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Synth soundtracks – the OFFICIAL SampleNerd  lowdown: part IV

Welcome to Synth soundtracks – the OFFICIAL SampleNerd lowdown: part IV. This is the catalogue of the best synthesizer soundtracks listed as being amongst the best of the genre. According to; and

Let’s go!

Under the Skin

Year: 2013

Score: Mica Levi

Verdict: Opening with a fast moving din, to what sounded like keenly struck viola strings Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 science fiction story opened with a particularly pronounced feeling of the mysterious.

The only film in this series to be set here in the UK, Scotland to be more precise, Under The Skin was also a refreshing location change.

Sound rather than music has so far been the accompanying score to this liquid based horror tale as a screeching viola serenades the siren played by Scarlet Johansson.

The Avant guard score put me in mind of 1960s experimental.

Our mysterious apex predator dispatches her kill to a viscous grave where something else awaits them…

Death ritual

A Largo wooden beat marks the beginning of the death ritual. In which only one will make it out of there.

Johansson’s character seems to be one in service as she certainly doesn’t seem to be enjoying any of her captures.

Set in rural and urban Scotland our expedient femme fatale sometimes appears to be in as much mystery herself as that which she presents to the men she fascinates!

Using the same string technique to great effect, Levi’s score is very much part of the plot. With director Glazer utilizing the natural resources to good effect a’ la Carpenter in The Fog as we noticed in an earlier entry on this series.

Using the same chords I will fix you by Coldplay (intentionally?) Levi commences a love scene using the same bowing technique, just as effectively, this time further up the scale.

Failing to make its budget outlay the film is admittedly fairly quiet and slow but I for one welcome this kind of visual tempo.

I was left in as much wonder as to where all this was heading as our protagonist. Which I thought was rather a clever ploy of the director. We’re left to discover together.

An intriguing film!

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Total Recall (1990)

Year: 1990

Score: Jerry Goldsmith

Verdict: Conceptually interesting, occasionally grotesque and a fairly fast-paced sci-fi romp Goldsmith plies a simple and sustained two-note motif.  Pulling out the brass-hits and glockenspiel for the upcoming chase.

With all the costumes looking like they are straight out of a mail order catalogue (!) the film takes a more sober tone for the second half  located all the way on “Mars”.

Between running from ever-present pursuers; existential conversation; drilling and saving the patrons of an 80’s discotheque Arnie sure knows how to keep busy!  With respected Goldsmith providing playful synth tones and big strings.

Synth theatrics are fairly nominal which honestly left me wondering why it was included on a list of greatest synth soundtracks (more on that in the afterword). Total Recall was nonetheless pretty good to watch after all these years.

Lastly, it was nominated at the 63rd Academy Awards for best sound and best sound effects.

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The Lost Boys

Year: 1987

Score: Thomas Newman

Verdict: It’s starting to look very much like the 1980’s were the ‘golden’ period for synth soundtracks, isn’t it? And any one looking at this fairly comprehensive catalogue would be excused for thinking so. Perhaps it’s an easy-go-to. Or perhaps it is just because most of the films here are pretty famous. And made in a time when the use of synthesisers was not only new and novel but also relatively cheap! This is something looked at in better depth in the wrap up.

With that aside. The Lost Boys soundtrack certainly has synth all over it. But it tends to be in the included songs rather than ‘in-score.’. Into the Shadows and I Still Believe are great examples.

And actually though it features vampires the story of a teenager getting caught up in trouble in a new town has a certain ring of truth to it. And it’s not shy about committing to the story either, pushing graphically as far as they can to retain the R rating and the ‘spirit’ of the film.

To be sure it is a pretty fantastic premise. Family move to a new town where there’s a problem with vampires. And the movie isn’t shy about committing to the story. Done in a way to keep its R rating.

Glory days

And like many who had their teenage years in the 90s I remember listening to this on my Walkman!

The soundtrack is deservedly cited as being amongst the best of the genre.

