THE BEST SCORES OF 2016 – Part One

ARRIVAL soundtrack | ©2016 Deutsche Grammophon

THE BEST SCORES OF 2016 ARRIVAL  (Johann Johannsson / Deutsche Grammophon) An Icelander whose intensely psychological, yet still melodically accessible modernist scores like PRISONERS and SICARIO speak in alien languages of subsonic strings and nerve-chilling brass at last gets his actual close encounter as he translates the Rorschach Test language of obelisk / monolith dwelling inter-dimensional deities here. Johannsson brilliantly captures both a sense of wonder and fear with beholding the mind-boggling, verbally-scrambled unknown as whale cry motifs join with alternately moaning and chattering voices, backed by a strong orchestral sound that serves as a powerful universal musical translator in a way that’s […]Read On »

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THE NEON DEMON composer Cliff Martinez – Interview

THE NEON DEMON | ©2016 Broad Green Pictures

If there’s one thing that composer Cliff Martinez shares in common with Jesse, the nymphet model of THE NEON DEMON, then it’s that both are soft spoken while rocking peoples’ worlds. For Jesse, it’s becoming a sensation that drives LA’s fashionistas wild with desire as The Next Big Thing. For former Chili Peppers drummer Martinez, it was creating a sound of alt. rhythmic minimalism that changed the face of indie scoring with Steven Soderbergh’s SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE. But if Jesse has the misfortune of attracting equally gorgeous, if far more twisted people who want to absorb the blonde essence of her […]Read On »

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CD Review: THE KNICK soundtrack

THE KNICK soundtrack | ©2014 MIlan Records

Where prolific filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has gone to Thomas Newman for the trippy ambience of SIDE EFFECTS, and David Holmes for the jazz groove of the OCEANS trilogy, Cliff Martinez continues to prove a reliable, experimental constant since director and composer made their indie bones on 1989s SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE. Both have considerably broadened their repertoire from that ambient hip-hop score which redefined the look and sound of alternative cinema, their collaborations ranging from the enraged crime percussion of THE LIMEY to the modernistic orchestral score of SOLARIS and the retro-virus suspense of CONTAGION. But whatever approach he’s taken, […]Read On »

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CD Review: The Ten Best Scores of 2013

Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Trapanese / OBLIVION soundtrack | ©2013 +180 Records

THE BOOK THIEF (John Williams / Sony Classical) The kind of unabashedly thematic, and mostly melodic music that’s made John Williams into the most popular film composer of all time is often the sound of innocence itself, an unabated musical youthfulness that he’s also played to ironic effect when dealing with children confronting the unimaginable. Here it’s a genocide that’s heard, but rarely witnessed within a young German girl’s sheltered life during World War 2. Such is the devastating, gentle power that speaks volumes for THE BOOK THIEF‘s score as it encapsulates the innocence, first loves and ultimate shock of […]Read On »

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CD Review: ONLY GOD FORGIVES soundtrack

ONLY GOD FORGIVES soundtrack | ©2013 Milan Records

Most times, a composer’s job is to support the emotions of an actor’s performance, not become the performance. But where any other musician might be condemned for overstepping the boundaries of good taste, Cliff Martinez deserves a medal for brilliantly providing just about the only humanity for Nicolas Winding Refn’s lavish exercise in artsy sadism with ONLY GOD FORGIVES. Far more in the realm of the filmmaker’s FEAR X  than his infinitely more accessible DRIVE, Refn’s bitch slap of unending, beyond-explicit revenge is actually more of a fight club for staring. Given endless stretches of unblinking silence in between its […]Read On »

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CD Revew: The Best Score Runner-Ups and Composers to Watch for 2012

CHICO & RITA soundtrack | ©2012 Red General Catalogue

The Best Score Runner-Ups and Composer to Watch for 2012 ARBITRAGE (Cliff Martinez / Milan) As the composer who virtually created the ethereal indie sound with SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, Cliff Martinez has always played psychological tension in offbeat, ethereally percussive ways. Here’s it’s a moody spider’s web of drones and percussion that’s closing in on a magnate’s gigantic F-up, rhythmic tension that’s all about the inner turmoil that clings to the antihero as he uses all of his charms to clean things up. Speaking with his soft, haunted confidence, Martinez’s Eno-ish washes of melodic textures always have a cold […]Read On »

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CD Review: ARBITRAGE soundtrack

ARBITRAGE soundtrack | ©2012 Milan Records

His characters are often under intense pressure, with no easy way out in sight. Not that most of Cliff Martinez’s scores sweat their predicaments out in the traditional sense, preferring to speak volumes for the agitated states of bank robbers (THE UNDERNEATH), drug dealers (TRAFFIC) and the fate-cursed (FIRST SNOW) through the tides and ebbs of pulsing, rock-inspired rhythms and suspenseful, dream like sustains. Now the former Chili Pepper has segued from from the monosyllabic getaway man of DRIVE to the far more talkative, and rich antihero of ARBITRAGE the kind of mogul who prefers to put others in the […]Read On »

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Interview: THE LINCOLN LAWYER composer Cliff Martinez lays down the law

Composer Cliff Martinez

If there’s a rhythm of the heat to the underworld, and those legally profiting from it, then it would likely be the sound of Cliff Martinez’s undulating, darkly ethereal beats. It’s a dangerous vibe caught between sinister grooves and the existential feel of psyches caught in a moral morass- almost as if Martinez was hearing them trying to swim to redemption- whether they be a revenge-consumed LIMEY, the guilt-riddled cops of NARC and VICE, or the tapestry of drug-affected characters in TRAFFIC. Now Martinez literally picks up that beautifully menacing drive again with THE LINCOLN LAWYER, its passenger’s conflicted soul […]Read On »

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CD Review: SOLARIS soundtrack

SOLARIS soundtrack | ©2011 La La Land Records

Ever since composer Cliff Martinez broke the sound barrier of “indie” scoring with the similarly eccentric Steven Soderbergh on SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, their collaborations on such films as KING OF THE HILL, KAFKA, TRAFFIC and the upcoming CONTAGION have resulted in near-hallucinatory atmospheres of melody, rhythms so fragile that they seemed in danger of breaking with a listen. That’s why there’s no better example of their hypnotic partnership than the crystalline vibe of Soderbergh’s 2002 remake of SOLARIS, a score wherein Martinez also brought in the larger sound of a 90-piece Hollywood orchestra, while using it in similarly offbeat […]Read On »

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