Produced in the wake of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Nate and Hayes gave composer Trevor Jones another broad canvas to use a large orchestra, and there are some similarities to The Dark Crystal (1982), a film also written by Nate co-writer David Odell, and starring the virile duo of Tommy Lee Jones and Michael O’Keefe (Caddyshack).
Chief similarities include Jones' sweeping use of strings, as well as a main theme whose melody is dreamy and idyllic, and harmonics that sometimes hint at a bit of melancholy. The opening fanfare harkens back to classic pirate scores (the trumpet fanfares being classic to the swashbuckler genre, as in Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Captain Blood), and there's also a brief romantic rendition of the film's love theme in the cue's middle.
More characteristic of Jones’ recognizable writing is his use of long, deep bass lines, which open the title track, and provides a launching pad for the sharp fanfares. In later works, particularly his synth scores (Angel Heart, Runaway Train, and Sea of Love), he would anchor his themes to fat bass drones, and one can also hear subtle electronics in Nate, such as the electric bass line that gives “Escape from Mumi Village” a retro feel, if not a slight evocation of John Barry’s marriage of orchestra, brass, and bass in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
Bass tones also convey a shift in the characters’ handling of dangerous situations: eddying bass figures in the aforementioned cue emphasize dizzying action, and more solid tones convey a sense of grounding, where the characters have latched onto a safeguard while in battle or during a lengthy flight from danger. A warbling, frayed drone also gives the opening of “Ruined Village” a distinctive menace before some tragic thematic material are performed on flutes and strings.
Other electronic sounds include a synthetic slide effect, and an ethereal tone that’s woven into the elegant love theme, “Hayes’ and Sophie’s Pact.” It's a delicate cue whose melody is largely carried by soft woodwinds, and the string arrangements are particularly striking, as Jones combines classical lushness with differing bowing techniques that cover a progression as the characters attempt to keep their hot and bothered emotions in check.
More so than his orchestral/electronic scores, in Nate Jones offers more themes and striking variations, and while the main theme makes its appearance during moments of heroism and near-death experiences, there’s also a variety of kinetic action cues and orchestral hints of old world gentility – two specific qualities that often comingle in cues like “Sophie Ransoms Omar / Arrival at Samoa.” “Gunboat Pursues the Leonora / Gunboat is Boarded” is also a good example of Jones' low-key suspense writing, with a thumping percussion motif onto which he adds rustic woodwind solos, harp, as well as small percussion textures, and a major theme recap in the center of the cue.
La-La Land’s CD contains the full score, crisply mastered by Mike Matessino with excellent clarity and resonant bass. Every nuance – from orchestral instruments to discrete synth ornamentation – come through beautifully, and it’s obvious great care went into the original score’s engineering as well as the CD master. Jeff Bond’s lengthy liner notes cover the film’s production history, and the cue breakdowns also provide a narrative for those unfamiliar with the film.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan