Fully cementing their place as the Holmes & Watson of collaborative composition with their third Sherlock album, David Arnold and Michael Price have once again produced a responsive mix of rousing, cheeky, and surprising tracks. While some have bridled at Series 3 pushing the boundaries of what a Sherlock story can be, it has at least challenged the music to accompany it. The result is an album of instrumental innovation and thematic diversity.
As the show has become more elaborate so too has the orchestration. There’s an increase in experimentation, such as in the bass-indulgent ‘Stag Night’, but also an engagement with the classic hallmarks of cinematic composition, creating a lush filmic sensation that accentuates the big-screen ambition of the show.
Most notable is the greater use of the string section, which stirs within you an elegance and dynamism usually associated with one of Arnold’s Bond soundtracks: the opening to ‘#SherlockLives’ is so sweepingly grand in that ‘agent abroad’ sort of way that you’d think it had been written for Benedict Cumberbatch’s sleuth to emerge from a crystal blue sea in his swimming trunks (there’s a free mental image for your brain to ‘right click and save’ on).
As Sherlock‘s third run pushed the great 21st trendsetter detective and his chums into new areas of emotion, so the soundtrack takes the orchestra and listener on a parallel audio journey. There’s excitement, there’s lugubriousnes – heck, there’s even a spot of dubstep – but this is the indisputable sound of Sherlock Holmes.
The last two times we’ve reviewed Sherlock soundtracks it’s been easy to select our favourites. Not so much in 2014. It’s a sign of the increasing quality of the show’s music that it was nigh on impossible to pick just five. Don’t fret if your favourite isn’t here – not all of ours made it either…
‘How It Was Done’
Just what you need to open an episode and an album: a track that strikes you right between the ears. ‘How It Was Done’ is an adrenal plummet back into the world of Sherlock, enacted through some sweaty electro sounds, thwacking percussion, and a sexy electric guitar grinding against your ear drums. It’s the first sign you get that this is an album trying to defy expectation.
Against the elegant strings on many of the tracks, ‘Stag Night’ stands out for its Dubstep cover of Sherlock‘s call to action that quickly descends into a drunkenly dischordant 19th century Cockney carnival cum Reggae chillout remix. Just chill to it, dudes. Relaaaax. Oh, and try not to throw up on the carpet.
‘Waltz for John and Mary’
Sometimes composers can forget that there’s incredible beauty in something simple performed flawlessly. Case in point: ‘Waltz for John and Mary’ which, much like ‘Irene’s Theme’ from Series 2’s soundtrack, is a single violinist playing your heartstrings to create an emotional old-fashioned tune. Bravo and a bouquet to whoever wielded that bow so soulfully.
‘Forwards or Backwards’
It’s a slow starter this, but worth mentioning as it complements the onscreen Inception-y camerawork when Sherlock is shot (look at that camera tilt! Look at that plant pot slide!) with a few musical flairs that invoke Hans Zimmer’s score for the same film: most notably the frantic pulse of percussion and violins once Sherlock has been shot, and the repeated crescendo of the brass that screams, ‘Wake up Sherl!’
‘The East Wind’
With the chilly, almost funereal, sigh of strings and distant lone choral, ‘The East Wind’ has about it the feel and amusement of a bracing winter walk from the pet cemetery. It’s like beautiful sighs of east wind blowing through your ears, hoping to huff and puff the tears out of you, as if your head was a big conch of soaking wet misery. Just embrace the sadness, folks. That East Wind’s also wafting Sherlock back. And with it, another album.
Released on Monday 27 January 2014 by Silva Screen.
What’s your favourite track on the album? Let us know below…