Friday, September 18, 2020

REVIEW: CHRIS FIELD - Beneath the Sun

Beneath The Sun
Tosca Road, Inc. (2020)

Describing instrumental music as “cinematic” is somewhat overused and sometimes undeserved (and I include myself as a critic who may do that at times). However, in the case of Chris Field’s second release, Beneath The Sun, it is not just a well-deserved term as to the music itself, but is underscored, if you delve into this composer/performer’s background. Field’s list of soundtrack and movie trailer credits includes such monster hits as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Tomorrowland, XXX, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Harry Potter, Hotel Rwanda, and more. His musical chops would be unassailable regardless whether Beneath The Sun was a recommendable recording, which it most definitely is if you enjoy, well, cinematic music.

Why do I refer to this as cinematic music? Well, obviously, the presence of the Northwest Sinfonia strings has a lot to do with it (and they sound gorgeous – and I mean sumptuously so) but it’s much more than that. Field’s compositions, which span a wide assortment of moods, styles, and tempos, can easily whisk the more imaginative listener away to any number of “imaginary” movies (trust me on this as I did my fair share of “creating films” while listening to the album during my many playings). 

There is a visual component to the main piano melodies as well as the string accompaniments that may instantly trigger images. Here’s an example: “Summerland”, with its funky opening segueing to lush strings and infectious semi-breakbeats, could easily be the backdrop for a drive through the mountains by, say, James Bond, on his way to a rendezvous, or maybe it’s the opening credits to a thriller laced with comedy elements (the tune blends adventure with a sly sense of humor).  

“Time Will Tell” features an opening piano line with midtempo beats, underlying strings, and a sensation of mystery, before soaring off on a powerful dramatic passage with thundering drums, visually escalating into a foray of action on the screen, then descending into a dreamy flute-driven piece (ethnic wind instruments on the album are played by Sandro Friedrich). The blend of melancholy and tenderness in “From The Heart” might accompany the bittersweet reunion of star-crossed lovers, or the returning soldier as he or she walks up the block to greet the family after being away. The album-closing “In Motion” more than lives up to its title with an energetic lead synth chord melody, trap kit drums, and strings that dial up the intensity nicely, yet the piece is actually friendly in mood and tone, conveying a sensation of rushing, but not in a panic, but more out of fun and good cheer.

The only piece I had a hard time connecting with was the title track, but this is purely a matter of personal taste, as the power guitar chords and prog-rock sounding keyboards seemed out of place (for me) amidst the other the tracks. The juxtaposition of the rock elements with the strings didn’t resonate with me for some reason (odd since I have loved prog rock/prog fusion since the 1970s). But, I enjoyed everything else on the album, with the standouts for me being the aforementioned “Time Will Tell, “Summerland,” and “From The Heart,” although if I am honest, the remaining seven songs all have a lot going for them.

After hearing Chris Field’s music, I suppose I will have to become more judicious using the term “cinematic” in my reviews; unless, of course, it’s this talented composer’s next album, which I hope will arrive sooner, rather than later.

Album available at Amazon, iTunes, and for streaming on Spotify, and Pandora. Links for all are here