Whereas the desire (or for ardent fans, the need) to revisit episodes and favourite weirdness from Chris Carter's The X-Files could always be satisfied through TV airings and DVDs, Mark Snow's music for the series has been restricted to Music from the X-Files: The Truth and the Light (a moronic concept album featuring dialogue and effects), and a few snippets on compilation albums – a continuing thorn for fans because Snow's TV music was mostly electronic, and shouldn't be affected by steep licensing fees (unless producer greed is still at play).
The first X-Files film not only gave Snow the chance to work with an orchestra, but build a more robust landscape that deepened the main characters (and helped save what's still a nonsensical film, given everything acknowledged in the movie's finale was ignored when the series continued into its next season).
For the 2008 ‘standalone' film, which reunites Mulder and Scully in a one-off mystery, Snow opts for a more classically designed score, with less emphasis on harsh imagery, and a greater focus on deepening the pair's relationship after the ills from a decade's worth of weirdness has affected their lives and mental states. When the show's theme pops up, it reminds us the couple are now survivors, rather than hunters, and much like the first film score, straight theme quotations are generally kept to a minimum.
That's certainly evident in cues like “Can't Sleep/Ice Field,” where Snow takes an already sad variation and applies discrete breezes of strings for resonance, or Snow applies French horns at the beginning of “March and Dig” to enhance Mulder and Scully's awareness that their relationship with weirdness is never ending.
Believe also feels like an orchestral reconciliation for the composer, since Snow has further matured since scoring the series, as well as Carter's gloomy Millennium; undoubtedly his personal views on how to work with dark subject matter have moved towards using less volcanic eruptions and dissoance to evoke variable levels of horror.
It's still a smooth fusion of orchestral and electronic elements, but the album generally progresses from a surge of drama to eerie suspense, and then sort of unwinds and softens (which is probably why the album's producers added 3 up-tempo cuts - UNKLE's remix of the main theme, and two irrelevant vocals - to close out the disc).
“Ybara The Strange/Waterboard” introduces the film's soft, melancholic motif on piano, and Snow slowly has the cue devolving into a series of increasingly tense impressionistic variations, capped by low bass pulses. Snow also uses some vintage-styled electronica and processing (twisting and reversing samples and clusters) to evoke the show's familiar sounds and atmospherics, and he augments the score with more refined electronic sounds, often through thickened bass pulses and sparse percussion textures.
Although there's little use of melody, Snow conveys warmth through minimal sections, somewhat evoking hymns; there's the soothing harmonics early into “Photo Evidence,” but few of the cues reside in a singular mood, often morphing into dramatic, gloomy soundscapes with brass shrieks, tinkling piano, and two-note motifs whose chordal shifts infer a mounting sense of encroaching danger.
I Want to Believe is basically a series of quick-changing impressions, which may please fans of the series, but those hoping the album would contain more robust, raw sounds and cues with gripping dramatic payoffs will be disappointed. It's an engrossing album, but you may find yourself reaching for X-Files: The Movie soon after Believe has stopped spinning.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan