Daniel (Monster Moves) Pemberton’s experience with a fairly diverse spectrum of media – documentaries, fiction films, and now videogames – is pretty evident in Little BIG Music: Musical Oddities From And Inspired By LittleBigPlanet, music from the PS3 videogame available from iTunes, wherein Pemberton has written short and pretty addictive themes that combine ideas from a wide range of idioms and styles.
The cues average around 2-3 mins. and don’t always develop into meaty themes, but Pemberton has a lot of fun playing with material from a very eclectic and broad musical palette in cues like “Rock the Jungle.” That track is locked to a shuffling rock beat, and although a fat bass provides some rhythmic grooving, the most interesting aspects are the blending of hand claps, electronic ticking, echoing drums, and what sounds like a blurry digitization of a wooden flute and didgeridoo.
“Flirty Cha Cha,” for example, fuses a cha cha rhythm with hip hop backbeats, cheesy keyboard jingles, and buttery flute trills recalling the comedic music from vintage Flinstones cartoons. “Leaders of Men,” on the other hand, blends hip-hop with ska, although there’s a shift from a marching snare drum to solo jazz trumpet, and squeaky toy sounds counterbalanced by a short phrase on muted trumpet.
Jazz is also pretty dominant in the funky “Get Your Boots On,” which has an up tempo Barryesque feel due to the muted trumpets and pizzicato electric pop-rock guitar. The piece is driven by a hip-hop march, with turntable wipes, and high-tension electric bass that often ends phrases with saturated electronic reverb.
The album also contains some very low-key music, of which a highlight is the pensive “My Advice – Part 1,” which really evokes a bit of John Barry’s Beat Girl – not the pop-jazz cues, but that score’s subdued cuts with minimal instruments used to convey an extended moment of reflection. Pemberton anchors his cue around a cycling ostinato, and slowly wades through tonal statements from lamenting woodwinds, metal vibes and xylophone. A clarinet provides a central melodic rope off which Pemberton hangs alternating chords for his short tone statements.
“Clouds Observer” is also quite memorable for the slow-building exotica that Pemberton crafts using Parisian-styled accordion and softly rendered keyboards and bass tones, whereas “Tricky Business” is more suspenseful for the echoplexed organ tones counter-pointed by piano chords and light percussion.
Fans of sixties and seventies popular music will decidedly get a kick from the way Pemberton keeps playing with genre samples. “On the Waves,” for example, isn’t rooted in American surfing music, but the organ-heavy instrumental pop ditties of the sixties, as well as British music library cuts written by forgotten talents like Alan Hawksworth (The Penthouse).
Pemberton’s album – housing a decent collage of 18 tracks - is impressive for drawing from many creative streams, but its real glimmer comes from nods to sounds and stylistic flourishes prevalent in vintage British jazz-lounge music of the sixties and early seventies.
To read an interview with the composer, click HERE.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan