When Less Needs More
Composed by Daniele Luppi—an Italian-bred, Los Angeles-based composer—this film score is at its base well crafted, if minimalistic. And at the end of the day, the obvious challenge befalling the soundtrack genre is that to a certain extent the music has to work hard to be memorable on its own, rather than merely effective in its pairing with an affecting visual, or else it just blurs into peripheral consciousness.
Taking such an approach with this soundtrack to the 2007 film, Malos Hábitos, however, is an exercise in futility, as the music alone has little emotional leg to stand on without its visuals, and instead sits very ordinarily amidst its minimalistic textures.
The soundtrack, as sparse as it is, makes much of its various tracks, which are led by simple raindrop-like piano lines that wrench a variety of emotions out of each note. Still, nothing sticks out as entirely memorable. “Gordibuena,” which appears in five not altogether different incarnations, is a sad and contemplative number one can easily imagine as coloring the lost and troubled mental journey of the film’s protagonist. Of its five versions, however, the one that works best is actually the most basic of the lot, “Gordibuena (Solo de Piano),” largely and precisely because it is true to its parenthetical: The bare piano appeals to the immediacy of the emotions, whereas the swelling strings and synthesizer work come off slightly boring.
The pacing of the album is also problematic, as you could have easily guessed, the first six tracks were one in the same. Twinkling keys give way to more twinkling keys, and then some light string section work fades in and out. It is not until “Flan Paraiso” that things change somewhat, and we are met with a moonlight serenading accordion playing out a pleasant, if somewhat melancholic jaunt. However, at under a minute, it is the shortest piece on the collection, so it proves only a momentary diversion.
Of course a soundtrack can’t be blamed for lack of dynamics when the structure of the music has already been in a sense planned out by the film. “Malas Noticias” (both versions) accomplish their goal of depicting the stewing emotions as the ivory pounding slides into bassier territory, but it just doesn’t break from the initial emotions of the main theme enough to really chart as the type of engaging narrative development it was set to be.
But to be fair to these compositions—and having never seen the film—their use in context could be a completely different matter vs. how they are listened to in isolation, and for the latter, the experience is for the most part short, pleasant but sadly forgettable.