Today we’re looking at a new soundtrack offering from Lorne Balfe, who has also helped to bring us the music for Lego Batman, the live action version of Ghost in the Shell, Churchill, Geostorm and Pacific Rim – Uprising.
Genius – Picasso is a series by Nation Geographic, looking over the life of the famous painter Pablo Picasso. A man who delved into a number of subjects over his life, whose style was varied and ever-evolving, from his “Blue Period” through Cubism and Neoclassicism he is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
How then, do you create a soundtrack that does justice to such a life? Lorne Balfe certainly gives it a hell of a try. 22 tracks in length and at a running time of an hour dead, the album rises and falls smoothly, frantic tracks interspersed with more slow, thoughtful pieces.
We begin with the beautiful, soaring refrain of “Stroke of Genius”, the opening track on this soundtrack album with its bubbling saxophone and light, cheerful strings before moving into the more slow and thoughtful “La Vie” and “A True Passion”. After this the Spanish guitar makes its first appearance in “Sketches” and from here we continue to step up the tempo with track 5 “A Very Big Canvas” which has a simply lovely bass line running through it along with our first touches of the synth. The Spanish guitar continues, joined this time by an accordion in the slightly quirky track “I Want to Paint You” before we again slow things down and the flowing strings return for “Picasso”.
Moving through track eight, we arrive at track nine “Affairs” which has that upbeat Spanish flavour front and center, the guitar now joined by clapping hands, quick and bright before suddenly turning somber towards the end of the track, leading once again into more thoughtful territory with “Distorted Portraits” which may relate to Picasso’s “Blue Period” following the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas.
We move swiftly from this into track 11 “Paint Like a Child” where we encounter an electric guitar for the first time, adding an air of dreamlike hope as Picasso emerges from his depression. From here we’ll pass over tracks 12-14 before the next standout track arrives – “Fearless Art” which combines guitar and strings into something ethereal and beautiful. Track 16 “Give Me a Museum” evokes thoughts of Spaghetti Westerns and the iconic sounds of Sergio Leone’s soundtracks as guitar and saxophone suddenly give way to something far more menacing, with discordant strings and ominous drums combining to warn of dark times ahead.
From track 17 we find track 18 “Masterpiece in Progress” with its swelling, triumphant brass and strings, evoking images of Picasso working frantically at his canvas, crafting something he knows is magnificent, a true Masterpiece at last.
Arriving at the closing tracks of the album we have the slow, simple “I Chose You”. A short track, combining strings and piano in a repeating refrain it walks the borderline between being thoughtful and melancholic. Track 21 is a reference to one of Picasso’s most famous works, “Guernica”, which was painted in response to the German bombing of this selfsame town during the Spanish Civil War. Stylistically the opening part of this track is reminiscent of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, layering on instruments little by little; increasingly urgent strings, a thrumming bass note, and a final electric guitar sting before we move into the triumphant final track “Genius – Picasso” where we can only imagine the man himself standing proud and accomplished, feted at last for all his years of toil in the service of his art.
As a standalone album, this works well and it is a pity to see that it has not received any sort of physical release, a sad fact of life in this increasing digital world. Exuberant and thoughtful, melancholy and hopeful in equal measure, this is a strong offering from Lorne Balfe and a great album in its own right.
Genius: Picasso: The Soundtrack is now available from Milan Records.