To follow a composer of film scores is a niche in its own right. Film scores add a specific aesthetic to the mood of a scene and their prowess and purpose is often overlooked in favour of cinematography or plot. To the purist, scores are equally as important and form a significant element of the overall critical perspective. But how many of us actually track and follow film composers? There are few who enjoy successful careers in the non-film industry. Apropos to Michael Kamen, who composed orchestral music and arrangements but also collaborated with artists such as the late David Bowie, the S&M record by Metallica, Pink Floyd, and countless more. A familiar artist a bit closer to our core of extreme music is Henri Sorvali of Finntroll and Moonsorrow—a mastermind who also composes music for cartoon series and computer games.
Listening to Matt Howden‘s Robot World—and despite what should have been an obvious notation of what this album entails on the front cover—I only came to the realisation that it was a film score when I flipped the album over and read that it’s the musical accompaniment to ‘a non-verbal documentary by Martin Hans Schmitt‘. Matt Howden, who otherwise famously records under the Sieben moniker, is a well-known electronic and neoclassical musician, highly regarded for his haunting, high-energy, violin-loop syncopation and stage presence. If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll no doubt agree that a film score wouldn’t be beyond his capabilities and, if anything, is something he’d revel in.
Martin Hans Schmitt is a multi award-winning German filmmaker who produces stereoscopic 3D movies and documentaries. Robot World is synoptically described as a ‘depiction of the evolution of robots from a mechanical somnambulist to an autonomous sensorium’. Matt Howden’s role as composer is to emphasize the film’s message that, ‘These artificial people are our alternate doubles‘. For the Howden/Sieben puritanical, the violin remains the core instrument of choice on this project—the voicing of which is more reminiscent to a chamber style. Those familiar with Trevor Morris (Vikings, The Borgias) will enjoy it especially.
The sixty-minute film is available for viewing on YouTube and, to date, has been watched a meagre one hundred ninety-two times via this platform. For the technocrat and robotics obsessive, the film will no doubt provide some visual and insightful pleasure. To the neophyte of such interests, it could pass as something to best accompany a potent doobie on a solemn night when there is nothing else to watch. Nevertheless, the film score has that haunting vibe which is very distinct to Howden and emboldens the film into something of a robotic doomsday production. To me, robots replacing basic human functions has always been a ghastly concept, and adding a down-tempo film score only exacerbates this aspect.
The album cover shows a robot holding hands with a young woman. Finished with a wash of sepia tones to create an antique aesthetic reminiscent to scenes from the Wizard of Oz with a casting of Dorothy and the Tin Man, Robot World‘s artwork creates a visible bridge towards artificial surrogates becoming our alternative doubles. Yet, if you remove this perspective in its entirety, you’ll find a less energetic Matt Howden showcasing his ability on more relaxed terms.