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Soundtrack Review

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Michael Palin in North Korea
Original Television Soundtrack


Composer: Miguel d'Oliveira
Label: MovieScore Media
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 12 October 2018

MovieScore Media release the soundtrack to Michael Palin in North Korea, composed by Miguel d'Oliveira. As relations between North and South Korea begin to slightly thaw after decades of hostility, comedian turned world traveler Michael Palin is allowed to visit North Korea for two weeks and try to better understand this enigmatic country from the average citizens right up to its supreme leader, Kim Jong-Un...

Miguel d'Oliveira's (Joanna Lumley's Trans-Siberian Adventure) original score for Michael Palin in North Korea is not the sort of soundtrack that really works outside of the project it was composed for. The 18 tracks (31 min, 10 sec) sound not a million miles away from the sort of compositions Vangelis was turning out in the '80s. Synthesizers play a huge part in the score and that might turn quite a lot of people off what is actually quite an intricate and varied collection of themes.

Thankfully, d'Oliveira steers well away from delivering a cliched collection of themes designed to sound indigenousness to North Korea.

Talking about the project, d'Oliveira said: "When I was asked to write the music for this series, I immediately knew I wanted to make the sound seem more impressive than it was, but in a recognisable way. That meant synthesizers would play the role of orchestra with the odd real acoustic instrument thrown in. I also tried to have at the core, cheap old synths from the '80s, the more dilapidated and temperamental the better, which would always be trying to punch above their weight. Loosely based on global perception, I tried to do a score that was looking at the future with some outdated concepts firmly rooted in the recent past. It needed to be a vast spectrum of emotions, from martial menace to poetic hope. Finally I tried to avoid at all costs the cliche of making the music sound North Korean, which seemed reasonable, since it was all seen through the eyes of an Englishman."

There's no arguing that d'Oliveira achieved his original goals here, it's just that for me it just doesn't stand up on its own merits.


Darren Rea

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