Produced by: La-La Land Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Fifteen-year-old Helena works in a family-run circus. Many children her age dream of running away to join the circus, but Helena’s dreams involve having a real life away from the hustle and bustle and oddities that entail a circus life. After a fight with her parents involving her plans for the future, Helena’s mother becomes ill, leaving Helena convinced that she is somehow responsible for her mother’s misery. On the night of her mother’s surgery, Helena dreams of a world of fantasy and wonder. It is a world like no other, containing giants, Monkeybirds, sphinxes and other fantastical creatures. But this new world is not without it’s own problems and Helena soon learns that the Queen of Light has grown ill. There is only one way to save the kingdom and so, Helena embarks on a journey to find the mysterious MirrorMask, an object of remarkable power that can not only restore the queen’s health, but can also help Helena return home.
MirrorMask is the creation of science fiction / fantasy novelist Neil Gaiman and illustrator / designer Dave McKean in collaboration with The Jim Henson Company and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The MirrorMask Soundtrack was composed for La-La Records by saxophonist, bandleader, and composer Iain Ballamy. Having become a noted figure in the world of jazz, Ballamy has made a name for himself as creative and versatile performer and composer. MirrorMask is Ballamy’s first feature film score.
The opening tracks introduce the listener to a cacophony of sound that can only be described as vaudevillian. Many of the songs have that circus-like feel – calliope music turning up on numerous tracks throughout the album – much in tune with the premise of the film involving a circus performer who wants to be anything but. Quite a few of the tracks on the album are eerily frightening. Giants Orbitting is spooky and the tempo of the music is enough to get one’s heart racing with fear. Betrayed is as dark and forbidding as the title suggests. Ballamy deserves much credit in taking the Burt Bacaharach love song Close to You and turning it into the scariest song on the entire album. The eeriness of the singer’s voice combined with the background noises send chills up the listener’s spine and elicit feelings of pure panic, making the listener want to run away from the singer as fast as their legs can carry them. Mrs. Bagwell’s Rhumba is scary in another way – the vocals are simply horrible.
Toward the end of the album, the listener is given a sense of the plot coming together and resolutions being made. Discoveries / Fight or Flight? / Goodbye Evil Helena is a long and compelling musical composition. The beginning sequence sounds like a music box that is winding down toward its last notes. The composition then becomes harsh and spirited giving the listener a feeling that much action is taking place in this scene. Each sequence of the song culminates in a sound that can only be described as a warped record, winding down and picking up speed, then winding down again. The finale of this piece contains whispered words in the background that can barely be made out and send chills up the spine of anyone listening. The next track, My Waltz for Newk, may fit in perfectly with the film, but alone sounds like an utter confusion of instruments. The final track of the Mirrormask Soundtrack is a beautiful song with lyrics that make it perfectly suited for the underlying tale of the movie, If I Apologised: “If I apologized / It wouldn’t make it all unhappen / Wouldn’t make the darkness go away / If I apologized / It wouldn’t mean I was forgiven / Wouldn’t mean you wanted me to stay…”
The MirrorMask Soundtrack definitely suits the movie well. As heard in the background of the movie, it is most likely magical. However, as a soundtrack alone, there is so much going on in this CD...so much noise...that the listener’s ears will actually rejoice at the silence when the CD ends. This soundtrack is one that will probably appeal to the movie’s fans, but as a stand alone, will probably do much standing alone on the shelves. See the movie and listen to the soundtrack along with the visuals – it’s most certainly more entertaining.
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