Soundtracks are difficult ones to get right I think. You often get soundtracks that work only with the film they are designed to be heard with, failing to capture the imagination as a piece of music in their own right. However, sometimes you find soundtracks that are stunning pieces of music that deserve to be heard and spoken about in their own right as musical compositions. I am thinking of Johnny Greenwood’s immense score for ‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘The Road’ by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and even the brilliant, yet unreleased, ‘Guilt’ by Matthew Collings.
The Waiting Room was this year nominated for an Oscar, in the best documentary field I believe. It is a documentary that follows the life and times of patients, doctors and staff at a safety net hospital in Oakland, California. The Washington Post even named it the third best film of 2012. But, I’ve never seen it. So none of that really matters. What matters is that William Ryan Fritch has produced a piece of music that is rich and dense and captivating. It’s hard to talk about how it fits in the context of the film having never seen it but like the other soundtracks I mention at the start, this record stands alone as an exemplary piece of composition.
To many, William Ryan Fritch will be better known for his work as Vieo Abiungo. However, the usual rhythmic and ultra dense nature of his solo work has definitely been controlled for the purposes of this record. Indeed, controlled restraint might be the best way to sum it up.
The stunning opening track ‘Any and All of Us’ pulls you deep into the record from the off as mournful strings set the scene and tone. The rhythm that he is so well known for as a percussionist of some note is evident in second track ‘It Moves With or Without You’ and throughout the record but with third track ‘Coda’ all thoughts of a record that never lets up or breathes are washed away with one of the most beautiful and affecting pieces of 2013 to date. What is quite incredible about Fritch is his ability with a range of instruments. Be it cello, guitar or, in the case of Coda, piano, his compositional skills are second to none and there is a rich warmth to the work that betrays the ideas of the documentary’s subject matter. Absolutely stunning stand out for me is the rich beauty of ‘Hold Your Head High’ but honestly, it’s hard to pick a real stand out from an evocative and densely vibrant record that stands on its own as a testament to the brilliance of the composer. Sure, once I see this film I might say that the music is perfect for the subject matter. But alone, without the images to support it, this record is a triumph for a young composer on the up and up.