CD Review: Caprica

By • June 8, 2009

Composer: Bear McCreary
Label: La La Land
Suggested Retail Price: $13.99
Grade: A

When the revamped BATTLESTAR GALACTICA started its journey as a four-hour pilot, Richard Gibbs was the show’s composing helmsman, creating a spare, percussive beat that was a striking change of musical pace for a TV space opera. Yet few people who caught on to this interesting new take knew how far Gibbbs’ protégé would develop the sound until he took the wheel as GALACTICA went to series. Over the course of four seasons, this young trainee created a new universe with GALACTICA’s anti-epic tone, filling it with orchestra, ethnic themes and an enthralling talent for thematic melody (as spare the music could often still be) to turn GALACTICA’s scoring into some of the most striking sci-fi music yet written for the big or small screen- all for a show that will stand for some time as one of the best entries in the genre.

Given that pedigree, and the series’ fairly final denouement, the idea of doing a “prequel” show like CAPRICA might strike fans as the Final Five’s attempts to keep beating cash from a dead Cylon. That CAPRICA emerges in infinitely better creative, and musical shape than GALACTICA did as a pilot says much about this series’ promise to live up to a classic in a nearly different way, especially with Bear McCreary’s music helping to guide the way. And it’s a path that mostly takes on the lush, symphonic sound that fans would’ve expected the first time out with GALACTICA.

Much as the spirit of the “first” Cylons ended up in many of GALACTICA’s characters, the template that McCreary established with the original BATTLESTAR makes for the tonal DNA of CAPRICA. The percussion and ethnic wind instruments are very much here, but used more infrequently on the pilot- usually rearing their head during demonstrations of proto-Cylon firepower, or in the characters’ darker acts. The GALACTICA creators have fashioned CAPRICA as a GODATHER-esque family saga, complete with the same multiple-murder / rise to power climax if things weren’t intriguingly obvious enough. And if Nino Rota’s original scores to both Coppola films gave the Corleone Family’s deeds an operatic quality, then McCreary’s hauntingly beautiful symphonic approach here does the same thing.

While onboard GALACTICA, Bear McCreary often had the opportunity to show his ability to write flowing, Philip Glass-like pieces. For my money, these were that series’ best cues, the melody coming together through entrancing repetition to finally make a profound emotional statements as it revealed the Cylon-Human destiny. Here, this musical approach is for the creation of the Cylons themselves. And McCreary powerfully establishes his prequel main theme off the bat with a distinct, and haunting sense of melancholy for strings and violin, until his biggest statement is made for the end titles. It’s striking orchestral composing that shows just how good McCreary has gotten at this stuff, his scoring tinged with Dr. Frankenstein-like regret of a professor who’s put his daughter’s electronic being into a war machine.

Sure CAPRICA offers some very neat CGI effects of My Daughter the Cylon. But it’s McCreary’s effectively subtle music that lets you always hear that yearning heart beneath the armor, whether it be through his inventive array of drums, “space ethnic” flutes, strings or a powerful, solo piano. GALACTICA’s “action” music as such has been replaced in CAPRICA with solid dramatic scoring. Fans who steadily flocked to the first show because of its insanely complicated religioso politics will probably dig the new show, and this album precisely for that reason. And that’s because McCreary is really doing his own thing in CAPRICA, yet always giving enough tips of the stylistic fan hat to tell you where this will all eventually end up in GALACTICA’s more iconoclastic scoring universe. In the end, CAPRICA’s first score out works because it’s still about attitude of the GALACTICA as opposed to a musical replay of it. And I can’t wait for the McCreary’s real work to start on CAPRICA’s “earthbound” voyage.

But Bear is far from finished playing BATTLESTAR GALACTICA music, as fans can attend a FREE concert on June 13 as part of the Grand Performance Series at California Plaza in Los Angeles. Then those who are in town for the San Diego Comicon, or just want to go there, can see McCreary’s perform GALACTICA’s greatest hits at the House of Blues for three nights on July 23, 24 and 25. Find out more about these interstellar gigs at In the meanwhile, go back in GALACTICA music time with CAPRICA’s soundtrack here

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