The over twenty-year existence of the music ensemble known as tomandandy has yielded many an album, some memorable and some forgettable. I was intrigued by their scant work on Arlington Road; the jarring and textured music seemed to jive well with Angelo Badalamenti's juxtaposing ambience and neck-snapping suspense. Scores like that of The Hills Have Eyes, however, while effective in parallel with the narrative, didn't quite carry the aural portion of the film's horrific content. Somewhere in the middle, then, is where tomandandy's release for The Apparition resides: not quite memorable, but not entirely forgettable either.
Opening track "Palmdale" immediately snags the ambient/electronic music lover in me, as it opens with oozing synth getting wrapped up with electronica-style percussion and piano. Unlike the opening music to most horror film scores, this really set the bar high, which unfortunately let up in second track "Email Attachment." In spite of the latter tune's unsettling and echoing piano covered in a fog of ambient electronics, the excitement aroused by "Palmdale" quickly fades and moves on almost seamlessly through the next dozen or so tracks, which meander between layered reverb, electronic crescendo, percussive builds, bursts of white static, motes of piano-tinged ambience, and various mixtures of all the aforementioned. At times, I'm reminded of a less venomous Charlie Clouser (the Saw scores), a less brooding David Julyan (a la The Descent), or even what the next Silent Hill film might contain sans Akira Yamaoka's masterful music, however, The Apparition doesn't come close to matching the excellence of these modern genre-defining works. In fact, with the exception of a few of the more interesting tracks, most notably "Kelly Watches Video," "Scary Laundry," and "Aftermath," tomandandy's work unintentionally melts together and ultimately becomes a roiling album of unassuming, self-contained atavism.
Then, final track "Apparition Main Titles" makes its appearance known, and serves as a good bookend to an otherwise primarily forgettable album. And really, that's a good way of describing the score to The Apparition: "Palmdale" and "Apparition Main Titles" are akin to two gilded covers of a dust-covered tome, containing smudgy pages of somewhat dynamic yet mostly unaffecting music. It's not that The Apparition is bad; I was just hoping for more, I suppose. 2012's been a banner year for film scoring thus far, and there are better examples of both emotive sequences (Streitenfeld's The Grey) and ambient electronics (Newton Howard's The Bourne Legacy) elsewhere. Nonetheless, tomandandy's The Apparition is a good album for casual listening, and won't give you serious scares per what you might expect or hope for, but seeing as how I'm a sucker for even a decent horror film score these days, I will probably give The Apparition another listen or two. Passively recommended.