Reviews On-The-Go # 6

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.

Ronja the Robber’s Daughter (Johan Söderqvist, 2024)

The English-language series version of Astrid Lindgren’s iconic fantasy character was met with mostly positive reviews (but hard to swallow for those of us weaned on the 80s film). Johan Söderqvist, one of the foremost Nordic film composers of our time, has the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of Björn Isfält’s gorgeous 1984 score. Unfortunately, many of the tracks are carpeted with programmed low pulses and chugging rhytmical patterns, probably in an effort to make it modern and hip. That isn’t really necessary, because the “purer” bits molded on Swedish folk music, Isfält’s original music or medieval tropes, are strong enough on their own, often tapping into the beautifully bittersweet. Needs to be playlisted. Favourite tracks: «The Spring Shout», «The Wolf Song», «It Hurts», «End Credits – Season 1»

Supersex (Ralf Hildenbeutel, 2024)

Fresh off the impressive heist score for Everybody Loves Diamonds (2023), German composer Ralf Hildenbeutel delivers another feisty synth score for this Netflix series about famous Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi. The score also features staccato choral outbursts with baroque underpinnings – not quite a clichée yet, although it’s become a widespread trope, it’s a vibrant feature that adds acoustic depth to the electronic landscapes. In this case also providing delightful, classy contrast to the unclassy environs Siffredi frequented. Meanwhile, moody, minor-mode chord modulations underline the tragic nature of the story. The album is on the long side, but can be whittled down. Favourite tracks: «Rocco Siffredi is Born (10, 9, 8, …)», «Rocco’s Ressurection», «1994 – Cannes», «The 80s»

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Gavin Brivik, 2023)

Daniel Goldhaber’s entertaining climate warrior sabotage thriller made the festival rounds with great success in 2023. US composer Gavin Brivik likewise broke through with this wonderfully hypnotic synth score, clearly inspired by the trance-like sequencers of the Berlin School and Tangerine Dream – mirroring, in this case, the determination and plotting of the saboteurs. While some tracks meander a bit (nothing a whittling can’t fix), the best tracks explore ambiance with depth and detail – occasionally even haunting modulations (like the slight twist of Vangelis in some of the Yamaha CS-80-like sounds) are put up-front and center to capture the human element of the story, not just the industrial. Favourite tracks: «Why I Destroyed Your Property», «You’ll Be Great», «How to Blow Up a Pipeline»

Nudes (Rob, Nousdeuxtheband & Paul Sabin, 2024)

Based on a Norwegian series, no less, this English-language Netflix adaptation tells the story of three teenagers struggling with nude photos on the loose. Three composers are likewise responsible for the score. Veteran synth wizard Robin Coudert (aka Rob) predictably delivers five solid tracks, but the real discovery here is the ten tracks by experimental French synth band Nousdeuxtheband – fatter, funkier and with some vocal elements seemingly inspired by Laurie Anderson’s work on Jean Michel Jarre’s Zoolook, they add necessary youthful vigour. Paul Sabin’s gritty, explorative parts are heavier on the ear, but the uptempo «Get Him» is a keeper. Favourite tracks: «Victor», «Le college», «Small Voices»

Time Bomb Y2K (Nathan Micay, 2023)

This is a 2023 HBO documentary about the hysteria surrounding the socalled Y2K problem, when everyone thought the digital infrastructure would collapse at the turn of the millennium. Canadian electronica artist Nathan Micay, who I had only vaguely heard of before, delivers a beautifully melodic synth score that captures both the late 90s EDM aesthetic (dig those breakbeats!), as well as loftier, moodier textures. There’s a considerable amount of (rather entertaining) “knob-turning” in many of the tracks, meaning pitch variations that no doubt allude to the worries and pitfalls of technology – and that also place the score appropriately between old analogue and new digital. Favourite tracks: «Stone Age Survival», «Stress Testing», «Mind Bicycles», «Spiral 2»

Challengers (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, 2024)

I would never have expected Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name, Suspiria) to do a romantic film about tennis, but there you go. The film is already receiving rave reviews. The score is by Nine Inch Nails cohorts Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who in recent years have branched out from their darker, industrial sounds to do more diverse projects. Interestingly, this isn’t the original score (which has a separate release), but a 30-minute remix album by German electronic composer Boys Noize, and it really kicks ass, to put it bluntly. Hardhitting acid house grooves boost the energy of Reznor and Ross’ textures, resulting in a beautifully flowing DJ set. Reconceptualizing the score this way is a great and unique idea, even if Reznor and Ross’ score already was pretty funky and accessible to begin with (at least compared to their earlier canon). This is now my alltime favourite score of the duo. Favourite tracks: «I Know», «Challengers», «The Signal»

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