07 July 2015
The Octopus Project - "Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter OST"
I really enjoy when non-traditional composers or bands get assigned to make a film score. The result isn't always perfect, but I usually end up really enjoying it. Whether it's Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scoring David Fincher's films or Daft Punk's fantastic score to the so-so TRON: Legacy, I find that when a director decides to use a slightly different source for the music in a movie, it tends to have some interesting results at the very least. From that standpoint, I really enjoyed this scoring effort from one of my favorite indie pop/electronica bands, Austin, TX's The Octopus Project. They scored the 2014 Sundance flick Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter from director and fellow Texan, David Zellner (which came out this year in limited release). This is the second one of Zellner's films that The Octopus Project scored, the other being 2012's Kid-Thing. The score won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score at Sundance, so I thought it would be worth doing a review on.
While The Octopus Project's Kumiko OST suffers from similar issues that other OST's suffer from that I'll get into in a bit, there are some really great moments that I love on here. The opening track "Into The Cave/Main Theme" starts with a very low hanging drone, then transitions into a lovely composition of what sounds like a mellotron and an acoustic guitar or a synthetic string sound. Regardless of what it technically is, I love how emotional this short piece is. "Library" is a very quiet synthetic organ piece; and while not particularly original in its chording, it still sounds pretty nice. "Bunzo" is a slow, pounding, dramatic song that is pretty minimal, but very punchy and vintage-sounding. I really like the vibe it has. Speaking of vintage, the 40-second "Michi" has a really awesome synth tone on it. "Airport" has an incredible atmosphere; the track features just 3 main layers, but does an incredible job at making each one as interesting and as full as it can be. The opening drone has an odd and bright vocal quality to it, while the melody being played on a very warbly synth sounds like something directly off an old electronic tape, and the short hits of bass help tie it all together perfectly. "Diner Walk" is one of the noiser and louder tracks to be sound on this soundtrack, featuring some distorted synths and guitars that sound pretty sweet."Hotel Cloak" has a very dramatic, almost spaghetti western feel to it, with it's tight but trebly guitars and slowly developing synths. "Wrong Idea" is a very atmospheric but short ambient piece, filled with low filtered arpeggiating synth sounds and gentle swells of outside synths or guitars, I'm not sure which. "Forest Morning" is filled with some lovely glockenspiel and background synthesizers, making for a nice little emotive composition. Speaking of emotive, the very loud track "A Discovery" feels almost euphoric with it's warm blast of buzzing synth drones layered on top of eachother. It sounds pretty incredible. And then the soundtrack ends off with a reprise of the main theme from the beginning, and that's also really nice to listen to. There's not much to distinguish it from the first version we've already heard, but it's a nice ending.
Now, here are my issues with the OST. Like most scores, there's some pieces that are clearly would work better in the context of the movie as opposed to listening to it by itself. And that's not something I'm saying The Octopus Project did badly. The tracks where this sort of thing happens are much more experimental or drone based, and they definitely don't sound too bad. But there are just a bit too many on here, and it makes the soundtrack feel a bit disjointed, and not as easy to listen to. And like I said, I don't fault the band on this at all. This is a film score, it's meant to go a long side the film and enhance the emotions on screen. And quite a few times, it also translates into interesting and beautiful songs, but sometimes it gets a little hard to listen to when you know it would work better being along side the film. That being said, I do find this to be a lot more complete and easier to listen to than a lot of OST's are. I do like it quite a bit, and I think it's worth a listen. And if you'd like a physical copy, our buddies over at Illuminated Paths released a limited run cassette edition of it that also includes a live record from the band playing back in 2007 (the embedded Bandcamp album is from Illuminated Paths, and you can buy a copy of the tape from there. Or, you can just go to this link here).