Alloy Orchestra

Silents: Contemporary Scores for Classic Silent Films

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The first album from the Alloy Orchestra, a Boston-based trio devoted to the creation of new soundtracks for vintage silent films led by the late Caleb Sampson, is a sampler of passages from a variety of scores intended more as an overview of what the group can do than a complete artistic statement of its own. The opening "Plain Crazy," the complete score to a five-minute comedy short, has a manic giddiness comparable to Raymond Scott's wilder work (the use of duck call at one point sounds like a direct Scott homage; a similar passage using a squeak toy recalls the Bonzo Dog Band's "Jollity Farm") and sounds like it's probably a sterling example of "Mickey Mousing," or having the score follow the on-screen action. The three segments from the score of 1925's Lost World make effective use of stereotypical "jungle music" tropes, amplifying the obvious clich├ęs with sections of tricky polyrhythms and atonal, almost free jazz outbursts from Caleb Sampson's samplers and synths. The three remaining films -- Nosferatu, Metropolis, and The Unknown -- are much better known to the average filmgoer, but the new scores sound little like those which had come before, owing more to later film composers like Alfred Newman, Nino Rota, and even Danny Elfman. Thrilling and often quite humorous, the music on Silents is of interest even to those who aren't particular film fans.

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