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They Grey by Marc Streitenfeld

They Grey

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They Grey (Soundtrack) by Marc Streitenfeld
They Grey (Soundtrack) by Marc Streitenfeld
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They Grey (Soundtrack) by Marc Streitenfeld

They Grey
Composed by Marc Streitenfeld
Lakeshore Records (2012)

Rating: 5/10

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“THE GREY, truth be told, is not a music-friendly film. With gritty realism the intent throughout, CARNAHAN and STREITENFELD were content to leave much of the film unscored,...Thus, the 35-minute album presented here likely represents the extent of STREITENFELD’s minimal contribution – minimal in both quantity and approach.”

Prowling Rather Than Howling
Review by Edmund Meinerts

The first film to really gain much in the way of traction in 2012 is JOE CARNAHAN’s thriller THE GREY, in which a plane crash in Alaska leaves the few survivors surrounded by hungry grey wolves. Professional wolf hunter LIAM NEESON must lead the band’s defense against the predators, but grapples with his own thoughts of suicide. The surprisingly philosophical contrast between individual and group survival that the film explores has garnered significant critical praise, despite an ambiguous ending that was unfortunately spoiled by many of the film’s trailers.

The film is produced by RIDLEY SCOTT, and it is therefore hardly a surprise to see his regular composer of the last few years, MARC STREITENFELD, along for the ride. THE GREY, truth be told, is not a music-friendly film. With gritty realism the intent throughout, CARNAHAN and STREITENFELD were content to leave much of the film unscored, supported mainly by the howling Alaskan wind (at least, let’s hope it was only the wind…) and other sound effects. Thus, the 35-minute album presented here likely represents the extent of STREITENFELD’s minimal contribution – minimal in both quantity and approach.

THE GREY follows a fairly straightforward structure, moving from soft, understated character underscore at the beginning through soft, understated suspense in the midsection before a soft, understated but redemptive finale. All in all, it’s not a score that calls attention to itself at any given moment. STREITENFELD introduces his sparse primary theme in “Writing the Letter” (1) on tentative strings, its hesitant two-note phrases reflecting the uncertainty of NEESON’s central character. The plucked secondary motif in “Suicide” (2) is even more elusive. “You Are Gonna Die” (3) offers a hint of warmth, with an emotional cello solo of the secondary theme in its second half. Even so, it’s just that – a hint.

The suspenseful, largely dissonant middle portion of the album doesn’t really offer much in the way of a satisfying listening experience, despite the employment of some interesting sound effects and percussive textures. A resounding bass saxophone belts out a low-pitched, single-note growl from time to time, ostensibly to represent the wolves’ growls. This interesting technique truly lets rip in the atonal “Lagging Behind” (10), where it actually bears some resemblance to JERRY GOLDSMITH’s famed “blaster beam” effect from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. Interestingly, hints of this primordially deep sound can be heard beneath the main theme at times, as in “Last Walk” (13) – representative, perhaps, of the conflict between man and wolf. A brief percussion-only sequence in the second half of “Running from Wolves” (11) is the sole outright action cue of the score. As relief from all this tension, the primary and secondary themes receive fleeting reprises in “Wife Memory” (8) and “Life and Death” (9), respectively.

The score finally reaches a modicum of redemption in the final three cues. The “Memorial” (14) cue finally brings a bit of depth to the hitherto-fragile string section, developing the score’s fragmented identities into a slightly more dramatic form. “Alpha” (15) is undoubtedly the score’s highlight, STREITENFELD introducing a third theme on piano that finally brings some true warmth to the otherwise chilly score. A bit of the composer’s Remote Control heritage bleeds through in its slow crescendo of straightforward chord progressions, but this pleasantly harmonic cue is a godsend compared to the stark surrounding material. Best of all, the bass saxophone continues to growl in the lower registers as a reminder of the wolves’ constant presence. “Into the Fray” (16) concludes the score with a more hesitant rendition of this redemptive theme that closes on an unresolved note.

All in all, THE GREY is a mixed bag. Clearly, STREITENFELD put quite a bit of thought into this score, with intelligent moves such as the menacing bass saxophones proving very effectively frightening. Its bleak demeanor perfectly matches the devastated, freezing landscapes of Alaska. In the film, it is worthy of at least a six out of ten. On album, however, THE GREY doesn’t fare quite as well. It is understated to such a degree that an immediate emotional engagement becomes nearly impossible outside of the penultimate cue. A lot of the suspense material in the midsection is downright unpleasant. The brief running time ensures that the album doesn’t drag, fortunately, but it’s still a rather depressing four-out-of-ten listening experience. Therefore, the only logical overall rating must reside somewhere in between.


 

Rating: 5/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Writing the Letter 2:01  ***
2 Suicide 1:45  ***
3 You Are Gonna Die 3:15  ***
4 Walking 1:45  **
5 Eyes Glowing 1:26  **
6 The Morning After 2:58  **
7 Collecting Wallets 1:54  **
8 Wife Memory 1:09  ***
9 Life and Death 2:59  ***
10 Lagging Behind 1:53  **
11 Running from Wolves 1:46  **
12 Daughter Appears 2:13  ***
13 Last Walk 2:34  **
14 Memorial 3:42  ****
15 Alpha 2:16  ****
16 Into the Fray 1:50  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 35 minutes  

 

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