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Soundtrack review: Camp X-Ray (Jess Stroup, 2014)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Camp X-Ray (Jess Stroup, 2014)

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“Camp X-Ray” is a story of two people, on opposite sides of a war, struggling to find their way through the ethical quagmire of Guantanamo Bay. It’s a story about human connection, and the score was written by Jess Stroup. This is his first movie score, after having been part of the musical team for a few movies.
“Camp X-Ray” is a minimalist electronic score. If a composer manages to do it right, it’s a score I know I’ll enjoy. There’s something about ambient music that always gets to me. This score starts promising. The third cue “Is this your room?” is simple and very melodic, but sometimes I don’t need more from a cue to be entertained.
I found a few interesting tracks on this score. I know the composer used strange electronic sounds to achieve a sort of unique mood, a mood of isolation and loneliness. There’s a difference between generic music and an interesting background sound for a story, and Jess Stroup falls in the latter category. I especially liked “Departures” and the three parts of “Empty hallways”.
Being such a fan of ambient music and minimal synth scores, I do wish I would have heard more emotion in this one. The composer said that he tried specifically to have the music get out of the listener’s way, to avoid it influencing the listener / viewer in any way. He didn’t want to lead the viewer emotionally or impose a mood on him. He succeeded, but the downside of this is that as a standalone listen, it falls a little short. The listening experience is not rich enough to work on its own; I have to find a context for myself to listen to it. Having said that, the score for “Camp X-Ray” didn’t bore me, and I am sure it works very well in the context of the movie.
The atmosphere at Guantanamo Bay is lonely and uncomfortable. The score manages to support that. If you’re looking for a very minimal synthetic score to use as background for specific moments, “Camp X-Ray” will work fine.
My ratings:
Cue rating: 66 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 8 / 26
Album excellence: 32%
Cues to listen to:
Departure
Empty Hallways 1
Is That Your Room?
Morning Routines
Empty Hallways 3
 
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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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