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K-Pax
Slightly entertaining, but unfulfilling. -Isaac Engelhorn (10/29/2001)
Track List:
  1. Grand Central
  2. Good Morning Bess
  3. Taxi Ride
  4. Constellation Lyra
  5. Bluebird
  6. 4th of July
  7. Prot Missing
  8. Sarah
  9. New Mexico
  10. Powell's Return
  11. July 27th
  12. Coda

Total Time: (43:10)

Composed by:
Edward Shearmur

Orchestrated by:
Robert Elhai,
Brad Warnaar

Conducted by:
Edward Shearmur

No original score released in 2001 is really going to go down in history as far as I can tell. It's true that we do still have a couple months left to go and everyone is greatly looking forward to Williams' Harry Potter and Shore's Lord of the Rings, but I'm personally rather worried about them. Hopefully, next year will be better for everyone (and I'm obviously talking about the entire western world, not just film score fans). Edward Shearmur's new score to the latest film staring Kevin Spacey is, like Tom Newman's American Beauty, highly unusual. Maybe not quite as highly unusual as that score, but unusual none the less. K-Pax does contain a little bit of soft, orchestral sound, but for the most part, it is a synthetic score. Now, I'm one of the first people to criticize the heavy use of synth in what could be orchestral, but in this case (unlike American Beauty) I don't think that the music simply works because it is different. This time the music can actually be described as "cool".

I rarely hear the use of synths by film composers intended to sound "hip" that actually are. If you want to understand what I am talking about, go ahead and take a listen to most of Grame Revell's recent works. The whole idea behind them may be good, but Revell does not have the compositional talent to juggle the ideas of "hip" and "score" effectively. Edward Shearmur, as this album makes quite clear, does.

Like I said, no score thus far this year is going to be remembered greatly several years down the road. Even last year was better overall for most people. K-Pax is certainly not destined to break any trends, but it's spirit is something that may be enjoyable enough for those of us who like a simple, and soothing listening experience. Of course it would have been better to maybe shave a little off of the cues in places where they become maybe a little overly mysterious or tense. These occurances happen mostly near the middle of the disc.

I'd have to say the main highlight of the entire soundtrack is the very first track, "Grand Central". It is probably the best part of the score for balancing all of the ideas that are present throughout the soundtrack's duration as a whole. Combining this with the fact that the opening track is also plainly and simply the "coolest" that the score has to offer, I doubt that even orchestral purists will be too put off by its synth rhythms.

Another problem the disc may have is that it kind of fails to build to a satisfying conclusion, though I have heard that the movie never provides any definite or deliberate closure to the story, and the music may simply be trying to mirror that. The last track seems to be a victim of this "non-closure" as it ends on a pretty unfulfilling note, leaving the listener thinking "What, that's it?". Since I haven't seen the movie for myself yet, I'm going to have to assume that it is mearly a flaw in the composition, though it is a slight flaw that does little damage to the score.

This score will be little more than an asterisk in the history of film scores after very little time has passed, but as far as all of the little asterisks produced this year go, I'd say this is in the top ten percent of those. If you're interested in trying something a little unusual, you might like to give K-Pax a shot.


K-Pax is Copyright 2001 Decca Records. CD produced by Edward Shearmur. Executive Producer: Iain Softley. This review is written by and is the property of Isaac Engelhorn and does not reflect the opinions of Tripod.