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MP3: Only God Forgives (2013)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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Milan Records

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July 16, 2013

Tracks / Album Length:

17 tracks / (57:50)



Cliff Martinez


Special Notes:

Available digitally, on CD, and as a limted LP pressing.

Comments :    

Reuniting with Drive [M] (2011) director Nicolas Winding Refn, Cliff Martinez creates another delicate, almost silent score with a minimalist main theme, a rhythmic motor, and impressions from the folk and pop music heritage of Thailand. OGF is still a work with heavy electronic ingredients, but most of the discretely rendered sounds pulse, shimmer, curve, reverberate, and drone against an occasional orchestral veneer.

Just as Contagion [M] (2011) pushed Martinez to refine ideas from multiple styles – a ‘dirty’ orchestral jazz style, seventies funk, and hints of vintage Tangerine Dream – here the composer’s expanded on some of those ideas, minus the jazz (although a pop-jazz element is present in “Can’t Forget,” a great Thai source song that has an alluring jazz lounge style).

“Chang Vision” and “More Hands” for example, have silky strings playing a sad, almost Herrmannesque theme fragment in the far off distance; and as a contrast the blurred string chords in the first half of “Do As Thou Will” are heavily Morriconesque, which Martinez soon shifts to percussion textures that span a broad spectrum of fine and course sounds.

More vintage synth emulations dominate “Sister Part 1,” where Martinez opts for heavy synth chords that undulate in cyclical fashion whenever they’re sustained, and the harmonic structure is very evocative of liturgical music, but with a slight twist – in “Wanna Fight,” the organ chords and vintage synths tones recall John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

Deep bass pulses and frayed tones make up the percussion track “Chang and Sword,” which is given a meatier rendition in “Take It Off.” Martinez’ percussion beats include metal rapping, submarine sonar pings, and sustained echo loops that convey a sense of being submerged in some ghostly world on the fringe of Hell. The cue ends with an oscillating tone that becomes increasing frayed before it quickly evaporates into silence.

Fans of Martinez’ Solaris [M] (2002) will find a few cues bearing a similar use of the Crystal Baschet chimes and tones which shimmer and intensify but remain wholly soothing, and while the chimes may not recur frequently, their harmonic parameters are impressionistically carried on in a few cues. A contrast to the glass tones is the increasingly grungy style that takes over the score, especially “Ladies Close Your Eyes” with wheezing metallic scrapes and distortion.

A few tracks run around 3-4 minutes ("Ladies Close Your Eyes" runs a solid 8 mins.), but as with most of Martinez’ scores, the music eases in and gets out fast, always strategic, and never staying in one sonic zone for long. The constant change within OGF gives it a definite dramatic arc, and director Refn seems to bring out the edgier side of the composer. With Thai percussion added to Martinez’ palette, OGF is an understated gem offering a hypnotic mix of elegiac and the profane sounds.

Only God Knows is also available on LP (limited to 4000 copies), and July 19th in a digital deluxe edition featuring 6 bonus tracks (including “Bride of Chang” remixed by Mac Quayle).



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan


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