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Soundtrack review: Mustang (Warren Ellis – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Mustang (Warren Ellis – 2015)


Mustang” is the story of five sisters from a village in northern turkey that, after playing innocently with some boys on their way home from work set of an unexpected scandal. The family home is progressively transformed into a prison; instruction in homemaking replaces school and marriages start being arranged. The five sisters, who share a common passion for freedom, find ways of getting around the constraints imposed on them. It’s strange to see Warren Ellis alone on the cover of a score. For me he’s eternally linked to his writing partner for so many years, Nick Cave. Together they’ve developed a sound so appealing to me that all of their scores are among my favorites. I am very excited to see what half of this wonderful binome can do on his own.

There it is. The slow, intentionally prolonged string sound that’s a trademark for Nick Cave and Warren Ellis comes hand in hand with a gentle flute which subtly brings the Turkish influences to the music. It’s just a bit of spice to link us to the story. The opening of the score is like the whisper of the wind. As the score progresses I find it very interesting how the usual stringy sound of the composer blends with the Eastern influences. This is brilliant and it makes me wonder if it has always sounded like this. It depends on how you listen to the music, because “The tunnel” sounds like something from “The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford” and that was Western. By the way the strings are used give the same effect a different light brings on a painting.

I am surprised that the tone of “Mustang” is a little lighter than I would have expected. But the minimalistic brand of film music that Warren Ellis brings is executed to perfection. Just listen to a cue like “Under siege”. There’s nothing there but a barely touched string and another constant sound, beating in the same rhythm. It works. The composer actually takes minimalism to another level. Just like the Chinese can create incredible miniatures so Ellis makes his music so clear, so minimal that you can hear every small detail. The sound is decomposed and it moves slowly so there is time for the listener to observe, connect, and appreciate.

I can’t help but think that Nick Cave was the darker of the two. Stripped of his influence, the music is a little more melodic and there is actually hope. Or not hope, maybe the better word is peace. The music seems more peaceful when it’s just Warren Ellis, but just as beautiful. This music soothes me and makes me think of connecting with nature, with the roots. I can see myself listening to the score for “Mustang” while on a trek somewhere. Those violins bring the wind to my ears and it’s warm and pleasant.

This sound might not be for anyone. I wouldn’t exactly call it an acquired taste but you need a special state of mind to enjoy this score. For fans of Warren Ellis this will be a feast. For others it could serve as a lighter introduction to the music of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Give it a try. It might calm some inner demons that were starting to growl…

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 25 / 33

Album excellence: 76%



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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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