4 out of 5
Label: Walt Disney Records
Produced by: Ramin Djawadi
This review isn’t counting the 7 non-Djawadi lead-in tracks, which include the likes of Sade and Sia, because they mostly ain’t my cuppa tea. I will say I was not immediately turned off by an given track, and that my unaware ass was introduced to the genius that was Freestyle Fellowship, so these tracks wouldn’t have been a major detraction, but nonetheless: rating is for Djawadi’s work, covering tracks 8 – 22.
With Ramin’s name popping up on a million-and-a-half projects every month, it’s always easy to assume that some of it might be hack work. It’s best not to assume that, which is crazy; while some of his stuff is inevitably better than some other, a large amount of it is truly compelling. That said, he does seem to get picked up for a particular “type” of film and TV show, something befitting a moody and driving theme, so despite my praise just now, there are always going to be some moments that feel a bit interchangeable between projects.
Accepting all of this, what I do forget in the flurry of Ramin releases is that he used to be spotted on more atypical projects, such as Fly Me To the Moon, or Mr. Brooks. So with all the Game of Thrones and Pacific Rims on his resume, it was an interesting refresher to see him attached to a more kid-geared film, A Wrinkle In Time. And pleasingly, the score is pretty damned fantastic. While we do get a variation of the beat-driven themes Ramin has perfected again and again for various movies or shows, Wrinkle has him combining that with uplifting strings and chanting vocals, and when the film demands it, darker electronic elements. This provides a wonderfully wide range of pace and styles across the score, with many standouts that, interestingly, don’t directly rework the movie’s main theme. If anything, the theme itself is one of the less directly impactful tracks; this isn’t a bad thing, as it informs us to be open to more nuance on the album that follows, which is an intuition Ramin rewards with some very organic, lush, and quite gorgeous tracks. But: it’s not all fantasy shimmery; those mentioned darker elements are worked into some very pulse pounding compositions and moments, giving you a full sense of narrative without having a movie to match it to.
While I’d have to go back and listen to all of my Djawadi stuff in a row to give you a best-of rundown, this is certainly one of the most memorable sets he’s put out in quite some time, which is amidst a crop of already impressive releases.