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Crate Digging: Emma Middleton, Rubato Music

Music & Sound
London, UK
The third episode in the music discovery and discussion series from Concord Recorded Music

Crate Digging is a music discovery platform where contributors take home and discuss two records from across Concord Recorded Music’s active and historical labels.

Emma Middleton, music supervisor and consultant at Rubato Music, reveals her top two finds. 

I decided to go for BAILEN’s Thrilled To be Here as I'd actually been introduced to them a year or so ago. I instantly fell in love with the sparkling, floating and intricate harmonies combined with the really slick production, so I was already a big fan.

Thrilled To be Here captures a warm, mystical, dreamy, romantic, nostalgic glitz and glamour through layered harmonies and gentle folk/alt-rock, with many hints of the 60s/70s. Yet somehow they manage to marry this with crescendos and explosive, percussive-led climaxes within seconds (see ‘Eyelashes’). Lyrically, there's a definite sense of optimism, a drive for freedom, expression of individuality, and following your dreams (‘Not Gonna Take Me’ is HUGE, driving and a soaring anthem for freedom). But elsewhere there are lyrics that would fit a romance/rom-com use too.

I’m a sucker for beautifully arranged harmonies with folk/country influences, but that description does BAILEN a disservice. I mention nostalgia, glitz and glamour in relation to BAILEN because there's an overwhelmingly beautiful pairing of the sound of vintage romantic strings from an old Hollywood film score, brought into the present day with modern production/beats underneath it. Listen to ‘Rose Leaves’ to hear what I mean. ‘Your Love is All I Know’ will satisfy any fans of Fleetwood Mac’sThe Chain’, as there's a very similar pulsing drum beat with moaning vocal harmonies. Fleetwood Mac fans in general will love a lot of BAILEN's music, I am sure. They're a group of many talents, able to turn their hands to brooding, darker atmospheres as well (listen to the start of ‘Bottle it Up’ and the Hendrix vibes of 'Stray Dog'). The beautiful, mystical vocals here all of a sudden become more unsettling.

BAILEN nail the ability to 'tug at the heartstrings' without being cheesy. The warmth, and building, explosive choruses lean towards emotive dramas or awards spots, which need a sense of heart, warmth, and to achieve that spine-tingling feel-good sensation which leaves audiences beaming or crying, or both! Of course, their music works for romances and rom-coms, without a doubt. But I personally am drawn towards the yearning/longing and explosive builds that almost come out of nowhere, or gradually build through the track. It's a real skill to nail the sweet, ethereal, delicate, acoustic magic as well as the huge, soaring and rousing builds that can carry the back-end of a trailer; a Supervisor's dream! Again, they also nail a dark and brooding, unsettling sound too. I'd love to hear even more of this; weaving the harmonies and ethereal elements over some tracks that work for thrillers. Their modern production style would nail the briefs where clients are after the twisted, modern 'Billie Eilish' sound, but adding the folk-inspired harmonies could really take this sound into a new dimension. 

Booker T & The MG’s Melting Pot was a definite choice when it came to picking a catalogue release. I love that the track ‘Green Onions’ features in the Colin Firth & Julianne Moore film, A Single Man. Colin Firth can pack so much punch into a single wink…but enough about that. It’s such a tune but I confess it’s been the main record I’ve really listened to (and jammed to at piano/with friends) by them, so I had to jump into their ‘Melting Pot’.

There’s such an undercurrent of swagger and sensuality in the soulful music of Booker T. & The MG's. In terms of supervision "terms" and those keywords you'll get given by producers and editors, think: swagger, sex, attitude, 'effortlessly cool', slick, 'heist films' - but before 'swagger' became a sort of genre of its own in the trailer world today, which can at times feel very contrived and forced. This is anything but. Melting Pot is the sound of the person that walks into a dimly-lit bar and the world stops. The confident, effortlessly cool main character you want to be when you grow up. Beside the groove of the organ, bass riffs and brooding piano, there's a lot of lighter, 70s fun in here too such as 'Sunny Monday' which has an air of Simon & Garfunkel.

When talking of the swagger, dark, sensual and brooding nature of some of their work, take ‘Fuquawi’, for example...a steady, pulsing drum beat, low piano octaves hammered in the low end, with guitar and distinctive organ lines carrying the melodies. Surprisingly, the energy actually decreases throughout the track, despite the strong, 'statement' and pretty light-hearted and fun start. The mood gets darker and feels like it's running out of momentum as it progresses. It's quite repetitive, and the pulsing beat starts to feel quite laborious and 'march-like'; the previously punchy organ becomes more drawn out and feels like it's fighting the rigidity of the rhythm. 

If you're looking for a real sultry, slow and drawn out waltz brimming with longing for a romance/drama, look no further than the mid-section of 'Back Home'. It's full of the feeling of 'inevitable reunion', the feeling of someone winning back the heart of their partner and the unbearable sexual tension. Everything there is hinted at in 'Green Onions' like I mentioned, but stripped back, slowed down and incredibly exposed. It's a bit of a hidden section, which almost adds to the magic and sex appeal it creates, as if you've discovered some hidden secret. It's completely at odds with the sunny, sprightly optimism of the rest of the track and acts as a complete pull-back in tempo and mood. 

I've touched on it already, but with Booker T, you can cover slick/'swaggery' dramas with protagonists who exude charm, confidence and are effortlessly cool, or heists that want an 'edge' - something like Baby Driver. But the lighter, romantic, sultry and optimistic groove/funk elements (e.g. my note on 'Back Home') lend them so well to rom-coms, period dramas, and comedies, as well. Thrillers needing something brooding, moody, and jazz-influenced for something a bit off-kilter, you could really lean into the sinister side of some of their tracks.

If you’d like to know more, or you’re keen to discover more of our repertoire, please contact:

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