Monday, September 26, 2011

House of Dancing Water Soundtrack - Review

If I based reviews on cover art, this would get 5/5.
The House of Dancing Water soundtrack was sneakily released in June to little fanfare, and since no one has written a review yet I thought I might as well.

I'd been eagerly waiting for The House of Dancing Water soundtrack since the shows opening last September. Directed by Franco Dragone, the multi-million dollar water show is dubbed the "worlds most spectacular extravaganza", but I was most enthusiastic to see that Benoît Jutras was once again collaborating with a show. Jutras' masterful method of composing music usually includes beautiful piano melodies, synthesised strings, samplings and usually a random erhu somewhere. This is pretty much the case with The House of Dancing Water but the soundtrack falls short on some of his previous offerings.

For this soundtrack, Jutras also seems to have taken influence from every single show he has ever written for, and just thrown it into here. The sound drips of Le Reve, Borderline, Francesco Il Musical, and every single score contribution to Cirque du Soleil. For his new material, parallels can lead to some Hollywood composers including Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. This soundtrack is solid, but overall it's very generic background music, stamped with Jutras' typical minimalist vocals and piano, or heavily synthesised instruments that draw a lot of similarities between his previous work.

The pinnacle of the album is 'Swans', which is a vibrant and romantic paean of otherworldly beauty that swells between the simplicity of piano and guitar before culminating in a spine-tingling finale involving the choir and orchestra. 'Chandelier' subtly builds tension before developing into a harsh synthesised and rock tune with enough string arpeggios to make you dizzy. 'Boat' is a rhythmically driven mixture of dramatic male choir and epic string arraignments which gives a shout out to Pirates of the Caribbean, and the cheeky and flamboyant mixture of brass and pizzicato strings piece 'Fountain Dance' just screams Nightmare Before Christmas. 'Pyramids' is also worth a mention, the most original piece on the album, a waltz with a flurry of pizzicato strings which intersect each other and mix wonderfully with the male singer and his harmonies.

Beyond that the pieces are pretty boring, generic, and don't really develop at all. There seems to be a lot of Jutras' signature 'action' (read: chaotic and boring) music, which Jutras has taken the liberty of looping instruments endlessly before throwing in a motif here and there. Most of them ('Pagode', 'Flags', 'Journey', 'War') sound like inferior drafts that were thrown out from his other shows with similar scenes. Others are just stamped with his usual minimalist sound where nothing really happens ('Prisoners', 'Wabo' - by the way, who named these tracks? They're almost as bad as Sexy Web-). It leads you wanting to skip a significant portion of the album. The ending is a bizarre and surreal experience which basically sounds like it was ripped straight out of Nintendo's Mario Party.

My main issue with The House of Dancing Water is its main motif. The tune is beautiful, vibrant, and distinctly draws on Asian tonalities, and is memorable thanks to it making an appearance on half a dozen or more tracks in a variety of incarnations. However, the theme has already been included in three other Jutras albums, two of them commercially available. One is Robert Lepage's 2003 film The Far Side of the Moon, the other being the 2005 production Le Reve. I adore this melody, but its extremely disappointing that Jutras couldn't bother to come up with new material - the opening track 'Dancing Water' is actually a straight rip of 'Samurai' from the Le Reve album with some skittering percussion tacked on at the end - it's not even a new arrangement. Hopefully this is the last time it makes an appearance in any Jutras show.

Overall, I like the soundtrack but I don't love a huge amount of it. The score has its moments, most notably with the gorgeous 'Swans', and a few other pieces, but the whole album is just to blasé being generic background music, under the guise of Jutras' typical minimalist vocals and piano, or crazy chaotic work that I usually stay clear of when I listen to Jutras' work. The major disappointment here is the once again recycled main theme. If you're an avid Jutras fan, go ahead and make the purchase, you'll find things to like. But if you're not, I'd recommend you take a look at Le Reve or Quidam first so when you tackle this mess you can shift through and find the gold.

'The House of Dancing Water' soundtrack by Benoit Jutras was released June 10th, 2011. Australia can download the soundtrack from iTunes for $16.99.


Bonus! Here was our initial reaction to the Mario Party like finale piece.
[talking about the finale track 'In Joy' ]
(14:40:05) lunawaif: #16 is....ugh.
(14:40:55) lunawaif: Christmas music? cheesy entertainment themes? marching band jazz improv?
(14:42:37) sfogviper: FUCKING CHRIST WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!​!!!!!!!
(14:44:35) MSam: LOL
(14:45:50) sfogviper: NOW IT"S GONE TO THE CARRIBBEAN
(14:46:00) sfogviper: OMG IT DOES SOUND MARIO
(14:46:40) lunawaif: I rest my case...whatever the fuck it was.
(14:47:49) sfogviper: DELETED

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