AVAWAVES was the perfect choice to score the surf documentary Savage Waters. The ocean is in their compositional blood, while their debut album was appropriately titled Waves. The enthralling trailer provides an indication of the cinematic thrills, as a surfer chases a legend found in an old book and attempts something some might call extraordinary and his daughter calls “stupid.” These are savage – and as stated in the trailer, uncharted waters. What causes a man to pursue such a risk at the potential expense of life and limb? Is there ever an end to the madness, the chase for adrenaline, the siren call to hover, literally, on the precipice of life and death?
AVAWAVES manages to capture all these emotions. The score is swift and propulsive, as befits its subject matter. Ironically, the main theme is not found in the title track, but in “The Wave,” reincarnated in different iterations in “Castoff” and “Journey.” A central four-note theme is bolstered by watery electronics and a feeling of casting off. The counter-themes are glorious; toward the end, a choral undercurrent rises to the surface like a submerged surfer, grateful for the air. Listening again to the title track of Anna Phoebe and Aisling Brouwer’s debut, one can glean a sense of drama now enhanced here by drums and additional electronics.
Returning to that title track, one reads the glissandos and tribal percussion as portents of doom. Something bad is going to happen. When piano and violin launch the next piece, they act like the faithful family, standing by, ready to rush in and respond, while feeling a bit hopeless that they are unable to talk some sense into their loved ones. We will support you, they seem to say; but don’t expect us to smile. As much as the early pieces underline the excitement of a new surf spot, they also warn, here be monsters. Glissandos return with a vengeance in “Nazaré,” like behemoths.
And then the other shoe drops, the sword of Damocles falls, the expected, feared, unnamed thing happens. AVAWAVES pauses to acknowledge this, then plows forward like the protagonist. The chorals of journey, the tender piano of “Healing as a Family” and the closing jubilation of “Surf High” hint at calmer days and less savage waters. Was it worth it, all that pain? How much must one lose in order to realize what one has?
The water sparkles, impassive. A new wave begins to build. (Richard Allen)