Monday, November 8, 2010

Serenada Schizophrana Review

Danny Elfman, that's who. In an unusual move for established film composers, Danny Elfman release of a solo album works out as a treat.

It's 4 years old now, and Serenada Schizophrana still hasn't got the recognition it deserves. It's a 6 (or 8 depending on the release) track album consisting of neat compositions by Danny himself, performed by none other than New York's American Composers Orchestra. It's a dark album, and miles away from his light and fast Burton pieces like The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The track listing is the first interesting thing to note; most of the track's names are instruments, which works well at giving you a rough idea of what you're about to hear. The album opens with Pianos, with a light piano building up with strings into a loud and alerting movement with a passage reminiscent of Psycho. With plenty of alternating tempo's and mood changing passages before closing with the same piano and strings of the intro, this is a real marathon of a track, clocking in at exactly 7 minutes.

What follows is Blue Strings, a slow and tense affair with plenty of strings. Lots of build up and a very anxious tone, this track also spells danger, intensity and alertness. Even longer than the previous this is a 10 minute affair.
The next track takes an unexpected turn; A Brass Thing starts with lots of, you guessed it, brass instruments going through the same catastrophic mood of the previous tracks, before dropping into a quirky waltz-like jazz passage midway. It's at this point you are reminded that this is Danny Elfman, and at his best.
The fourth track is nothing special, and is a sort of medley of the previous tracks, with the first taste of vocals near the end. Usual orchestrated vocals, nothing special.

The vocals continue though, into what is the most Elfman sounding track on the album. Track 5, 'I Forget' is light, with plenty of bells and xylophone sounding instruments overlapped with female vocals, in Spanish, with what sounds like something from Sleepy Hollow or even Beetlejuice. 
Sadly, the variations end here, and the last tracks are like extensions to the opening tracks, strings and piano's.

Nonetheless, the first 5 tracks are true masterpieces, and hold the album up alone. With most tracks between 5-10 minutes long, this 8 track joy manages a nice 45 minute run, and it being an Elfman album to stand alone and apart from his film compositions, this makes a nice addition to any collection of symphonic pieces, soundtracks, or even classical libraries.

A true joy to hear Elfman display his music talents without any external direction from a film director, this is a must buy, and I award it a....

A true modern symphonic masterpiece, it only misses a perfect 10 due to it's length and shortcomings in variation in it's last third of tracks. Buy this album, play it and treasure it, because there are not many like this around today.

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