Although music from Season 3 appeared on a 1999 composer promo, this new commercially released CD features almost an hour of diverse cues from Seasons 2 thru 4. For fans of the series, there's more music to relive favourite mood and action sequences, whereas for the unfamiliar, the meaty selections from Christophe Beck's scores is a really satisfying revisitation of classic horror, written with complete sincerity.
One of the show's winning attributes was the combination of humour, character, dialogue, and dramatic arcs, all of which gave Beck a lot from which to draw. The CD begins without any theme fanfare – “Massacre” just starts the disc with a bang – and you're already hooked into a battle sequence with stirring strings and plenty of brass. The synth emulations and more overt synth sounds are well blended, and slyly recall the cheeky monster films of the eighties where similarly iconic monsters battled each other as well as humans.
The CD's opening track shifts gears and ends on a lovely piano theme, with soft woodwinds and gentle, soothing harmonics – a fair sampling of how the CD is structured. In spite of drawing from three separate seasons, the album has a natural flow, turning towards moody stalking cues, portraits of mortal danger, and inner anguish, like the gentle “Remembering Jenny,” where Beck drives the soft lament using a gentle male vocal, and delicate woodwinds.
“Twice the Fool” is a giddy cue where a pizzicato violin rolls through a demented pattern, while clarinets noodle their own spiraling figures and the orchestra surges like a tidal pool. “Drink Me” makes grander use of orchestral sounds with a regal fugue leading into a delicate midsection using oboe and a repeated piano figure, whereas solo violin and background strings are arranged as a Medieval lament, with delicate harp in the follow-up cue “One Last Moment.”
Both tracks are among the smattering of brief cues, but the album's editing ensures a cohesive flow mimicking a singular episode (albeit with very diverse mood shifts). Beck's use of classical motifs evokes the infectious works of vintage Universal horror scores, but there's plenty of modernism that gives his Buffy material a sharp edge. A major highlight is “Haunted,” with its flittering brass emulations, fuzzily rendered flutes, and sharp string glissandi where Beck has a singular tones poke up from dense, sustained chords, and figuratively warps and electrifies each one before an eruptive orchestral finale.
Even if you're not a fan of the series, Beck's approach to horror is just as sharp and genre bending as the series' writing, and this CD from Rounder is hopefully the first of several anthological Buffy releases.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan