Milano Odia marks a distinct shift from Ennio Morricone's heavy usage of weird dissonance, pureed jazz elements, and experimental, free-form sonics utilized in the composer's numerous scores for gialli, crime, and political dramas.
Perhaps tired of combining harsh and soothing music during his busiest years – as evidenced in several of DigitMovies' Morricone CDs of the early seventies – the composer began to refocus all of the unique sounds that sometimes became the showcase of singular cues, and assemble them into tightly structured narratives, sometimes set to addictive rhythms and great melodic hooks.
Milano's really a more broad and thematically varied extension of Revolver (1973), a prior crime score consisting of two main themes mostly replayed verbatim. During the course of a 111 min. film, the repetition works, but on CD, it proved sometimes exhausting – a problem less severe in DigitMovies' Milano CD in spite of the addition of several alternate cues.
Like Revolver, the opening cue for Milano, “Papimento,” is an epic suite of theme and motifs, sometimes stepping too close to the chord changes and phrases for piano that dominate the former score, but equally engrossing for its propulsive structure, and some tense pauses that blend uneasy chords, sharp, piercing notes, and an ongoing ticking motif that perfectly suits the film's story of an intense kidnapping by an unhinged sleazebag biting off more than he can chew.
In his giallo scores, the sound of a jazzy trumpet was often pinched to create skittering, screeching noises, deliberately animalistic, and enhancing moments of near-death or the terror of being chased by a gloved killer; in Milano, Morricone uses the instrument and jazz idiom to offset his eerie sustained chords, adding a nice dose of melodic sleaze, and soothing, slowly rendered tones.
Around the midsection of the opening cue, insect-like strings drag shrill notes across the stereo spectrum, and are peppered with sharp piano riffs and muted brass - a mélange of unique instruments replaying theme fragments before a heavy, close-miked bass reintroduces the main ticking rhythm for another suspense chunk of score.
“Patus Omicida” introduces the score's secondary theme, previously heard in the jazzy trumpet quote in the first cue, via a soft rock/lounge jazz orchestra with luxurious sax and trumpet, and a heavy drum kit.
Morricone disrupts “Raptus” with periodic tempo breaks and short quotes of the suspenseful ostinato dominant in the prior cue, and with each slow return to the main melody he regroups the orchestra with greater intensity, constantly adding heavier bass, a more tragic piano, and wailing brass to capture the position of the film's helpless victim, and her tormented family.
Two groups of low brass chime similar harmonic passages, and due to a temporal offset, they form a dim, grim herald to the kidnapper. Morricone then brings back solo tenor sax and later trumpet for the melodic lines, and has three separate threads beautifully coalescing into a big band ode. It's gorgeous, sleazy, and at over 8 mins., a prime example of the composer's remarkable approach to crafting an epic and dramatically functional piece from an extremely basic melody.
“I Conti Ora Tornano” takes the same melody and reconfigures it for solo oboe, a gentle strumming guitar, and low, barely perceptible string accompaniment before a more orchestral pop version fills the stereo spectrum with flutes up front with the melody. The orchestrations are clean and lean, and provide a significant tonal shift from the sleaze of “Rartus” to a sudden emphasis on unsteady tenderness – but a remote attempt at tenderness, as signified by the cue's careful design in staying away from melodrama, and always hinting that the kidnapping always has the chance of becoming even more tragic by never developing into a fuller theme rendition, nor closing with some satisfying resolution.
Previously released on CD in 1994 by RCA with 4 cues from Il Giustiziere B The Human Factor (1975), DigitMovies augments the original 3 selections from Milano with 9 more tracks.
Some of the alternate cues, such as the second version of the film's title theme, have faint distortion in the highs, but the album's cues really resonate due to the superb engineering of the original recording sessions. It's a marked contrast to Uomini E No, the second Morricone score released by DigitMovies alongside Milano, which features a more distantly miked recording, and is less warm among the recorded tones and timbres.
Although Milano Odia contains two main themes and the score doesn't really end with a formal end cue, this is an important example of Morricone's more melodic writing within the crime genre, augmented by some stunning orchestrations.
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan