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Various Artists: Drive: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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Various artists

Drive: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Lakeshore

Lasting not terribly long at the local theaters, the movie Drive, by most reports a slick and smart art-house-meets-Hollywood action winner, has already come and gone from Baltimore. I haven’t seen it yet. Its soundtrack, however, is an obsession, maybe the best original film score released since Sonic Youth’s slept-on soundtrack to Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover. Or maybe since Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score (Fire Walk With Me if we need to stick to feature films) or, hell, even Vangelis’ Blade Runner. The linkage in all of those is ambient mood and, more so, new ambient mood: This is a place that, perhaps, you have not visited. Strange and a bit wonderful.

Composer Cliff Martinez is an odd case. His credits for screen start at Pee-wee’s Playhouse, break for a span spent drumming around for various bands including an early Red Hot Chili Peppers, and continue with Steven Soderbergh’s 1989 Sex, Lies, and Videotape, settling thereafter into a steady gait of scoring various mainstream and arty mainstream films, often directed by Soderbergh (Traffic, the 2002 version of Solaris). Drive, along with Soderbergh’s Contagion and The Lincoln Lawyer, is one of three films he’s done just this year.

The Contagion score makes for a particularly interesting companion piece. It uses some of the same tools: the not-quite-empty spaces and thin haunts of synthesizers. Yet it’s very conditioned for a movie with plot points and building suspense and Hey, audience, something bad is happening here. Drive doesn’t feel like it’s trying to fit into something so much, rather more like it’s sitting above it like a glaze of slowly shifting color. Glass Candy/Chromatics’ Johnny Jewel had a hand in editing the score and one pretty great Chromatics track makes it onto the soundtrack as well. And you can hear this sort of dark-side disco influence through Martinez’s original score stuff, dim fogs of ambient synth dusted with tendrils of sexy bass sequencing or antigravity guitar. Imagine Music for Airports breeding with Italians Do it Better.

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