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Soundtrack review: Chasing coral (Dan Romer & Saul Simon MacWilliams – 2017)


Soundtrack review: Chasing coral (Dan Romer & Saul Simon MacWilliams – 2017)


“Chasing Coral” is a 2017 documentary film. Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. The score was written by Dan Romer and Saul Simon MacWilliams. Dan Romer is one of those composers who immediately jump at the top of my priorities list.

Ocean adventures, the mystery of the waters, I imagine it’s one of the greatest pleasures and challengers for a composer to write the musical part of the journey. In my mind there is a certain sound I would expect to hear but I love to be surprised and the opening cue “An alien world” does that with a first half that makes me think of Jean Michel Jarre’s “Waiting for Cousteau”. I think it’s obvious from this first cue that two composers wrote the score as that ambient first half continues with a guitar based, grungier second half.

As the score progresses I need to adjust my expectations because it definitely isn’t the dreamy ambient affair I was expecting; there is ambient music of course but richer and denser and come to think of it maybe this is the better way to describe the depth of water in the coral reefs areas. “Anatomy of a coral” is the first cue from “Chasing coral” that hits the ambient sweet spot for me. I like the guitar simplicity in “Symbiosis”; it’s an almost fairy tale like melody.

Once I warm up to the score and it’s strangely glowing electronic motifs I am enjoying the listening experience. I am enjoying it just like I would any documentary score; it doesn’t have memorable cues or very emotional moments but it flows nicely and melodically and the music overall gives me a pleasant sensation; even if the corals themselves are sharp and it’s advised not to step on them or you might get very hurt the music has rounded corners and it’s very comfortable to experience. The score is also varied enough with electronic moments, ambient moments and short and sweet guitar motifs.

There are times, like the beginning of “The hardest drive” that fit perfectly with the mood that I am in when I am listening to this score, those rare and extremely “in the moment” cues that I might not enjoy as much another time but that just now feels like the perfect piece of music, the one single piece of music I needed to listen to make my life feel complete. “The hardest dive” is a beautiful and raw ambient piece that it alone makes listening to this score worthwile.

I enjoyed “Chasing Coral”; it gave me the ambient fix I needed while also sounding a bit differently that I was expecting. There were times when the cues sounded noisier that I would have liked but it was all compensated by the atmospheric pieces at the end. I can’t wait to experience it in context.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 33

Album excellence: 48%

Anatomy of a Coral
The Hardest Dive
Goodbye Lizard Island
The Last Reef

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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