Lakeshore’s soundtrack CD for Drive shows solid musical continuity between songs and score, likely due to director Nicolas Winding Refn wanting Cliff Martinez’s score to be stylistically in sync with the pre-selected songs that deliberately evoke eighties electronica.
Unlike Martinez’s score for Traffic (2000) – perhaps Drive’s closest musical cousin – his latest effort straddles the border between semi-thematic material and ambient sound design, aiming for a character’s emotional state and shifting levels of tension rather than onscreen action. For a film with a moving vehicle and brooding violence, the action cues have been heavily reduced to tense little sonic pulses, around which tones hover and morph into ephemeral chords. Sounds are constantly intersecting (“Hammer” being a perfect example), and there’s rarely a moment when the score allows one to settle into a solid, restive moment.
Brief cues such as “Wrong Floor” come close – compacting a moment of self-reflection into a mini-musical homily – but Drive is really an intense snapshot of a man’s decision that goes sour, and the rapid consequences that intensify his stress level, pushing him to a point of no return.
The lengthy “On the Beach” is a great mélange of frayed sonics, buzzing electric light fixtures, and thick swathes of synth chords, with each section bringing on a new wave of sound design until a riffing guitar and bass pulses bring everything to a rapid close. “Bride of Deluxe” and “On the Beach” also recall Tangerine Dream’s use of thick, ethereal chords (particularly “The Black Soldiers” in The Keep) which give the drama extra intensity.
Of the 5 source cues that precede the score suite, only one breaks up the mood (an odd rendition of Riz Ortolani’s “Oh My Love”), but Drive is a satisfying little work that will please fans of vintage synth sonics, and music that wavers between impressionism and abstraction.
Read an interview with composer Cliff Martinez regarding the scoring of Drive.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan