I first became aware of the film Whiplash when Mr and Mrs Pig both raved about it on Facebook so I was delighted when my son’s girlfriend arrived home one evening with the DVD. Whiplash is indeed a terrific film.  I won’t give away too much about the story but basically a talented young jazz drummer is driven almost to breaking point by his music college teacher.  It’s a bit like a jazz version of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.  Full Metal Jazz Cat maybe.  Or maybe not. 

The soundtrack contains a mix of original songs and music along with jazz standards by Stan Getz and Duke Ellington.  Unusually, the music on the soundtrack album does not follow the sequence in which it appears during the film, instead it has been restructured to allow it to tell its own story.  I often find that when film music is divorced from its accompanying visuals that, with the exception of a couple of major themes, individual tracks don’t hold up well on their own and fail to provide a satisfactory listening experience.  That is definitely not the case here.  I enjoyed listening to this from start to finish and as a set of individual tracks.Whiplash_soundtrack

For the film’s incidental music, Tim Simonec took individual notes played by big band instruments and slowed them down to create “drones”; these were then layered against bass, drums and percussion played at normal speed.  This gives a warped sound that is still recognisable as a jazz band but paints a picture of the lead character’s deteriorating mental state.  Combining this with Jason Hurwitz’s more traditional big band scoring for the main themes and the standards creates a real sense of drama and tension.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that the music on Whiplash sounds terrific as well.  If you want some thing to show off or test your hifi kit then a well recorded big band or a solo drum kit will definitely do the job and the recording here is first rate.  You would be doing this music a disservice to only use it as a test piece though.  Whiplash deserves to be listened to in its own right.  Go see the film as well, you won’t regret it.

The Whipłash soundtrack is already available on CD but will be released on 180g vinyl on 19 February.

John Scott

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