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Africa by Sarah Class

Africa

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Africa (Soundtrack) by Sarah Class
Africa (Soundtrack) by Sarah Class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa (Soundtrack) by Sarah Class

Africa
Composed by Sarah Class
Silva America (2013)

Rating: 8/10

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“AFRICA is one of the most readily listenable albums of 2013 so far, and enthusiasts of the sort of colorful and expansive music FENTON has written for previous BBC productions will find much to like here. ”

Classy
Review by Edmund Meinerts

 

If there’s any category of media about which it could be said that they practically guarantee outstanding musical accompaniment, then it would be the nature documentary – especially those saddled with the esteemed name of David Attenborough. For film music fans, the other name that will immediately come to mind is that of GEORGE FENTON, who has produced a wealth of excellent music for such titles as DEEP BLUE and PLANET EARTH. The composer for 2013’s AFRICA, however, is SARAH CLASS, herself no stranger to Attenborough productions, and though her music doesn’t quite achieve the same sweeping memorability as FENTON’S, it is still a highly varied, impressive and very listenable album.

Because of the nature of the series (i.e. no overarching story), each cue is essentially a self-contained setpiece; there are recurring themes, two of which are introduced in the first two cues, but they aren’t particularly catchy or frequent. And that is the source of AFRICA’s greatest flaw; it just isn’t all that memorable. Most of the cues (take “Beauty of Aguillus Sands” (8) as an example) are very pleasant, appealing to listen to and with some interesting textures, instrumental solos and rhythms, but in the end most of them boil down to a nice chord progression rather than a distinct melody. Listening to this album leaves a generally positive overall feeling, and there are no unpleasant or even dull moments, but it just never really seems to leap out and grab you by the collar the way FENTON’s music, or even something like PANU AALTIO’s METSÄN TARINA, does. The orchestra does occasionally betray a slightly synthy low-budget sound, which could go some way towards explaining it.

That being said, a number of the setpieces do stand out, at least stylistically. The Spaghetti Western influence in “Giraffe vs. Giraffe” (7) is intriguing, though it’s more of a suspense cue than anything else. “By the Beach” (11) has a pretty rolling harp and piano rhythm to it and eventually builds to something quite sweeping, an album highlight (and reprised in “Shores of Respite” (23)). Unfortunately, it is immediately followed by some slightly irritating slapstick in “Bangweulu Swamp” (12). “Lions and Lizards Rock Café” (15) is another comic interlude that sounds almost like something out of a rom-com with its light percussion and pizzicato strings. The dramatic, vaguely Lisa Gerrard-like vocal in “Baptism of Fire” (16) is another interesting side trip, as is the stomping confrontational percussion in “Bull Elephant Fight” (18). “Rwenzori Mountains” (22) is another expansive highlight, and “River of Life” (26) brings things to a sweeping close with some elegant piano arpeggios underpinning the broad strings.

AFRICA is one of the most readily listenable albums of 2013 so far, and enthusiasts of the sort of colorful and expansive music FENTON has written for previous BBC productions will find much to like here. The elusive themes and frustrating inability to punch through the final barrier of memorability are issues that will affect some listeners more than others, but even so there is enough strong music on display here to warrant a recommendation.
 

Rating: 8/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Journey of the King Fish 3:05  ****
2 Rivers and Falls 2:01  ****
3 Lakes and Flamingos 2:22  ****
4 Buterfly Ball 3:28  ****
5 Force of the Whale 2:18  ****
6 Mystery Path 2:30  ****
7 Giraffe vs. Giraffe 2:34  ***
8 Beauty of Aguillus Sands 2:56  ****
9 Leopard Mirage 2:05  ***
10 Bats and Eagles 2:14  ****
11 By the Beach 3:19  *****
12 Bangweulu Swamp 1:50  ***
13 The Desert Victor 2:51  ****
14 Up in the Clouds 2:06  ****
15 Lions and Lizards Rock Café 3:26  ***
16 Baptism of Fire 2:41  ****
17 Fairy Circles 1:49  ****
18 Bull Elephant Fight 2:50  ****
19 Shimmer of the Flower Fields 1:34  ****
20 Drought 5:48  ****
21 Under the Stars 1:55  ****
22 Rwenzori Mountains 1:59  ****
23 Shores of Respite 2:16  ****
24 Draconsberg 1:43  ***
25 Turtles 3:39  ****
26 River of Life 2:34  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 68 minutes  

 

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