The Essential Michael Nyman Band collects some of the music Michael Nyman has composed for the films of director Peter Greenaway. The films represented here are The Draughtman's Contract, A Zed & Two Noughts, Drowning by Numbers, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Water Dances, and Prospero's Books. One might consider this collection to be a "Best of Nyman/Greenaway." Nyman's music is an essential element of Greenaway's films, as the director usually shoots his film to the music after it has been composed and recorded. Greenaway's films are known to be surreal, manipulative endeavors, and the Nyman compositions on this album are no different. There's an off-kilter intensity to much of the goings-on, and Nyman's band always sounds commited to achieving the final, epic vision. The selected compositions are all quite superb, showcasing meditative pieces with all-out classical attacks worthy of a disturbed techno artist. Nyman's music reveals many emotional layers, including the distant, baroque grandeur of "Time-Lapse," the sad grace of "Fish Beach," and the modern opera of "Miserere Paraphrase." Most of Nyman's critics lump him into the school of classical minimalism associated with Philip Glass and Steve Reich. That is pretty good company to keep. While there are ample doses of repetition in Nyman's work, there is always some greater destination. Most of the pieces here hover around the five-minute mark, making the entire album quite accessible. The title of the album says it all for Nyman or Greenaway fans, as it is certainly nice to have the strongest tracks from the film scores in one place.
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina