A while ago I reviewed The Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials (Series Two). Before I start on the music for His Dark Materials Series Two Original Television Soundtrack a huge criticism has to be that there have been two albums released at all.
There was just over half an hour on the first, which isn’t anywhere near long enough, and the second runs at a far more portly 88 minutes. It is shocking to me that they weren’t put out together.
As a double disc set this would be an exceptionally good album, and one that could have been presented beautifully. This feels like either a missed opportunity or a cynical cash grab.
This album is very different from the first; it’s the real meat and potatoes. Moving away from the thematic, broad strokes, world-building music of Anthology, here we find the score that truly brings the series together.
My big criticism of the previous album was that it played it too safe. When composing sweeping scores for fantasy worlds we hope for something hugely innovative; not to be thinking ‘oh, that reminds me of…’. This is not a problem faced here. Now it’s mood music meant to drive, highlight, and have us empathise with the on-screen experience. Lorne Balfe does all of the above and more with aplomb. Without the need of having to conjure up a world in our mind’s eye and instead simply aiming at sparking emotions and gut reactions, this album is far more successful.
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Those 88 minutes break down to 35 different tracks, so – without delving into them individually – you should feel reassured that this is music beautifully orchestrated and designed to leave you breathless with excitement, jumping in surprise, and cheering with success.
This is not background music to play while reading the books. This is a soundtrack that demands your attention. Those of you familiar with the series will recognise much of the music, and will no doubt see scenes as you listen. But even in the unlikely event of you not being a fan, rest assured that here you will find a bewitching album that may well have you interested in exploring the rest of the universe.
His Dark Materials Series Two Original Television Soundtrack is out now.