City of Ember

Andrew Lockington

" Shine a light, Lockington delivers again "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

Andrew Lockington is on a mission. To proof filmmusic has got a steady firm future. His two most noticeable scores Skinwalkers and Journey to the Center of the Earth have given us reason to think so, City of Ember gives us confirmation he will make it so. Without exaggeration Andrew Lockington is one of the composers to look forward at the most. He has got a wonderful voice made for adventure scores and he has a knack to tie it together in a melodic powerful design. If the genius of several minutes can turn into the genius of say an hour, you have got a new John Williams rolling over your speakers. Because barely have I heard such a control over an orchestral score.

Okay I have but Cliff Eidelman sailed into the depths of the romanticism and Joel McNeely is doing what nobody of his potential should be doing, losing his time writing for straight to video Disney releases. Let's hope that the same doesn't happen to Lockington, because what Journey to the Center of the Earth and City of Ember possess is too much potential to simply fade away.

Okay City of Ember isn't exactly the better of the 2, but it has a wonderful knack for holding an orchestral powerful voice. And when harmony meets the melody, you receive some of the best minutes of the year. Sadly all that is thrown into too many moments where a single main theme tries to counterbalance the material. I'm all for a healthy doses of theme moments, especially when you tasted the brilliance of it.

A suspenseful first main theme statement in "City of Ember Main Titles", the first sign of the uplifting build up in "Lina Mayfleet" and "Job Exchange", the start of the main theme statements in the nice "First Day" and "Message for Clary", the dissonant moments in the dark "Tunnels" which starts to pump on an aggressive sounding main theme near the end as the optimistic soft version in "The Mayor". They all carry a stamp of the main theme or a fraction of it.

And so the score continues to settle that sole main theme in the build up towards the end. Emotional in "Blackout", the suspenseful whirls working around it in "Map and Mole" and the explosive choral end in "Proof", they are all giving us infrequent yet perfect samples of what Lockington can produce in harmonic adventurous mode.

And "Fugitives" and "Loris' Bike" are proof that Lockington is now adding the choir to it, giving his main theme a much more epic meaning. Again this is all too sparse and it stops and goes when it wants to, but the manner is still impressive in how he can just give you mere seconds of that potential.

And that potential is evident when he finds the harmony to unleash us finally that main theme statement in whole in "Clockworks", supported by choir giving us that magic of harmonious adventure music. That harmony is followed in "Control Room". The end of "Control Room" and the entire "Water Wheel" capture the build up of suspense to the ... yes main theme version. But that main theme version is now the finest you can possibly find. In all the versions you've heard here (and trust me there are a lot), none have sounded so resolving as the one in "One Last Message", an utterly brilliant final resolution with the main theme.

In all honesty one theme can never make an entire listening experience worthwhile. And yet in a way it totally has. It is frustrating considering the obvious knack Lockington has for writing themes. With various subthemes, motifs he could have given the score a complexity further, a detailed strength beyond what it has become now. And yet, without it one theme does function enough to give the score its charm. City of Ember may only have 15 minutes of absolutely stunning material and a constant build up of just one theme, the score is proof that if he writes multiples themes in this category, you'll hear material you just don't hear anymore today. I hope to hear that one day for the first time soon.


1. City of Ember Main Titles (3.29)
2. Lina Mayfleet (1.29)
3. Assignment Day (2.18)
4. Job Exchange (2.28)
5. Blue Sky (1.09)
6. First Day (2.06)
7. Message for Clary (0.51)
8. Tunnels (6.58)
9. The Mayor (2.00)
10. The Box of Ember (2.51)
11. Blackout (1.56)
12. Map and Mole (4.57)
13. Room 351 (3.10)
14. Proof (4.31)
15. Fugitives (3.07)
16. Loris' Bike (4.03) Excellent track
17. Interlocking Keys (0.41)
18. Clockworks (5.41) Excellent track
19. Control Room (4.35)
20. Water Wheel (2.52)
21. The Mayor Retreats (1.07)
22. Stalagmite Trance (0.47)
23. Escape to Sunrise (4.57) Excellent track
24. One Last Message (3.05) Excellent track

Total Length: 71.20
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 18 votes - average 3.89/5)

Released by

Verve B001234702 (regular release 2008)

Conducted and Orchestrated by

Nicholas Dodd

Performed by

The Bach Choir