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Soundtrack review: The neon demon (Cliff Martinez – 2016)

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“The neon demon” is a strange and wonderful musical world filled with nostalgia, neons, lasers and bright colors. It’s a dream from beginning to end

“The Neon Demon” is an upcoming 2016 American-Danish-French horror thriller film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and co-written by Mary Laws and Refn and starring Elle Fanning. The plot follows an aspiring model in Los Angeles whose beauty and youth place her in significant danger amongst the women she becomes associated with in the industry. Jesse (Elle Fanning), an aspiring model, moves to Los Angeles, where she is recruited by a fashion mogul (Alessandro Nivola) as his muse. Upon entering the city’s modeling industry, she finds her vitality and youth are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will use any means to get what she has. As always lately with Refn movies, Cliff Martinez wrote the score.

When I think “neon” I think 80s, synths, magic. The opening theme gives me hope and makes me look for my retro wave favorites playlist to add this Cliff Martinez gem to. “Neon demon” the cue is everything I imagined and dreamed of. This is a composer who always had a special connection with electronic music but this time he seems to have hit the spot. Even if usually I tend to exclude vocal tracks from my score reviews, the mood of Sweet tempest’s “Mine” is so right and raw that I want it part of the review. I’ve been riding the retro wave… wave lately and I can’t believe I’m hearing a score like this.

What can make a synth wave album even better for me is if it had some pure ambient pieces. Sure enough, “Don’t forget me when I’m famous” and “Gold paint shoot” detach me completely from the real world as if I was a balloon floating towards the outer space. I love the atmosphere of this score and as the music progresses I am more and more intrigued and I want to see the movie. A composition that sounds like this is certain to be among my favorites.

I’ve always had a thing for movies or music that evoked lonely and detached androids living in their own special world. I have no idea how the movie connects with this but the music is “Ex machina” material, it has that kind of mood. There’s a section which begins with “Take off your shoes” and “Ruby at the morgue” that completely drowns the outside world. It makes sense though; the director probably wants to show how hollow and cold the world our characters gets in is and Cliff Martinez knew exactly how to express that with us music.

“The neon demon” is a strange and wonderful musical world filled with nostalgia, neons, lasers and bright colors. It’s a dream from beginning to end, it’s an 80s sanctuary for me, dark and addictive and one of the best surprises of 2016 so far. This is my favorite Cliff Martinez score yet. He has transformed himself in an electronic god for this one and I don’t even know if I should post it here or on my electronic and ambient music site.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 68 / 68

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

Neon Demon

Sweet Tempest

The Demon Dance

Donγçöt Forget Me When You’re Famous

Gold Paint Shoot

Take Off Your Shoes

Ruby At The Morgue

Jesse Sneaks Into Her Room

Real Lolita Rides Again

Messenger Walks Among Us

Runway

Take Her To Measurements

Who Wants Sour Milk

I Would Never Say You’re Fat

Thank God You’re Awake Remix

Kinky

Ruby’s Close Up

Lipstick Drawing

Something’s In My Room

Are We Having A Party

Get Her Out Of Me

Waving Goodbye

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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