Film scores

Soundtrack review: Advantageous (Timo Chen – 2015)

Advantageous cover

I got intrigued about “Advantageous” before listening to it because composer Timo Chen sounds like a very interesting guy. He actually invents instruments he uses for his scores. I am not kidding. For “Advantageous” he came up with the “Jimbow,” a voltage-modified rotary tool (normally used for buffing and grinding surfaces) used to create unique lush or harsh textures on the harp, guitar, and piano. How about that. I also read that his studio also functions like a lab so I guess I will listen to a score composed by a mad scientist of film music. The movie is a Sci-fi story set in a dystopian future about a mother taking radical decisions to ensure her daughter’s future.

I might have set my expectations too high though. Until “Crier building” which gets my attention with a simple and moody guitar motif, nothing registers. The music stays in the background and sets the tense atmosphere but it doesn’t do much else. The score feels rather murky in its first section and I’ve heard the sounds many times before with the same impact.

Something seems to change though after that cue. Just like an image blurry at first slowly becomes clear and starts making sense so this score is starting to get to me. I hear moments that remind me of Nathan Johnson’s “Looper”. I think “Drake” is where the composer’s unique instruments start to kick in. I like the sounds and variations from this cue. This piece makes me feel like on an electric winter’s day, just when the snowing starts.

Then the score goes down in the swamp again. I am a big fan of minimalistic music but there’s not a lot to connect to here. Without some exciting things happening on screen the music of “Advantageous” doesn’t really keep my interest. It settles in a rather generic electronic zone where the only moments of brightness are the unusual sounds the composer inserts from time to time. I feel like I am listening to a more interesting variation of the sound that marks an abundance of thrillers and Sci-fi movies these past few years.

“Photos” is the kind on moment I would have liked to hear more developed. This is the kind of ambient piece I love and I would listen to over and over again. This is a beautiful cue and shows the potential of both the score and the composer. This also seems to be the wakeup call for the emotions of the score. From then on it’s smooth and enjoyable sailing. “Gwen signs” shines as well and then we get to the longest and most interesting cue of the entire score, the intriguing and fascinating “The experience”. Imagine the sound of Trevor Morris’ “Vikings” mixed with Bear McCreary’s “Black sails” by a spoon turned into a musical instrument by the craft of Timo Chen who also provides the emotional dressing for the mix. This cue alone is enough to make me watch this composer from now on.

Even if it had some lackluster parts “Advantageous” has enough exciting moments to deserve at least a listen. It will get another one for me for sure because I’m sure it still has some surprises left. Those final few cues really got to me .

Cue rating: 81 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 20 / 42

Album excellence: 48%

Highlgights:

You’ve Been Pursued

Drake

Photos

Gwen Signs

The Experience

Tunnel

Becoming Gwen

Becoming Jules

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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