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Soundtrack review: Abulele (Frank Ilfman – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Abulele (Frank Ilfman – 2016)


“Abulele” is a 2015 fantasy film. Adam, who is 10 years old meets Abulele, an ancient, huge, friendly and invisible monster. When a government Special Forces unit arrives to capture Abulele, Adam has to put his past behind, in order to save his friend, and learn when you really love someone, you’re never alone. Frank Ilfman wrote the score. At first glance I like it that there are a lot of long cues. I think a fantasy film needs long pieces so the flow wouldn’t be broken.

I usually wait for the music to develop before writing my first thoughts about it; I usually let the music sink in and get familiar with me and me with her before breaking the silence; but sometimes a score welcomes me with a cue like “Prologue”, a short opening so beautiful that it moves me and makes me want to mention it. John Williams would be proud to write a cue like this one, sweeping and dreamy. I rush to mention it because it might not set the tone for the entire score and I don’t want to lose the feeling it gave me.

Indeed the quiet opening was an island in a stormy sea but I don’t mind. A score like this makes me realize that there aren’t enough good, old fashioned and exciting adventure fantasy scores anymore. “Abulele” comes from another time, from another place and blows the minimalistic trend of the past couple of years out of the park. The music is fun and playful, explosive and wondering, quiet when it needs to tell a story and loud when the adventure enfolds.

“Abulele” has everything you would expect from a fantasy score; it covers the entire beautiful rainbow of emotions. I get all warm and fuzzy inside when I hear the gorgeous romantic motifs sprinkled throughout the albums, sections that just take my break away midway through a long cue like “We will hunt you down” or full themes like “Adam’s theme”. I like the fairy tale sound of “It will come and catch you” or, rather, the construction of the cue which makes me think of an evening with my baby girl where I tuck her in and tell her a story; rather than only tell the adventurous bedtime story, this cue also includes the preparation for telling the story and the sweet moments together between the one who’s telling it and the one who hears it.

What works the most in “Abulele” is the passion that Frank Ilfman put into writing this music. There are no boundaries to imagination and every cue or motif has heart in it. Nothing is left to chance or written as filler; each piece tells its own story and the music feels very personal to the composer. And when a score is written like this, honest and from the heart, it brings me a lot of joy. Give it a listen and you won’t regret it.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 67

Album excellence: 62%



The Creature

A Story About A Monster

It Will Come And Catch You

Adam’s Theme

We will hunt it down

Returning home

End titles

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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