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Bates Motel by Chris Bacon (Review)

posted Oct 30, 2016, 1:45 PM by Michael Hollands

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is undoubtedly one of the best films ever made. The director's ability to craft a masterpiece of suspense were clearly evident here. His list of great films seems endless, yet Psycho stands as my personal favorite of Mr. Hitchcock's filmography. The score, written by Hitchcock's regular composer Bernhard Herrmann, is one of the most recognizable scores in the history of film. I sincerely believe that many parts of this score can be identified by every film fan out there. Several decades later, the decision was made to come up with a TV series which deals with the life of a young Norman Bates.

The show focuses on the relationship between Norman and his mother Norma. The mother, brilliantly performed by Vera Farmiga, comes across as an overly protective and also loving mother. Young actor Freddie Highmore also does a stellar job portraying the psychologically disturbed Norman Bates. Their relationship certainly is far from normal. In four seasons we get to witness several difficult moments in their lives. Quite a few characters join the cast, including Norman's brother Dylan, Norma's brother Caleb, Norman's good friend Emma and the town's sheriff Alex Romero. The show not only focuses on family matters. It also deals with a town full of corruption and mysterious and very interesting characters. It is simply a fantastic series and it represents some of the best moments television has to offer these days. Season four has now been released on DVD and Blu Ray and along with it comes a new album featuring twenty-six tracks. Previously, a score album with thirty-six pieces from the first two seasons had been released.

I think the original album already represented some of the finest musical moments of the series and as a matter of fact, my favorite cues were included on this release. For “Bradley and Norman” composer Chris Bacon came up with a beautiful piano and lovely string motif underscoring the relationship between these two characters. This cue is really good and certainly a big highlight on the album. The relationship between Norman and his brother definitely has many ups and downs. Yet “Motorcycle Ride” shows a moment of harmony and Mr. Bacon wrote a really nice, yet short piece. “Brothers” is a piece of music for which Chris Bacon also used synths at the beginning. Subsequently he took the theme of the aforementioned track and gave it a more serious tone. The series itself is character driven and the music clearly reflects that. The composer did a fine job underscoring the subtle as well as the threatening moments. The pacing of the series is absolutely impeccable. I never felt there were too many characters or too many events. The story of young Norman and all the people and events surrounding him is told very effectively and his problems become bigger and bigger as the story progresses. He suffers from grave issues and as they become more and more apparent, the music changes as well. “Scarffed” shows tension and moments of terror. It certainly is the most unpleasant cue of the album. Most of the time the music feels appropriate when combined with the images. Yet, you cannot always say that about the album. There are a few moments that felt very uninspired. As a whole it is a nice listening experience, yet nothing more. Only very few pieces stand out.

When you see the series, you will understand why there has been a low key approach to the music. There are many subtle moments and also beautiful ones, yet as a whole the album feels like a letdown. If you already own the first album released by Varèse, then the Lakeshore cd may not have enough new material that justifies a purchase.