No Dawn.

For Men.
Sunday, October 26, 2003

Caveat: This got posted to the Usenet last night. I downloaded it. No track numbers; ten tracks in all, so some are missing. Jack Valenti and John Ashcroft, and you minions in Croatia - eat your collective hearts out. I'm going to buy this CD when it comes out in two weeks. And I wouldn't have done so without this download.

Okay, then. I got a warmer feeling for this CD a few weeks ago, when Don Davis posted an amusing comment on his site - to the extent that "no rock bands were apparently inspired by this motion picture". Well, thank the Architect. It was bad enough having to listen to most of Rob Dougan's tracks on the first two scores; the original Matrix CDs were overloaded with "inspired by" tracks that attracted a shitload of nerdy goths, without actually having anything to do with the films. How many times have I been forced to explain to people that no, Marilyn Manson did not, in fact, score the movie... (Actually, he did write something that serves as a score to Resident Evil, only adding to the confusion.)

Anyway. The Matrix movies are, and always have been, scored by Don Davis: a few other people, like Dougan and the Artist Now Known As Juno Reactor (Ben Watkins), have pitched in with score-type material, and there have been a few songs here and there. And that's it, people.

In Revolutions, more than ever.

Davis' own tracks retain the stylistic unity with what came before, from the "Main Title" which begins exactly like the one for Reloaded and then veers off into a place that is just a bit more moody this time. Hearing the music, you get a distinct feeling that there are some truly dramatic scenes in this film - finally: not just the long, talky exposition pieces, and the hyperbolic action scenes. That the Wachowskis have actually found a way to both show and tell at the same time. Which is the best thing that could have happened to the score. Instead of being forced to write uber-powerful action cues and dialogue scene filler, Davis gets to expand his spectrum to the level unheard in the series so far.

Or, in a word: The Matrix Revolutions is the very best score in the trilogy. Hands down.

Now, I find the first score enjoyable for its skilful employment of a non-melodic "rotating horn" motif - Davis is an eminently capable, classically-trained composer, much in the vein of Howard Shore or Eliot Goldenthal, so even when he's not writing melodically, his stuff is a joy to listen to - and the second one is even more accomplished, in part because of a strange but undeniable synergy Davis has achieved with Watkins. But it's not all peachy. Here's an example: their "Burly Brawl" cue is the most over-the-top piece of film music I've ever heard (and I've been collecting film scores as long as Lukas Kendall) - it can't fail to bring a grin to my face just by virtue of its continuous effort to top what was, from the outset, a thoroughly powerful composition. But I vastly preferred "Mona Lisa Overdrive", not because of its kinda-lame William Gibson tribute title, but since it took time to actually develop as a rounded orchestral/choral/electronica piece. It was cleaner in its construction and somehow much more effective.

This is the type of scoring Davis and Watkins (okay, Juno Reactor) achieve in their three tracks featured here.

Of them, the 9.08-long "Navras" is by far the obvious favorite - it starts like Davis' long-awaited answer to "Duel of the Fates" (ohh yeah), gets embellished with Watkins' complex beats, and then decides to go down a strange, fascinating route, with various tribal Indian chants and female vocals. It's kinda like Matrix meets Deep Forest - but it's not really all that new-agey. Now, people have been using Middle Eastern and Subcontinental sounds for non-related spiritual subjects for a while now - Peter Gabriel's Passion and the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan/Eddie Vedder's Dead Man Walking being the most obvious examples - but it feels fresh in this context, a much better choice than more of good ole Industrial Gothicisms. And the cue goes on to round itself in a most satisfactory manner. The choral bit actually develops into something of the Revolutions theme - being featured in "Neodammerung" and all that, which is cute, you know, since it does sound quite massive and inspirational for large crowds of people. Ah, after the fall of Communism, we have to rely on Hollywood to provide us with this kind of uplift...

Of the other two collaboration cues, "Tetsujin" goes toe-to-toe with "Teahouse" from the second film and wins hands-down - this is cool fight scene music which doesn't actually ape what Tan Dun usually does. And "The Train Man Cometh" is actually more Davis than Juno Reactor - with Watkins providing basically only the underlying pounding in what is mostly a suspenseful action cue - without a sub-motif of his own, such as the one in "Mona Lisa". Too bad, yeah, but you feel like the two are really collaborating this time around.

One source club music-type cue is featured in the selection that I have - "In My Head" by some outfit called Pale 3, which is a bit more interesting than Fluke's "Zion" the last time around, and kinda combines the Middle-Eastern flavor with Industrial Gothic stylings which had to be in here somewhere. So it fits in. I'm not going to go over the remaining score cue titles for fear of spoilage (even though I can't help but mention that both The Kid and Mifune get their own cues): but rest assured, Davis is hitting his zenith as a composer here, with cues that are more satisfactory than anything that came before. It was a tall order, but he has achieved it. Whatever the studio-plant advance reviews might be saying right now, I want to go on record as saying that after five months of calling the second film The Matrix Retarded, I'm actually looking forward to seeing the final film now. Almost exclusively because of this score.


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