Director John Chester (Jockeys, Bait Car) brings us The Biggest Little Farm: a documentary that tells the story of John himself, and his wife Molly, as they decide to move out of LA and into the wilds, attempting to build a farm that will be eco-friendly and in tune with nature. The documentary covers a whopping eight years of struggle as the Chesters attempt to make their dream a reality, and covers their successes as well as their failures.
Scoring duties fell to Jeff Beal, who is no stranger to projects like this, having scored the remake of House of Cards, the videogame Lichdom: Battlemage and other well known documentaries such as Blackfish. As this documentary does not currently have a UK release date, the score will be looked at in isolation as a music album, as no comment can be made on how it works in context.
There are a number of repeating motifs and musical turns of phrase throughout the 42 track album, such as in ‘A Great Idea’, ‘An Army of Farmers’ and all the tracks relating to the Chesters’ pig, Emma: ‘Meet Emma’, ‘Emma’s Brood’, ‘Emma’s New Piglets’, etc. The music feels almost like it was written for a TV series – perhaps no great surprise given the bulk of work in Jeff Beal’s back catalogue has been on TV.
The score runs the gamut of emotions, starting off with the sombre, skittering strings of ‘Wild Fire/Title Sequence’ and almost immediately shifs to the light-hearted, bubbly second track ‘Molly’s Dream’, which sets the tone for most of the rest of this soundtrack. Most of the music contained here could be described as upbeat and country-themed, with plenty of strings and piano in evidence throughout the 72 minute running time.
Covering, as it does, a period of eight years, there are both highs and lows which are reflected in the music. From the triumphant, fast paced highs of ‘The Animals Arrive’ to the low key, slow strings and wind of ‘Emma’s Fever’, this score carries the listener along the same journey taken by the Chesters. As there are so many tracks on offer here, we’ll pick out some of the more interesting ones.
‘Ducks vs. Snails’ is a quirky little number that starts off with a sharp roll of martial-themed drums and horns before manifesting into the more bouncy theme that permeates the score. It’s a short track, but especially memorable for that opening.
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At the other end of the spectrum is the altogether more bleak and near-monotone ‘Death of Idealism”. A sparse little number, it leads smoothly into the similarly downbeat ‘Drought and Wind’ and both tracks certainly live up to their titles, the second track conjuring up images of bleak, sun-blasted prairies populated only by dust and tumbleweeds.
This is another album full of what could be described as ambient music, or mood music. A good choice to listen to when working, or when you’re looking for something uplifting. The final track, ‘It’s Perfect’, is both thoughtful and hopeful, neither triumphant nor melancholy – a fitting ending to both the story of the documentary and the soundtrack’s musical journey.
That said, is it worth picking up, worth spending money on? For me, this would be a sale purchase, a bargain bin one. One to stream on your service of choice, but difficult to whole-heartedly recommend unless you happen to be a serious fan of Jeff Beal’s work.