Film scores

Soundtrack review: Slow west (Jed Kurzel – 2015)

“Slow west” is a western set in 19th century Colorado about a young man searching for the love of his life. This doesn’t sound like your typical western story, at least not the westerns I grew up with. I guess in this case western comes only from the temporal and geographical setting. It stars Michael Fassbender and he’s always enjoyable to watch. I musically met composer Jed Kurzel last year with his score for “Son of a gun”. I remember enjoying that minimalistic composition. The soundtrack album has a lot of vocal songs from a few bands besides the 24 minutes of score.

We meet our main character in “Jay’s theme”, a nice and innocent sounding string melody. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it so I guess the hero of this story was enjoying his quiet life. Things get quirky western in the “Let’s drift theme”. Strangely enough the sound makes sense to me. This cue might be better suited for a cartoon but I enjoy the authentic sound and the laid back atmosphere it brings. I hear traces of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ “The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford” in it, it’s the same kind of instrumentation. I don’t even notice when “The trading post” started because it sounds identical.

“The sweds” convinces me that this score can take a place right on the same porch as the one I mentioned earlier. The same uneasy strings that sound as if they are anticipating something, always on alert. I enjoy this sound for a western, I enjoy the violin, the cello and the plucked strings and I enjoy the strange waltz in “Rupert’s death”. I am familiar with this sound and I can understand it. I can never get tired of a score like this one. However “Slow west” stops at the quirky sound that made up like 40% of Jesse James. That score shined because of the emotional moments that are lacking here. I will see the movie and decide if the score fits better like that. As a standalone listen, it’s a good thing there are only 24 minutes because I can enjoy all of them without getting bored or frustrated. I can think of Jed Kurzel’s composition as one side of something incomplete. I enjoyed it, but it needed some emotion to become a memorable score. It maybe needed more of “Jay alone”.

One thing’s for sure: “Slow west” brings a sound that’s not very popular or used. You will remember this score with its strange waltzes and carnival like atmosphere. It’s a nice little shot of something else and you will not regret listening to it. I had fun and I will return to Jed Kurzel’s music when I will be in the mood for this sound. And the ending, “A new world (for us)” somehow sounds to me like the conclusion of someone telling this story by a camp fire many years later. It’s quite the interesting minute.

Cue rating: 80 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 9 / 24

Album excellence: 36%

Highlights:

Rupert’s Death

Jay Alone Theme

A new world (for us)

The Washing Line

 

About the author

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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