October 19, 2015 Last Updated 2:53 pm

Varèse Sarabande and CAAST release iOS and Android app for the soundtrack to the film Sicario

The tablet and smartphone app offers select tracks from the CD release, as well as the trailer to the film, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and interviews

The world of apps seems to be getting fairly predictable these days, which is why when there is a new, native magazine or newspaper app released it is such a joy. The same goes for other media, as well, especial eBooks.

So, when I received a press release for an app for the soundtrack for the film Sicario I was intrigued. The film, directed by Denis Villeneuve, was just released nationally earlier this month. The soundtrack, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, is available on the Varèse Sarabande label, and it is this that the app is meant to promote. The app was created by the technology and digital story-telling agency CAAST.


As with any app created for marketing purposes, Sicario Soundtrack Experience is free of charge to download (that is the iOS link, here is the Google Play link).

The app gives the tablet of smartphone owner access to four selections from the soundtrack, as well as the trailer to the film.

After the app opens and there is a bit of an introduction (which you get a bit of the flavor of in the GIF above) the trailer will play (unless you choose to swipe to continue). From there you can read a short note from the director.

But the main reason for the app is to hear music from the soundtrack. The app gives you access to four pieces. They play with scenes from the film seen in the lettering of the song title.

As the music is abstract, and obviously meant to accompany the film, I don’t know whether listeners would return again and again to the app to listen to the music. In the end, the app may serve best to increase the number of movie tickets sold rather than sales of CDs or music downloads. I also found the navigation a bit frustrating.

Sicario-musicBut I found the app interesting, nonetheless. One reason for this is that a couple of years ago I created an eBook for a music label, designed to be a companion to a CD release. I took the liner notes from the CD, added a couple other articles, then a discography with links back to iTunes of all the releases by the band in question.

One drawback to this was that iBooks Author did not (and does not, I suspect) allow for audio to be of a good enough quality (bit rate) to actually deliver the music with the eBook. So it is best to stick to snippets of music rather than whole tracks.

Nonetheless, I thought the eBook a very good companion piece, and an interesting way to promote the CD. The label didn’t, however. There were not be advocates of digital media and wouldn’t even download the eBook to view it. As I knew the owner of the label, I was rather surprised by the lack of interest and I dropped the project (though I still have it on one of my iPads).

I still believe that we will eventually begin to see a better merging of music, film and books into apps. There have been some examples, such as 360 Sound and The Mozart Project eBooks, and a number of music apps meant to promote new CD releases. But I think the platform is still be under developed. For instance, why couldn’t a new CD come with a code that allows you to download an app to accompany the music, maybe filled with music videos, live performance, more liner notes, interviews, and the like?

One day, maybe one day.

In the meantime, here is the press release for the new app:


Los Angeles, CA – October 19, 2015 — Varèse Sarabande and CAAST are changing the way you listen to soundtracks with the release of the free SICARIO SOUNDTRACK EXPERIENCE APP, available now on iOS and Android tablet and mobile devices.

The SICARIO SOUNDTRACK EXPERIENCE APP is the first of its kind immersive and interactive music listening experience, presenting film music in a groundbreaking way. Unlike other forms of music, film music is as much a visual and narrative experience as an aural experience. This app features a mixed media, audio and visual, completely interactive swipe-through format creating a new music experience for the viewer.

The app features select tracks from the SICARIO soundtrack album. However, instead of the standard, linear, track-by-track timed experience, the app provides a world where sight, sound, and touch allows the user to interact and engage with the soundtrack in interesting ways – featuring exclusive content curated by the composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson including behind-the-scenes footage of the actual creation of the music, liner notes, and interviews.

This app harkens back to the initial days of vinyl releases, when music was enjoyed not just by putting on a record, but by reading all the notes and looking through the images on the vinyl packaging. The SICARIO SOUNDTRACK EXPERIENCE APP evolves this listening activity by adding adaptive audio technology that allows the viewer to swipe through images, notes, and film footage, while listening to musical tracks that are seamlessly and automatically synched to the changing visual elements.

“Since all the music is looped-based and continues infinitely, the viewer can go at their own pace rather than being locked into a linear listening experience,” described Tara Moross CEO of CAAST, a Cutting Edge Group company (parent company of Varèse Sarabande). “We have changed the paradigm of consuming music content by giving the audience seamless control over what has until now been a passive dimension of their experience.”

“We have been working towards a new way of engaging the Varèse Sarabande soundtrack fan with what we see as the future of soundtracks” said Darren Blumenthal CEO of Varese Sarabande. “Jóhann Jóhannsson was the perfect creative partner to work with on this new endeavor.”

SICARIO debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, earning rave reviews for both the film and the score. Vanity Fair Magazine called the score “rumbling, evocative” and “he [Jóhannsson] has a wonderful knack for balancing eye-popping technical flourishes with more organic texture and mood.”

Jóhann Jóhannsson is a Berlin-based composer originally from Iceland. His varied and eclectic output includes commissioned works for Bang on A Can, Theatre of Voices and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra as well as a collaboration with the New York-based experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison on the film The Miners’ Hymns. His debut album “Englabörn” appeared in 2002 and he has since released 5 solo albums on the labels Touch and 4AD.

Writing music for plays, dance and theatrical performances led to work on film soundtracks. Jóhannsson has scored more than a dozen movies, including The Good Life (Eva Mulvad, DK 2010), Varmints (Marc Craste, UK 2008) and For Ellen (So Yong Kim, US 2012) before his recent work with director Denis Villeneuve on Prisoners and Josh C. Waller on McCanick. His music has also found a home in art house films across the globe, from Lou Ye’s Mystery (CN 2011) to Janos Szazs’ prize winning drama, Le Grand Cahier (HU 2013). Jóhannsson was awarded a Golden Globe in January 2015 for Best Film Score for The Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh. His music for the film also earned Jóhannsson both Oscar and BAFTA nominations for best original score.

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