Marek Robert highlights his top 5 film scores of the year for 2016.
The Neon Demon
Every time a new Cliff Martinez score is announced it’s almost guaranteed to be included in my favourite scores of the year and his score for Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest feature The Neon Demon is no exception.
This time around the 62-year-old composer fuses his lush signature synth tones with a darker, edgier, electro sound. Of course, there are the usual moments of pure Martinez littered throughout but surprisingly, some of the real highlights here are the more dance floor heavy pieces, full of heavy electronic bass drums and euphoric synths that wouldn’t be out of place at an illegal rave.
Despite the introduction of a more club orientated sound on some tracks, Martinez doesn’t stray too far away from what we expect of him here. Nonetheless, this is another solid outing from the ex Red Hot Chili Peppers member, a score that further cements his place as one of the greatest contemporary film composers.
In a similar vein to one of 2016’s major crazes, Stranger Things, the 2015 French Canadian post-apocalyptic romp, Turbo Kid is one of the most enjoyable pieces of 80’s nostalgia in recent years and has since gained a deserved cult following.
The score for Turbo Kid, released very early on in 2016 through Death Waltz, was composed by one of Quebec’s finest, Le Matos, a duo who also have production credits for the film. This, their second release after 2013’s excellent debut album, Join Us, sees Le Matos display an even bigger, more melodic synth sound that could be described as something in-between John Carpenter and Daft Punk.
Some of you may be getting a little tired of the huge influx of pastiche 80’s synth albums that seem to be extremely popular at the moment, but rest assured Turbo Kid is one of those rare infectious records that transports you back to a time of power gloves and Bmx bikes and is almost certain to put a smile on your face.
Having already released Frozen Existence and Street Law in 2016, Glasgow based composer Repeated Viewing, aka Alan Sinclair, seems to have a never-ending catalogue of music just waiting to get out there.
Art Imitates, released through the superb boutique Cassette label Spun Out of Control, sees RV compose the score for a short indie art film and it’s one that displays a new direction from his previous outings. RV displays his diversity and willingness to adapt to each individual project. Gone are his signature 80’s inspired Italian horror synths and instead we are treated to a slow, ambient, ethereal score, which has more in common with the minimal abstract tones of David Lynch’s Eraserhead or the ambient soundscapes of Brian Eno than the horror synths of Claudio Simonetti or Fabio Frizzi.
With Classics like Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and Moon already under his belt, Clint Mansell is one of today’s most talented and sought after composers. This time Mansell teams up with British director Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace, A Field in England) for his bizarre adaptation of the 1970’s JG. Ballard novel, High-Rise. A collaboration that had me watering at the mouth in anticipation.
High-Rise, a mostly orchestral score is an extremely solid outing from start to finish and there are genuine moments of sheer Mansell genius. My personal favourite is the soaring strings of Beyond the High-Rise, a stunning track that gives you that feeling of another world, one outside the claustrophobic quarters of Wheatley’s dystopian High-Rise flats.
I’ve been a huge Clint Mansell fan ever since I was a teenager, hearing his electronic cues for Aronofsky’s Pi, and his work for The Fountain is one of my all-time favourite scores. Whilst High-Rise may not quite reach the heights of that score (no pun intended), it is further proof that the former Pop Will Eat Itself lead singer can do no wrong at the moment.
If there was an award for the most terrifying score of the year then Mark Korven’s atmospheric and hugely unsettling score for Robert Egger’s critically acclaimed horror film The Witch would win it by a country mile. Try listening to this in the dark and you’ll know what I mean.
In the vain of the film, which takes place in the early days of the New World, Korven’s score has a medieval, paganistic sound to it, which is emphasized through the unconventional instruments and sounds he uses…..some of which I’ve never heard of or can’t even pronounce (a nyckelharpa??).
For those of you who have seen The Witch, you’ll be aware that there are some harrowing moments of terror and unease. Korven’s score most certainly adds to that overall atmosphere and mood. Although it’s not the easiest listen, it’s a lesson in how to inflict emotions of fear and anxiety through the tones and textures of a horror score.
Green Room – Brook Blair & Will Blair
Arrival – Jóhann Jóhannsson
The Revenant – Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto
Jackie – Mica Levi