Monday, January 23, 2012

René Dupéré's 'Xotika' Soundtrack Review

The artwork cover of Holiday on Ice' Xotika (1998).
Xotika may have been released in the last decade but, much like the brilliance of the composer, apparently no-one took any notice, or gave a second thought to it. So, almost 14 years after the release, here are my thoughts on the soundtrack.

René Dupéré, composer of Xotika.
Written for Holiday on Ice's 1998 production, the unique score to Xotika was composed by René Dupéré for the figure skating visual extravaganza. Dupéré is dreadfully underrated, and although his music has been heard by tens of millions of people through his scores with Cirque du Soleil, the French Canadian composer is relatively unknown outside Canada. Xotika is written in a standard Dupéré style, with a melody that presents itself then is repeated while being layered with additional counter-punctual accompaniments through an exotic fusion of alien synths, classical and world instruments. Élise Velle, Dupéré's wife, is also the featured vocalist on the album, showcasing her phenomenal vocal range and her unique timbre. With a range of suites, stunning ballads, and soaring instrumentals, Xotika is an absolute delight and one of Dupéré's best scores.

There are so many fantastic pieces on this album. For the instruments, 'Windspirits' is an ingenious piece which utilizes a sampled windpipe and crafts a whimsical arrangement around it and 'Finale' (Fire/Eroe) is a whirlwind of strings which produces a thunderous climax. 'Snow', the best of the instrumentals, is a light and gorgeous piece which incorporates an entire string orchestra for waltz which evokes romance, yearning and searching. 'Passione' is utterly stunning, beginning as a subtle paean to evolve into an amalgam of striking brass with entrancing strings topped with Velle's vocals for a phenomenal tour-de-force.

The three suites on the album showcase a variety of shorter tunes that are bound together by themes (Earth, Dance, and Freedom) and each piece unite had a standout piece. For the most part they're upbeat and vibrant, and craft quite a visual through their varied textures on their corresponding theme.

Élise Velle, featured vocalist on Xotika. LOOKIN' CRAZY!
There are some moments on the album I can't really stand. 'Enero' just doesn't sit with me, its mixing and instrumentation isn't as fleshed out as the rest of the album and it's much too souped up, a similar thing happening with 'Echo'. Velle's vocals become somewhat androgynous and a little too headstrong for me to enjoy the melodies. The reprise 'Journey to the Heart' unfortunately features lyrics by Jim Corcoran, a talentless hack who spews the most inane lyrics that seem to lack any structure or rhyme. My pick for the most inappropriate line on this album is 'You're sleeping when I kiss you.' Thanks for that, Jim. I'll be sure to notify the police so they can put you on supervision, you perverse sexual offender.

Anyway, any mistake on the album is forgiven and forgotten once the middle of the album is reached. 'Femininity', which is unparalleled in terms of its complexity, melody and the emotions it evokes. Words can only describe so much, because 'Femininity' is ineffable. It is like a journey, a stunning, fantastical and lyrical journey. Velle's soaring vocals reach unbelievable heights while being backed by a medieval wood-nymph like instrumentation, evoked by flutes and harps in combination with the grandeur of a complete symphonic orchestra. The result is an indescribable joyous, magical feeling (if that's what you're thinking, yes). It's probably one of the best songs I've ever heard.

Fans of Dupéré's work with Cirque du Soleil or his signature sound, fans of Velle and cinematic soundtrack lovers will all enjoy this work. Xotika has some spectacular numbers and overall the album is a solid experience. It's a shame that more people don't know about the record and its a crime in the music world that people don't know of Dupéré in general.

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