I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Roy Batty’s dying monologue in Blade Runner, written by David Webb Peoples, then revised and spoken by Rutger Hauer is one of the iconic speeches in cinema – it’s a moment that elevates an already brilliant sci-fi movie up a notch, describing off-world places with a humanity that belies the replicant’s artificial origins. The nail in Batty’s palm, his saving of Deckard and the dove taking flight also lend a theological dimension that we won’t go into here but suffice to say – this is a sequence of cinema that embeds itself in the mind of the viewer.
It’s understandable, therefore, that musicians and filmmakers have homaged the monologue in their work, from Vangelis including it on the soundtrack album, to the fictional film Tanhauser Gate appearing at the cinema in WandaVision. It also makes an appearance on the title track of Christine Ott’s new album, although the words here are spoken by Casey Brown, providing a bridge to the closing track of Ott’s previous album Only Silence Remains. Musically, too, “Time To Die” fits in with the mood of Vangelis’ original work, full of meteorological atmosphere, and cinematic timpani. Close your eyes and you also will envision swooping over a nocturnal future-Los Angeles. It’s a brilliant opener, and throws down the gauntlet for the remainder of the album – how to follow this?
Understandably, Christine Ott doesn’t appear too troubled by the challenge, moving gracefully into the rippling solo piano piece “Brumes”. There is plenty of variety across the eight tracks here, although nothing else sounds quite the opener, with the piano being one of the principal sounds on the album. Ott is credited with playing nine instruments and most of them make an appearance at the forefront at some point on the album, including her voice which hovers ethereally above the piano on the haunting “Landscape”. She is best known for her mastery of the ondes Martenot, one of the earliest electronic instruments, which has graced a number of classical compositions and film soundtracks in its time. The second half of the album, particularly “Horizons Fauves” and “Comma Opening” feature the ondes in its spooky, otherworldly tones – one can appreciate why it remains a favourite part of a composer’s arsenal.
The eight pieces on Time To Die fit together very well, allowing the listener to create a narrative across the contrasting styles. It is interesting to note from the credits that recording took place between 2012 and 2019, during which time Christine Ott released several other projects, including a couple of soundtracks for silent films, a recording of her composition Chimères (pour Ondes Martenot) and, of course, Only Silence Remains. It is possible that a couple of pieces here didn’t quite fit on the last album and were saved for later – perhaps she considers eight tracks to be the ideal number. It certainly seems to work here – Time To Die covers plenty of musical ground whilst retaining a close thematic relationship between compositions. The title itself suggests that the album is a meditation on death, but as a whole work, it feels more uplifting – at times fragile, at others ghostly, but overall displaying the strength of character that Roy Batty shows at the end. (Jeremy Bye)