Walk this way,  an ironic choice for our  neophyte David’s first initiatory kill followed by dramatic church organ.

Getting most “sound-tracky” as the Frog brothers and the newly arrived brothers have a final face off with the murderous vampire gang. With layered brass hits, Church organ and synth arpeggios accompanying the showdown.

Actually, I’d forgotten how good the action is, with flying fights, holy baths and exploding vampires!

Finishing off with good covers’ of People are Strange, and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – this film is all in all, a fun vampire romp, which if remade exactly the same today, would in my opinion stand up just as well.

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The Secret of my Success

Image shows the film cover for the 1987 motion picture The Secret of my Success.  From the article: Synth soundtracks - the OFFICIAL SampleNerd lowdown: part IV by

Year: 1987

Score: David Foster

Verdict: A lively opener celebrates the eighties ethos of ambition and reach with an upbeat rock song carrying the refrain ”

Foster makes his introduction with a romantic feeling FM ditty over a water fountain.

Pulled out the steno pool is Yellos Oh Yeah the second time if you’ll remember this song had appeared the first being Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Marking the hallway point Foster repeats and extends the FM theme further into the movie adding a sax taking us from ariel shots of the Manhattan bridge to the bedroom.

The FM and sax return with gusto for a garden party having certain audible strains of “Didn’t We Almost Have It All by superior warbler Whitney Houston.

Oh Yeah returns in the second half for a bit of night time bed hopping.

Bradley aka Witfield aka Fox finally gets sprung leading to a preposterous coo in the boardroom.

The film closes with a night at the opera, rolling into the song that launched the film.

A fun and entertaining movie.

Image credit: Roger

More 80s!

Risky Business

Year: 1983

Score: Tangerine Dream

Verdict: Fielding multiple arpeggiated melodies throughout the movie. Tangerine Dream supplies a certain interior nocturnal quality, establishing a sobriety, that belies the absurdity of the capitalist ambitions of high schooler Joel Goodsen.

With characters lacking anything other than the need for instant gratification and to cover their own back, the film can hardly be said to be morally edifying!  But then it’s very  likely not meant to be.

Having said that, it’s certainly a watchable movie.  With Cruise committed to the absurdist plotline.  Tangerine Dream supplies a fitting but ultimately unmemorable score with the included songs packing the most punch for the soundtrack.

More a mix of drama than the high escapades that characterises a few of its contemporaries, the film closes with similar fare that has run throughout.

Image credit: @ Chungkong

Electric Dreams

Image shows the film cover for the 1984 motion picture Electric Dreams. From the article: Synth soundtracks - the OFFICIAL SampleNerd lowdown: part IV by

Year: 1984

Score: Giorgio Moroder

Verdict: This fun and interesting movie – were it not for it’s famous composer, might be relegated to 80s chintz not having the same ‘classic’ cache as War Games or Tron.

However, I think this movie is pretty clever. It does – admittedly, have its share of silly antics almost approaching slapstick; trait shared by more than one of the eighties movies I’ve watched for this project.

But the premise of computer technology becoming enslaving emotionally is something that can be imagined in our age of social media and perhaps eventually even A.I itself.

Incorporating a stand alone music video all by itself in the second half of the movie, the soundtrack is certainly one of the most pop orientated soundtracks in this series. Comparatively the other being: The Secret of My Success featured in this part of the series.

Not that this leaves “The Father of Disco” with little to do. With Bach’s Minuet in G major – also known as Lovers Dream (probably chosen for this title alone) making a lengthy appearance more than once, and the particularly nice passage of music towards the end which put me in mind of Mahler’s famous Adagietto. This OST is both musically and instrumentally interesting.

Moroder pulled out the big guns with the voice of Edgar (the computer) coming courtesy of the Fairlight CMI and the Moog Modular was used to create the atmospheric effects. Also in use is the Roland MC-8 Microcomposer and the legendary Jupiter 8.

The film closes with the Phil Oakey co-written title song Together in Electric Dreams which as we know would go on to be an international hit.

Image credit: Roger

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