Film scores

Soundtrack review: Gamba (Benjamin Wallfisch – 2015)

Gamba

A new Benjamin Wallfisch score is a reason to get excited no matter the genre of the movie. He’s had a stellar year so far and as soon as I saw “Gamba” in my inbox I put it on the high priority list. This time it’s an animation based on a beloved Japanese children’s book “The adventures of Gamba”. Gamba, a town mouse with a brave, adventurous spirit decides to go on an adventure to discover the ocean. On his way, he meets a troubled child mouse, Chuta. He says his family and other mice have been killed by a clan of weasels living on a nearby island. Chuta asks a group of ship mice, the bravest of their kind, for help, but when they find out that the villain behind this event is the terrifying weasel-leader Noroi, they give up on helping Chuta. However seeing the hopeless Chuta, Gamba promises him to save the island, his family and the other mice. I am not usually very fond of animation scores but I am excited about this one.

This is one of the cases when generic is good; “Gamba” starts with that unmistakable orchestral and playful animation score sound made popular in franchises like “Lion king” or “Ice age”. It’s that mix of action and comedy that gives the orchestra a chance to just fly freely and put the listener in a great mood. I don’t even care about the movie or story; I am just enjoying this rich and rewarding music. Benjamin Wallfisch wrote a score deep enough to work very well even for a live action film; a score which breaks free from the confines of the story it was written to and lets me as a listener just dream and imagine things. I listen to a magical cue like “Stronger together” and I am in that moment and in that state of mind where I can best appreciate a piece like this. The emotional level is just high enough to make me feel but not dramatic enough to make me hurt.

I love what the composer does in “The map” which brings clouds over the sunny skies of this score. The transition feels natural as is the one to “Sunrise”, one of the most beautiful cues from “Gamba”. I am getting more and more immersed in the music and I am enjoying every minute of it. There’s hope, adventure and life in this music and there were times when I felt as if I was back on Pandora, the blue world from “Avatar”.

“Gamba” is an ode to the innocence of exploration and to the exuberance of life. Listening to this score felt like a trip to the mountains on a beautiful autumn day where you just want to breath in and get drunk on every gasp of fresh air. Breathe in this score… let it take you over and just dream… the music is delightful and tender and I loved every high and every low, every motif which made me think of flying, every exciting action sequence and every moment when the music tapped me on the shoulder and told me to be quiet. Benjamin Wallfisch surely deserves to be in the running for composer of the year 2015. There’ve been very few adventure scores as good as “Gamba” this year.

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 52 / 62

Album excellence: 83%

Highlights:

Party Mice

Boss Fight

Stronger Together

The Map

Sunrise

Exploring The Island

You Can’t Defeat Noroi

Shioji

First Fight

The Plan

The Weasels Have Come

Goodbye

Island Battle

Hope

The Water Changes

Gamba Fights Noroi

Noroi Returns

Victory

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).

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment