Music

Krypton Season 1 (Pinar Toprak) – Score Review

Did the score rise higher than the series itself? Baz Greenland reviews...

This month see the release of composer Pinar Toprak’s score to Season One of Superman prequel TV series Krypton. The disc, consisting of 32 tracks, has been released by Varese Sarabande.

In a show devoted to the Superman mythos, there was scope for grandeur and heroism in the music and indeed she brings a lot of this to the score. But it also something of a mixed affair; she draws heavily on sci-fi influences to bring heavy synth and eerie chords into the music and for every soaring majestic track there are unfortunately those pieces that feel more suited to a bad 80’s sci-fi TV movie.

The opening track ‘Seeing Kandor For The First Time’ certainly has a majestic opening, mixed synth and strings, while ‘The Death of Val El’ is somewhat of a grim and forbidding affair; the heavy chords mixed with the majestic rise and ominous fall of strings is a common theme throughout the score. But then the album switches into a bizzare two minutes and forty seconds of electronica and weird synth beats with ‘Bar Fight’ and it’s follow-up ‘Kem’s Cantina’. The cliched sci-fi music felt rather on the nose in the episodes and feels even more apparent here in isolation.

After the fifth track ‘Keeping Secrets’ with its moody, atmospheric chords, choral motif and strained strings Toprak delivers something a bit more special with ‘Welcome To The Fortress’. The music to accompany the debut of the Fortress of Solitude on screen also gives the listener the first wonderful hint of John Williams’ classic Superman theme as a climax to the majestic, soaring orchestral piece. This continues with ‘Inside The Fortress’ was packed full of emotion and grandeur – the heavy synth and feathered strings add some real menace before the listener is dragged back to the weird demented synth electronica of ‘Kem’s Cantina 2.’

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This bizarre transition from one track to another continues with ‘Your Grandson’s Cape’ with a haunting slow and ominous piece that builds into thundering synth beat and heroic choral tones, with the majestic Superman theme returning before ‘A Strange Visitor’ delivers another weird electronic synth beat straight out of a bad 80s sci-fi movie. Track eleven ‘Fight With Honour’ is a haunting, ‘One Doesn’t Understand’ is much more emotional and ethereal piece. ‘Brainiac’ s Peeking Through Rhom’ has a darker, horror movie vibe with heavy industrial synth and grim percussion beat and then ‘Biology Lesson’ drags the listener back with something that wouldn’t feel out of place in a 90s platform game.

Fortunately, the second half of the soundtrack is stronger. ‘Kem Sweet Talks Ona’ is a gentle, ethereal, emotional piece with a mix is strings and flute, while ‘Street People’ stands out with an earthy tribal beat and fiddle, a western feel mixed with a more urban twist. ‘Seg Escapes’ with its racing dark, heavy industrial beats is one of several tracks to embrace  a gritty horror movie vibe. ‘Ona Says A Prayer’ is another gentle, emotional piece, both sad and uplifting with the heroic ruse of strings hinting at the core Krypton theme running throughout. While very short, ‘Seg In The Wastelands; is another soaring, epic track.

Toprak introduces haunting, melodic Lisa-Gerrard-style vocals in the latter pieces, starting with track twenty ‘Lyta Mediates.’ There is also great use of choir in the gothic and grandiose ‘A Test Of Sibling’ and the mournful, haunting ‘Let The Trial Begin.’ ‘Ona Gets Tested’ is moody and atmospheric, while ‘Kandorian Lullaby’ has is short and effective with its use of beautiful and distorted sounds. One of the most stand out tracks on the album is ‘Braniac’s Goon Squad’; – intense, strained strings and heavy, menacing chords builds in intensity, exploding with thundering synth beats into emotional soaring orchestra and dramatic percussion beat. With its racing strings building tension ‘You Look Magnificent’ is another intense and atmospheric piece, as is ‘Jayna Shoots The Voice’ with its thundering beat.

There are some lovely heroic motifs in ‘Meant To Save Superman’ and ‘Dev Awakes’, while ‘Sigil Means Hope’ is particularly gorgeous; emotional, gentle and heroic – the sublime rise and fall of the strings is lovely to listen to. This is balanced against the penultimate track ‘Failed attack’ with its racing beats and  choral tones. It is short but packed full of drama and tension with the dark, industrial synth beat brining the threat of Braniac to life. It’s a shame that the final track ‘Bye Bye Braniac’ doesn’t quite carry the same impact as those that precede it.

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At seven minutes, 43 seconds, this should be the triumphant climax to Toprak’s score and it certainly starts strong with a dark, gritty, eerie opening, with heavy chords and weird synth beats, building into a racing beat, thundering heavy synth and heroic string movements – the Superman theme soaring over the darkness is wonderful. But then it loses momentum – there is some tension and dark nightmarish motifs in the final score but it never reaches the dramatic crescendo you are hoping for.

There is some great work here in Pinar Toprak’s score for Krypton season one and it certainly feels stronger than the series itself. But it is too all over the place to truly triumphant, though the hints of John Williams’ Superman score were certainly appreciated while never feeling audacious. It was a solid album but needed a bit more punch to really impress.

Krypton Season 1: Official Television Soundtrack is now available from Varese Sarabande.

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