Camp X-Ray

Musical Score By: Jess Stroup

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                In the dramatic film, Camp X-Ray, Kristen Stewart is Amy Cole an Army Private 1st Class assigned as a guard at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay.  She expected this assignment to be black and white - guard the detainees and keep her distance.  But she has discovered that some of her squadmates are just as aggressive as the jihadists they are guarding.  Distressed by the atrocities she sees on both sides of the camp, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with one of its detainees (Peyman Moaadi).

                The music of Camp X-Ray was created by American composer Jess Stroup who grew up in a musical family.  Having studied piano, classical guitar and double bass, he eventually learned how to play banjo, mandolin, Turkish saz, dobro and the musical saw.  While pursuing a degree in music technology at NYU, Jess Stroup developed an interest in electronic music and synthesis and went on to publish two electronic music albums under the name Reed RothchildCamp X-Ray represents the first feature film Stroup has composed score for, but not his last.  He has recently composed music for the documentary Hotline and another full length feature entitled Cardboard Boxer.

                The emotions in Camp X-Ray run high - people are on edge and prison life is one that is cold, lonely and often dangerous.  Jess Stroup sought to express this emotion through his musical score.  According to Stroup, "When director Peter Sattler approached me about creating the score for his Guantanamo Bay drama, Camp X-Ray, he knew exactly what he wanted: a minimal score using electronic sounds.  He encouraged me to look for unusual electronic sounds, sounds that he would hear and have no idea what they were or how they were made.  Sounds that maybe felt a little cold or lonely, to emphasize the loneliness and unreality of prison life."

                Thus, the score is entirely electronic with a sense of underlying unease achieved through synthesized sound.  Empty Hallways offers up that first taste of the sad loneliness that lives within those prison walls for both the detainees and some of the individuals guarding them.  The Cocktail is, by far, the spookiest of tracks.  Featuring a wind-like background sound, a growing dread pervades the entire track, heightened by what sounds like a beating heart in the background.

                The entire Camp X-Ray Soundtrack makes for an interesting listen, but you will never really glean what the film is about from listening to the soundtrack alone.  There are no hints of a military sound to clue you in, no real idea as to the locale.  Yet, you still get that sense of loneliness and despair that the composer wanted to get across.  This album may not tell the story of the film, but it works to express the feelings behind the visuals and makes for an interesting listen for anyone who has never seen the film.  I'm quite interested to see what else Stroup has for movie score fans in the future.


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