Mark Snow used to be a fairly obscure composer of TV movies and other TV shows and then he did the X Files and suddenly he almost obtained the same cult status as the weirdo sci-fi show (which I still don't quite get...). Anyway, it was inevitable that a compilation of his work would be released at some point or other and so Sonic Images have come up with a quite decent collection. I must admit that there isn't much on this disc that I've heard of. We don't get many American TV movies in the UK and the ones I have seen I thought were pretty ghastly. Anyhow, Snow managed to at least get a bit of decent music out of them. The CD is grouped into various sections, but opens with a stand alone mix of music from La Femme Nikita which is actually very entertaining. Anything with the name club or clubbing attached to it usually fills me with dread, but in this case I would use the word funky in the same way that Jerry's techno funk theme for Gremlins is funky.
The Darkness and Desire section is filled with music that more often than not sounds like it should be coming from a soft core porn video (not that I'd know, obviously.... I'm, er guessing). Conundrum in particular sounds a little on the side of naff cliche. Seduced and Betrayed (who comes up with these titles?) starts off sounding somewhat like Jerry's music for Basic Instinct but rather goes the way of David Arnold's Tomorrow Never Dies music in the middle. Both were good in the first place, but does rather show a lack of originality (although I suspect the temp track would have certainly contained Basic Instinct based on the subject matter).
Love and Hope is much more pleasant and less intensely porn-like... hmmm, there's not something you read everyday. The Substitute Wife is actually a rather lovely cue for woodwind, strings and piano and could almost be a chamber piece. It vaguely reminded me of Kamen's score to Mr Holland's Opus (which is no bad thing) and is certainly genuinely warm and quite lovely. Not what I'd expect from the composer of the X-Files for sure. Oldest Confederate Widow is similarly lovely with a rather nice viola (I think) section which sounds beautiful and rich. The finale two tracks, the first of which is quite a good action cue and the slightly mysterious Arctic Night Walk round out what is probably the most successful section of the album. Perhaps my liking for slightly less psuedo-erotic material is to blame for this.
The third section is perhaps the least successful of the lot. I'd expect there to be a suite from the X-Files, but did it have to be this dull and 'atmospheric?' I am informed that the music for the show has become much more interesting recently, but sadly the choice was made to use earlier segments all carefully joining together to form a long suite. This is interestingly eerie for a while and then gets boring. Just errs too much on the side of mood and less on any kind of musical interest and that just doesn't work for me in the least I'm afraid. Still, the theme is a classic, almost Morricone-like in it's use of unusual sounds and effects, the whistling countered against the echoing backing, brilliantly conceived and executed. A better theme would be hard to compose.
The final bonus tracks are not really of much consequence it has to be said, but they are fun to have none the less. X-Files fans will probably buy this anyway since it's full of that eerie weirdness they probably like. As I said, the second section was very enjoyable and I'd certainly not be aversed to hearing more of that kind of thing even if it's not really what Snow is best at from a compositional point of view. Although it sounds strange, those tracks are perhaps the most 'normal' of the lot and his real talent lies in composing rather more interesting stuff from an ambience point of view, but I just don't find that interesting really. Pick it up by all means, it's probably surprising for reasons you wouldn't expect and I hope that they pick some more interesting music from the X-Files on the inevitable second volume.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad