Who composed it?: Howard Shore
Who released it?: Howe Records
Who’s it for?: Twins and mutants.
What’s the Lowdown?:  Dead Ringers is a stunner in nearly all aspects, and Howard Shore’s music is one of the most stunning things about it. Shore composed this with a surgeon’s touch: firm, confident, yet delicate. There’s a beautiful sadness to this score, first expressed through woodwind solos while the strings provide structure. The clarinet solos in Bondage, Twins, Trifurcate, and Separate Us are achingly beautiful, and the use of harp provides subtle accents throughout. Use of oboe and english horn solos (Dependence) signify Beverly’s mental shift into instability. This melancholy eventually gives way to a creeping dread, a use of near constant dissonance, and unpredictable melodies as Beverly loses his grip on reality. The usual grandiosity of Shore’s orchestral work is present here, though it is a bit more understated than his work on The Silence of the Lambs, which came two years later. This score is second only to The Fly in my personal ranking of Cronenberg film scores, which also means it’s one of my favorite works from one of my favorite orchestral composers. This special edition contains fourteen minutes of previously unreleased material, so even if you already own a previous edition, consider this an absolute must-buy.

Standout Tracks:

  • Main Title
  • Bondage
  • Separate Us
  • The Operating Room
  • Birthday Party


Who composed it?: Howard Shore, Ornette Coleman
Who released it?: Howe Records
Who’s it for?: Beat exterminators and Mugwump enthusiasts.
What’s the Lowdown?: Like its accompanying film, the score for Naked Lunch doesn’t entirely work. The orchestral stuff isn’t terribly outside the box, and doesn’t represent a big departure from the rest of Shore’s oeuvre. I’m okay with that, though. Tracks like Fadela’s Coven or Nothing is True; Everything is Permitted sound like signature Shore. What really sets Naked Lunch apart is the work of saxophone virtuoso Ornette Coleman. His alto sax solos are the most divisive element here, and he’s what makes this score so challenging. Coleman was a pioneer of avant-garde and free jazz, and as much as I love jazz, I am not a fan of the “screw your chord changes and your scales” mindset. I like a bit of structure in my jazz, thank you very much. To the untrained ear, jazz can sometimes sound like aimless noodling. But even to the trained ear, a lot of free jazz still sounds like aimless noodling. It’s abstract expressionism for musicians. The only rule is that there are no rules, man. Free expression is cool. William S. Burroughs was doing that with Naked Lunch, so I guess that’s cool, too. But I’ve never been cool. Fuck cool. And fuck my attitude. If you’re into this, you should buy it. There are sixteen minutes of new material on this newly remastered edition, so it’s the perfect soundtrack for hanging out with Mugwumps and getting high on bug powder.

Standout Tracks:

  • Naked Lunch
  • Fadela’s Coven
  • Interzone Suite
  • Bonus: Martinelli


Who composed it?: Howard Shore
Who released it?: Howe Records
Who’s it for?: Kinksters and guitarists who need inspiration.
What’s the Lowdown?: Crash is another musical experiment, albeit a more cohesive one than Naked Lunch. Dominated by twanging, chiming electric guitars, Crash is minimalistic, but layered. The few main motifs are frequently heard, but they’re very memorable and not terribly subtle. You’ll definitely be able to identify them when they appear. The first few tracks on the album are very guitar heavy, and the score doesn’t really start to breathe until strings and woodwinds are given more substantial things to do. The track Sexual Logic is one of the score’s most beautiful, a careful balance between a lovely flute solo, gamelan percussion, and a distant guitar. Tracks like Chromium Bower or Two Semi-Metallic Beings are composed primarily of electronic ambient sounds, and they represent the album at its most bizarre. Still, they’re haunting and beautiful cues, though some might think they skew closer to sound design than score. My favorite track on the album is the most orchestral: A Benevolent Psychopathology. The strings take the lead here, bringing a melodramatic and lush sound to a score that until then had remained fairly pure and sparing in its instrumentation. Triton features what might be plucked piano strings, adding a sharp and jarring texture to score’s signature guitar sound. This is another fantastic score, and while it may not be what Howard Shore does best, it’s still a worthy addition to any collection. This new edition contains the most new material of the three: a total of eighteen minutes. If you’re a Crash fan, you need this. Period.

Standout Tracks:

  • Crash
  • Sexual Logic
  • A Benevolent Psychopathology
  • Triton

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Who composed it?: Howard Shore
Who released it?: Howe Records
Who’s it for?: Those who enjoy yoga, fad diets, and violence.
What’s the Lowdown?: Just listening to the first few opening tracks of Howard Shore’s Maps to the Stars, you wouldn’t have any idea it was he who had composed them. The first two tracks (Greyhound, Set Me Free) sound like classed-up ambient meditation music. The first thing we hear are shimmering synths, paired with an improvised upright bass solo. By the second track, the synths and bass are more structured, and tabla (Indian hand drum) has been added into the mix. It’s the kind of inoffensive, vaguely ethnic stuff that white people like to listen to when they do yoga. That sounds awful, but consider the context. The movie takes place in and around this foofy Los Angeles “I’m on a wheatgrass cleanse” lifestyle. These opening tracks capture that perfectly. But by track three (Stolen Waters), we know that there’s another tone at play here. Here, Shore channels the melancholy of Max Richter by using chamber strings and piano. It’s beautiful, and by this point in the album you’ll realize that Howard Shore can do a really good job of not sounding like Howard Shore. He’s one of the most versatile classical composers of our time. The next two tracks (Walk of Fame, Fire and Water) bring back the synths and the tabla, but start to show a darker edge. Track eight, Asylum Corridor, is when you remember this is Cronenberg movie, and something fucked up is going to happen. It’s not your typical horror cue, but it shows a unmistakably sinister ambience that portends a score that is unconventional, even for a Cronenberg picture.

Standout Tracks:

  • Stolen Waters
  • A Little Crazy
  • Love Is Stronger Than Death