, just be careful not to freak yourself out!