Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2019 September 23 • Monday

Christophe Beck's score for Ant-Man and the Wasp (one of our favorite Marvel movies) is the 588th Soundtrack of the Week.

“It Ain’t Over Till the Wasp Lady Stings” establishes Beck’s soaring and expressive 5/4 main theme and also demonstrates how to write music that, to my ears, demonstrates the influence of some of the great composers of the past without being imitative. Underneath the lyrical string passages and punching and blaring horns is a catchy and propulsive rhythmic groove. I heard this cue and its various rearrangements dozens of times before I realized that it was in 5/4.

The “Prologue” takes the previous cue and reinvents it as a delicate and ethereal theme with lots of space before transforming it into urgent and dramatic underscore.

“Ghost in the Machine” is a sparse and eerie cue that introduces Ghost, a sympathetic and compelling character more antagonist than villain, perhaps the best foe in the MCU.

Beck exploits what sounds like cheap old keyboards and electronic drums for amusing effects in “World’s Greatest Grandma”.

“A Little Nudge” is a gorgeous piece of music that reminds me a bit of some of my favorite James Horner scores, particularly in the writing for flute and strings.

Besides Ghost there are competing gangs of police and thieves making life difficult for our protagonists. “Feds” gives us the tense, ostinato-dominated music for the law enforcement officials.

“Ava’s Story” has a crystalline delicacy to it that alternates with some robust and chunky sounds and textures, effectively using heartbeat noises and some hard to identify keening voices.

And then it’s time for pure action with “Wings and Blasters”, which cleverly incorporates the main theme among a flurry of beats and stings.

This continues with “Utmost Ghost”, which adds the perfect amount of weird menace to the music.

“Tracker Swarm” starts out by sustaining the somewhat frantic pace of the last few cues and then slows down for the beautifully atmospheric “Cautious as a Hurricane”, which in turn blooms into unabashedly romantic music.

With “Misdirection” I noticed that the rhythmic foundation of this score was trickier than I thought. At least some of it seems to be a syncopated figure in 7/4. There’s a lot of different layers to consider and admire here.

“Quantum Leap” is a powerful and heroic adventure piece that brings us to the central goal of the main characters: to take advantage of their one shot to rescue the original Wasp from the quantum realm. (Whatever that is!) Once again Beck creates a perfect sonic identity for this otherworldly place.

Then it’s action time again! “I Shrink, Therefore I Am” is just a lot of fun with some cool keyboard and drum sounds.

“Partners” is a very sweet and tender piece that sketches both parental and romantic love.

But then we hit the road with “Windshield Wipeout” and “Hot Wheels”, fun and exciting music for an extremely fun and exciting car chase sequence. The latter in particular is awesome. (Though I think it’s somewhat different in the actual movie.)

A bucolic version of the main theme sets up “Revivification”.

“A Flock of Seagulls” is a short cue to accompany the difficulty ants have in not getting eaten by birds. An even shorter cue, with some cool and subtle electric guitar touches, follows, as Ant-Man becomes the “San Francisco Giant”.

The music and the movie both build to an exciting climax in “Ghost = Toast”, which adds a vocal chorus for greater intensity.

“Reduce Yourself” continued the suspense with the syncopated motif in 7/4 and strings and horns flying above it.

You might expect a track called “Quit Screwing Around” to be on the light-hearted side, but it’s actually a heavy and ominous piece. It leads into “Arthropodie”, which features piano and switches back and forth between dense and sparse arrangements of different musical ideas.

As a whimsical bonus track, the record concludes with David Dastmalchian’s “Baba Yaga Lullaby”, a nursery rhyme that’s sung/spoken without instrumental accompaniment.