AUDIO REVIEW: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) / COMPOSER: JOHN OTTMAN / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL / AVAILABLE: NOW
Listening to John Ottman's score for X-Men: Days of Future Past on vinyl LP allows one to digest it a bit more easily. Given the fact that the score is more than half as long as the film itself, there is a lot of music to get through. Dividing it up over two LPs lets the listener take a break from the music, which can be a bit overwhelming at times.
This is a bit of a changed opinion from when I first heard the score as a digital download. My complaint at the time was that the electronic and rock sounds came off as a bit tinny, but here on LP, the entirety of Ottman's score absolutely fills the room as it comes out of your speakers.
It's stirring and amazing, but at times it sounds like the intro to the coming attractions - as if Ottman is trying to sound like he's scoring an action movie, without ever really committing to it. It basically hits every cliché: big Carl Orff-like choruses on the original version of Time's Up, and an overwhelming reliance on electric guitar as a means to play up the action, rather than keeping it as an accent.
The quiet, uncomfortable electronic minimalistic touches on How Was She? make for a much more interesting sound, as does Rules of Time. Both tracks play with the standard orchestral ominous nature, with the metronomic ticking in the background of the latter emphasizing the tension. The way in which the tick gets steadily louder, until it almost overwhelms the brass at the end is magnificent.
The film version of Time's Up makes better use of the brass and chorus, using the two to play off one another in a way that makes it seem so much more urgent. It leads nicely into the pulse-pounding (and rhythmically intense) The Attack Begins, which does a wonderful job of echoing back to Ottman's theme for X2.
The little electronic flourishes in Hope (Xaviers's Theme) remind me a lot of Dan the Automator's work on the Gorillaz records. It's subdued, but gives a sense of time-hopping and genre-bending that allows the music to exist outside of a specific time – much like the film itself. It's much the same in Saigon / Logan Arrives, which uses standard Asian tropes to hint at where the action is, but uses them only as dressing on the workout between the brass section and some absolutely devastating electric guitar.
The guitar/orchestral fusion isn't always great – Springing Erik has some great moments of percussion, strings, and guitar, but while they work well on their own or in pairs, when all three come together, it feels altogether too much, and busily cheesy.
Overall, the impression of Ottman's score for X-Men: Days of Future Past leaves you happy that he's again paired with Singer for these films, but wishing that the composer had instead chosen one direction or another, rather than this hodgepodge of rock, electronic, and orchestral elements. When everything works, it's stirring and exciting, but when it doesn't quite come together, Ottman's score seems like he's going through the motions.
Music on Vinyl has packaged this in a glorious gatefold sleeve – the artwork is lovely, the vinyl sounds absolutely fantastic, with nary a hiss nor pop to be found. It's fully rounded, and while I don't particularly care for the grade of cardboard Music on Vinyl has a tendency to use for its jackets, the insert that comes with every release, spelling out who played what for the entire orchestra is always a wonderful addition.
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