Friday, October 14, 2011

Cirque du Soleil and Danny Elfman present Iris - Spectacular

The new, shitty cover.
I was NOT prepared for the brilliance of this soundtrack. I hoped on the bus and saw a link to the album, loaded it, and literally teared up. Enter a lamenting, entrancing and gorgeous piano introduction - listen as it builds, swelling with embellishments of a symphonic orchestra, into a flourishing waltz. All at once the piece is powerful and moving, yet subtle and magical. The new Iris soundtrack by Cirque du Soleil is just brilliant! Danny Elfman provides a style that is simply magical. It's incredible, a compelling and generous creation that draws upon ultra, neo-Romantic composing techniques combined with an eclectic mix of world influences all stamped with Elfman's incredible idiosyncratic pallet. There are beautiful piano melodies, exhilarating string arrangements and bold, brassy moments which render the album to be nothing short of phenomenal.

This is Elfman at his best. Working on this project for a solid two years, as opposed to the usual soundtrack deal of three months on a movie, the soundscape of this album is so varied and dynamic it's hard to comprehend the awesomeness on a first listen. A homage to the scores of movies, this soundtrack draws upon references and reinvents popular and stereotypical movie music styles. There are shout outs to jungle blockbusters like Indiana Jones and King Kong ('Snake Women', 'Patterns'), Gothic and magical scores such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands ('Silent Movie', 'The Twins'), the schmooze vibe tones of the trendy 20's ('Film Noir', 'Movie Studio'), and a tour-de-force homage to the syncopated beats of West Side Story ('Rooftops'). Despite their influences, all the tracks inherently original, and the experience is incredible. I'm actually running out of inventive words to use to describe it. The upbeat 'Kiriki' theme is a brilliant fusion of exhilarating rhymic strings with bows on fire in a distinctly circus and Gothic vibe, and 'Scarlett Balancing' is simply heartbreaking - the lyrics have the potential to be corny and pandering but in this case they come across as esoteric and nebulous combined with the luscious arrangement of the orchestra and the ethereal mixing of the choir.

The most coruscating moment on the album is the exquisite and flawless 'The Broom/Flying Scarlett' arrangement. Beginning with a reprise of the opening tune shared delicately between woodwinds and a solo violin while strings flourish softly behind, the piece is utterly stunning. It provokes this incredible but practically indescribable emotion that resembles something like yearning. It's an ephemeral and achingly beautiful piano waltz paired with this forlorn, angelic voice which fragments and harmonies itself, and slowly layers with chimes and glockenspiels which leads into the striking, driving and powerful orchestra accompaniment. The arrangement is sweeping. Fucking oath, I'm listening to this right now and I am covered in goosebumps -  it's just so good.

It's been way too long since a soundtrack, and a Cirque du Soleil one at that, has moved and resonated with me. It's been an absolute joy to discover this wonderful soundtrack. Danny Elfman has managed to bring his own style to Cirque du Soleil without alienating or messing up its typical world flavour, and the melodies and motifs he has crafted are some of the most beautiful I think I've ever heard in a soundtrack. Iris is simply stunning - to all Elfman fans, soundtrack aficionados, and music lovers, you will not regret listening to this. Check out the link below to get a listen to the album in full streaming. Simple worldclass quality - it's good to see that the Machine du Soleil can still produce magic with the right direction.

Cirque du Soleil's 'IRIS' is written by Danny Elfman, and will be available worldwide on November 22nd for $15 and can be pre-ordered on and the Cirque du Soleil Online Boutique. You can hear the entire album in full streaming at the Iris Official Website.

ETA (18/10/11): They've reverted to the new, shitty cover design. Gross. Way to cock up the CD again, Cirque.

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