Daniel Pemberton - Ocean's 8

Daniel Pemberton: Ocean's 8 - film score album cover We've previously had a trilogy of "Ocean's" movies, forming the numerical sequence of Ocean's Eleven (in 2001), Ocean's Twelve (2004) and then Ocean's Thirteen (2007), all directed by Steven Soderbergh. The stories mostly featured a recurring cast of gang members led by mastermind Danny Ocean played by George Clooney. All the movies followed variations on the heist formula, and continued the story established by the original movie. The trilogy seemed complete, and the death of actor/comedian Bernie Mac seemed to present a barrier to its continuation. That was until a new twist was conceived with Sandra Bullock playing Debbie Ocean (Danny's sister) leading an all female gang in a further escapade. So 11 years after the original trilogy ended a new movie called "Ocean's 8" involves a new Ocean gang in another daring and seemingly impossible heist.

From a music point of view the soundtrack for the original trilogy had a series of largely separate tracks, all of a certain retro easy jazz vibe, sometimes laid back lounge style and sometimes more upbeat, and with a smattering of more modern electronic sounds. Although a number of artists were involved, the music was all brought together and unified by composer David Holmes, who crafted a number of score tracks with the same sound and feel but better fitted to the trajectory and editing of the movie. Music can be a key part of heist movies since typically there were several scenes of action and suspense as intricate parts of the plan are executed, and the nature of that music gives a feel to the overall movie. The use of the lounge/jazz instrumental genre gave the movies a certain cool vibe while not detracting from the overall tension of whether the heist plan will work. Ocean's 8 is directed by Gary Ross but very much sticking to the established formula, so Daniel Pemberton was chosen to compose the score. Pemberton is well-known for his ability to compose in this genre (e.g. 2015's movie version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), so an ideal choice for the 4th Ocean movie.

Daniel Pemberton: Ocean's 8 - film score album back cover Most film scores are designed to follow a movie's story arc with reference to the emotional journey of the main characters. The lounge chillout style is more commonly used for creating a background atmosphere, and perhaps not what fans expect when they think of film scores. However music of a jazz style (in a broad definition of the genre) has a long history of association with film scores, such as the work of Henry Mancini, Lalo Schiffrin, Roy Budd and several other composers, and very typical in movies with cops, criminals and spies. While this type of score may at first seem one-dimensional, it can be very effective at serving this style of movie. Daniel Pemberton has a lot of skill and experience in this particular range of genres and brings a lot of variety to the tracks. While he relies a lot on blues progressions, his orchestration is always inventive often hinting at a range of styles and instrumental techniques of the 70s and 80s. He also touches on various rock, jazz, latin plus electronic and other more modern influences which helps to make the music sit slightly more "up front" than "background". And many of the tracks have a rhythmic propulsion to them which seems to make this score particularly good humoured compared with noir-oriented movies.

As previously indicated the film score is largely a series of relatively independent tracks. However there is a degree of both instrumental and thematic cohesion and also an element of progression within the score. Firstly there is a main theme with its descending accompaniment associated with the lead character and her obsession with a certain piece of jewelry. This theme is hinted at in the first track "5 Years, 8 Months and 12 Days" and then again in the main character track "Deborah Ocean" before getting a full rendition in "Brooklyn Necklace" and then a reprise in "Moog Necklace". More generally there are descending (and some ascending) motifs throughout the score, as tracks 2 "NYC Larceny" and 3 "We Are Going To Rob It" establish from the start. This type of linkage between tracks helps to give unity to the score.

Instrumentally, Pemberton uses the whole gamut of genre sounds and instruments across the score. You will hear familiar guitar and organ sounds throughout plus a lot of more unusual sounds. I like the way that "Nine-ball" features some slides towards the end which sound a bit like the Clangers. There are also some examples of instrumental appropriateness, including the Bongos featured on "Okell Bongos '63" and the Claves on "Sloppy Soup Samba", and it's good to hear a cimbalom on "Four Old Ladies". Perhaps the greatest divergence from the genre tracks comes with "Fugue in D Minor" which is based on the fugue part of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and this is given a short reprise later on. In terms of progression, each track has its own evolution so there is a feeling of constant movement and lack of repetition, while the score as a whole exudes a greater intensity over its course with a palpable feeling of climax in "Game On!" and "The Actual Heist" towards the latter part of the score.

In summary the film score makes a great album of what might be termed chillout music with energy, and it has an infectious humour which makes repeated listening worthwhile. For this reason the album can be recommended and it is available from these links at the following stores - Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Reviewer: Jim Paterson

Ocean's 8 by Daniel Pemberton - film score album track listing


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