Mark Isham: Crash

Mark Isham - Crash soundtrack CD cover The past decade has seen the release of two movies called "Crash". The most recent and most palatable in terms of popular taste is the film directed by Paul Haggis in which intricate plot strands introduce us to the lives of several characters who are connected to a car accident in Los Angeles. This is very much a thought-provoking film and required a soundtrack which could allow the characters to develop and the audience to reflect, without a particular message being pushed forward. Paul Haggis turned to composer Mark Isham to accomplish this difficult feat. The fact that the soundtrack budget was very low might have deterred some composers but Isham found it an unexpected blessing. Rather than write for conventional orchestral forces, he retreated to "the bedroom" with his audio equipment and personally crafted every aspect of the music. Long familiar with his music and having worked with Isham before, from their first collaboration on the short-lived television series "EZ Streets", Paul Haggis was confident that the composer would produce something inspiring and he wasn't disappointed.

The sound mood of "Crash" has resonances with Asche and Spencer's music for "Monster's Ball" a film which also observes aspects of racism and strange corners of the human psyche. The first track "Crash" starts with something closer to sound design than music. Then a bass rhythm kicks in followed by ambient melodic elements, the instrumental solos full of complex evolving sounds. This mood sets the tone for the rest of the album, though there are also some surprises in store. "Hands in Plain Sight" has a recurring bass note which serves as its heartbeat while slowly evolving sounds and melodic fragments grow and become more insistent. "...Safe Now" breaks the established mold by instroducing a solo human voice. The words sound perhaps celtic but the ethereal quality makes it seem both wordless and timeless. With "Find my Baby" the evolving sound base is augmented by a bright processed piano sound which feels as though the strings have been plucked. The solo vocals return in "Negligence" and then in "Flames" an additional vocal line is clearly ethnic in nature suggesting middle eastern scales and ornamentation.

"Siren" has a modern rhythmic vibe with swells and thuds, while "A Really Good Cloak" is led by a dripping melodic line against a moving sonic backdrop which climaxes in the middle of the track. "A Harsh Warming" starts with metallic ringing sounds and rarely excapes from a formless industrial wasteland. The vocals bring us back from this abyss and re-establish a human connection in "Saint Christopher", and in "Sense of Touch" an electronic piano and synth strings provide an appropriate accomaniment to realise their warm song-like potential. This track more than any other suggests how we can find ourselves again and come to terms with a major loss. As though reaffirming this resolution and a return to an unsteady normality, the album is rounded off by song tracks from Bird York and Stereophonics. The full track listing is given below and you can find the soundtrack CD at: in the UK, or in the US. If you missed the film at the cinema, it also comes highly recommended. The DVD has also now been released in the US - see this link at

Track listing:

    Crash - from and inspired by album CD cover
  • Crash - complex evolving sounds and melodic fragments
  • Go Forth My Son - this short track has a more percussive backing
  • Hands In Plain Sight - bass heartbeat and growing melodic interplay
  • ...Safe Now - with solo female voice
  • No Such Things As Monsters - more open sine wave or clarinet type melody
  • Find My Baby - the ambient sound designs augmented by piano
  • Negligence - more solo vocals
  • Flames - an ethnic vocal line before the celtic song returns
  • Siren - driven by a rhythmic beat
  • A Really Good Cloak - a dripping melody against an evolving background
  • A Harsh Warning - unsettling industrial sound effects
  • Saint Christopher - rescued by the recurring celtic vocal line
  • Sense Of Touch - a song-like setting with long instrumental interludes
  • In the Deep - Bird York
  • Maybe Tomorrow - Stereophonics

Albums described as "music from and inspired by" a movie are often best avoided. Most have less to do with the movie itself and more to do with cashing in on its success. However there is a second album called "Crash: Music from and Inspired by Crash" which has the Bird York and Stereophonics tracks from the soundtrack, together with other songs which are literally joined together into a continuous performance covering a wide range of styles. Although it contains none of Mark Isham's music from the film, it deserves some credit for this original concept - see these links at or See also for more information about the movie and its soundtracks, including the theatrical trailer accompanied by Barber's "Adagio for Strings".