If you asked me what I thought of the music of Cloud Atlas, I would say it’s fascinating, beautiful, ambitious, emotional, and brilliant. It’s an evocative and thoughtful work, perhaps atypical of your average mainstream sci-fi scoring, and Tom Twyker, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil have created a score that really speaks to you.
The approach to the score is perhaps personified by the ‘The Atlas March’, a delicate and touching piece for piano and string, one that feels like a history is contained within it. This light touch continues across parts of the score, occasionally either segueing into or being augmented by electronics. An undoubtedly striking aspect of the score is that it moves through some quite different styles, yet impressively still manages to sound like one unifying work, which is probably logical for a film with an ambitious style such as this.
The action music is propulsive, and the percussion appropriately brutal at times. However, it is few and far between, allowing more time for drama and emotion. At times it feels emotional, reflective. It’s not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.
Pumping the blood to the heart is some quite beautiful string work, particularly in the main title, an infectious line that rmanages to rise in intensity without losing its melody. But the strings really come into their own in the last quarter of the album, where we’re presented with some amazingly evocative pieces which draw an emotionally and musically satisfying ending. The haunting ‘Death Is Only A Door’ is the standout track, an incredible mix of ethereal voices and strings full of hope and optimism.
The album itself closes on a hopeful note. ‘Finale’ features more strings working in tandem with a female choir, creating a wonderful uplifting melody that ends in a lovely climax that leaves you smiling. This is followed by the final pair of tracks, ‘The Cloud Atlas Sextet For Orchestra’, an impeccably performed classical piece, and ‘End Title’, which reprises the march that opened the album, embellished to include other elements of the score, with a sparkling final resolution.
Cloud Atlas is a wonderful score. It’s adept at mixing genre and style, and not afraid to go against convention, while still ensuring it’s not a jarring experience, musically. Each listen reveals more nuances, more little moments that seem to add to the mythic nature of the music. So far, it’s the best score of the year, and it’s a bit sad that such a great work has seemingly been ignored by the Oscars. But then again, it’s certainly in good company for that.
CLOUD ATLAS is out now from Sony Classical
Words: Charlie Brigden