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Reviews On-The-Go # 2

Reviews on-the-go is a column that picks out a selection of soundtracks for single-paragraph “mini reviews”. Usually recent discoveries and releases, and usually recommendations, but not exclusively.

Tin & Tina (Jocelyn Pook, 2023)

I haven’t heard much from Jocelyn Pook since she scored Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), but she returns on my radar with a moody score for this thriller about a couple who adopts two albino siblings with a disturbing religious zeal. It wears its Rosemary Baby/Omen-esque vibe on its sleeve, with haunting voices (primarily female), but stacked on top of wistful, quasi-classical harmonies for chamber ensemble. There are dark moments, for sure, but this is surprisingly accessible and melodic, and a step beyond the stark minimalism of the iconic Kubrick film (some of the more chant-like tracks do remind me of the ritual scenes of that film, however). Favourite tracks: «Tin and Tina Theme & Variations», «Cleansing Kuki’s Soul»

Boy from Heaven (Krister Linder, 2023)

This 2022 thriller by Tarik Saleh, also known as Cairo Conspiracy, was both the Swedish Oscar candidate as well as a main competitor at Cannes. It concerns a young boy who studies at a famous university in Cairo, who gets tangled up in religious and political intrigue. Krister Linder’s score is mostly static, exploring layers of tentative sounds, but uses wonderfully slow and powerful chord progressions (especially in the strings) as the plot unfolds. Sometimes augmented by electronics, organ-like scapes or chorus. This is not for the “action addict”. Instead, it’s a gloriously hypnotic score in all its introspection, with soundwaves crashing softly on the shore. Favourite tracks: «Under Your Tender Gaze», «Sky Cries for Adam»

L’envol (Gabriel Yared, 2023)

Veteran composer Gabriel Yared has been on fire in the last few years, providing delightfully old-fashioned scores for new films. 2023 saw both L’amour et les forêts and L’envol adhering to this, the latter a French film about a woman’s emancipation efforts in the first half of the 20th century. Yared creates a few dreamy songs that sound like unmistakable Michel Legrand tributes, while the score proper is a life-affirming, warmly thematic affair reliant on strings, piano and woodwinds – again venturing into the gorgeously bittersweet. Scores like this are a dying breed, and need to be embraced while they’re around. Favourite tracks: «Passacaglia», «Étoile», «At Sea», «L’envol Suite»

Fire of Love (Nicolas Godin, 2023)

National Geographic documentary (available on Disney+) about a married researcher couple who explored volcanoes incessantly until it one day became their downfall. The score by Air luminary Nicolas Godin is one of my favourites of 2023, perhaps the best on a purely conceptual level, eschewing external drama in favour of internal obsessions. Some parts have an almost Pink Floyd-like, psychedelic ambiance, with elements of Roy Budd-ian 70s funk (befitting the film’s period setting), while other bits are delightful electronic landscapes and riffs. Suave and “light” in tone (for the most part), the score tries to pinpoint the couple’s insatiable curiousity rather than the hazards of their exploits. Favourite tracks: «Team Vulcan», «Volcano March», «Destroy and Create»

Touch of Crude (Cliff Martinez, 2023)

This was a short film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn for Prada’s 2022 summer collection, of all things. Unsurprisingly, Refn turned to his regular composer in recent years, Cliff Martinez, who in turn delivered an instantly likeable synth score that sounds like an extension of their work on the fashion-centered feature film The Neon Demon (2016). Once again, it’s a rather acidic landscape, with pinched sounds and eerie glissando effects, but then occasionally breaking free into funky, luscious grooves. Yet another stylistically confident entry from the director/composer duo. Favourite track: «Red Pink and Blue, Part 2»

The YouTube Effect (Paul Haslinger, 2023)

Tangerine Dream alumnus Paul Haslinger (read our interview with Haslinger here) delivers another solid synth score for technology-themed film and TV (as he did the series Halt and Catch Fire about the 80s computer revolution), this time a documentary about YouTube, both a historical and cautionary tale. Yes, there are Berlin School sequencers present, as well as other analogue elements, but they co-exist with infectious, contemporary EDM grooves and buildups – creating a well-balanced, 39-minute concept album. Favourite tracks: «Pervasion», «The Arbiters», «TruMotion – Ambient Remix»

Tetris (Lorne Balfe, 2023)

Lorne Balfe is often hit and miss, but when he moves away from Remote Control tropes and into more developped, pure landscapes (like Ad Astra or His Dark Materials), he can be interesting. That is the case here, in this fun, retro synth score for a film about the troubled origins of the Tetris game, set against a Cold War backdrop. There are nods to Wendy Carlos and her seminal 1968 album Switched on Bach, as well as 80s “iron curtain” synthpop and fun variations of the style of music from the game itself. Be aware that there are two albums – one OST that mixes Balfe’s cues with other (less interesting) material, and one over-long score-only release. You’ll be wise to create your own playlist from the two; mine is a very entertaining and succinct 47 minutes. Favourite tracks: «Benevolence», «Falling Blocks», «Back to Bach», «Puzzle Piece»

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