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Soundtrack review: Arcadia (Adrian Utley & Will Gregory – 2018)

Documentary

Soundtrack review: Arcadia (Adrian Utley & Will Gregory – 2018)

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“Arcadia” is the new film from BAFTA award-winning Scottish director Paul Wright, with the film focused around looking into our complex connection to the land we live in. Combing through 100 film clips from the last 100 years, lifted from the BFI National Archive and regional archives around the UK, the film explores the changing seasons and the ways in which they affect our relationship with the landscapes we find ourselves in. From the earliest days of movie-making to the present day, through rare and unseen footage, we see the changing relationship the British have with their land. From images of local celebrations and festivals to agricultural practices through the seasons, village life and lost crafts. The score was written by Adrian Utley & Will Gregory.

Nature documentaries usually have good scores and since this is related to Scotland I am hoping for some ethnic Celtic inserts in the score. The Celtic sound is bar none my favourite traditional sound and I’ve been listening to Scottish and Irish musicians for decades. So when “Lowlands” opens with the wonderful voice of Anne Briggs singing, nostalgia starts to cover me slowly and take me to those misty lands full of green plains and longing. “It was green and wet” she sings and that’s exactly the place this music evokes for me.

The next cue “Amnesia” changes the tone completely as it goes for reflective minimalism, with sparse piano sounds that break the silence. I can’t complain since I am very much into minimalistic music and this piece has a Brian Eno like quality to it. I see that Adrian Utley & Will Gregory decided to express evolution also in their music as they vary the sound with every new cue. “Into the wild” is retro electronic, simple and arcade game like. As the music goes on and the score develops I realise that the composer didn’t write music necessarily for various sceneries but also for what happens in those scenes, on those landscapes. This is why we get electronic music, traditional music and minimalistic music all in one. There’s even classic rock in “Russel and Victor” and weird sound effects and nature sounds in “Blood in the soil”.

The score itself is a fascinating musical journey and a successful experiment by the two composers. You are in for a few surprises with this one and that opening traditional cue was deceitful because this is, in essence, and electronic experimental score. I didn’t mind, I like experiments and composers who aren’t afraid to share their ideas with us. They went for visceral instead of emotional and it’s an interesting standalone listening experience.

Cue rating: 67 / 100

Highlights: Lowlands

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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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