Soundtrack review: Mr. Robot (Mac Quayle – 2016)
“Mr. Robot” is an American drama–thriller television series created by Sam Esmail. The series follows Elliot Alderson, a young man living in New York City, who works at the cyber security company Allsafe as a security engineer. Constantly struggling with social anxiety disorder and clinical depression, Elliot’s thought process seems heavily influenced by paranoia and delusion. He connects to people by hacking them, which often leads him to act as a cyber-vigilante. He is recruited by a mysterious insurrectionary anarchist known as Mr. Robot and joins his team of hacktivists known as fsociety. One of their missions is to cancel all debts by taking down one of the largest corporations in the world, E Corp (which Elliot perceives as Evil Corp), which also happens to be Allsafe’s biggest client. The score was written by Mac Quayle. The score is divided into two volumes, chronologically. I like that in a series score, to be able to see which cues come from which episode.
If you’ve been reading my thoughts on this site in the past couple of years you know that I am a big fan of electronic music of almost all shapes and sounds. Let’s say my involvement ends at the extreme clubbing DJ thing but pure electronic music will always be a special sanctuary for me. I love electronic music because of how beautiful it can be in its simplicity and how many emotions it can bring inside me with its sounds and pulses. I usually associate electronic music with a welcoming darkness and with seasons like late autumn or winter. Somehow the metallic taste of the music makes me think of the electricity in the air just before rain or snow comes. A gathering of clouds often sends me to an electronic playlist.
The first volume of “Mr. Robot” lives up to the name. There’s little warmth in the music and it has a machine like rhythm. The cues are simple and often made of repetitive beats. The music isn’t crowded. The composer gives his sound time and place to breathe and develop. Also this being the score for a TVs how it doesn’t need a lot of big moments; the music needs to serve a longer arc. There are the occasional buildups where the pace gets a little faster but overall the music is very reflective, both because it helps me think and also figuratively because its imaginary metallic shell has that quality. There are moments when the sound gets warm and more innocent and these moments make the score feel complete.
Although I did get extra shivers of nostalgia from cues like “Illusion of choice”, “The real Shayla” and “I’m crazy”, “Mr. Robot” is the kind of score to be enjoyed in its entirety, just like a TV show. It’s not a composition from which I can really highlight separate cues because they all stand out as a whole. I never felt the need to stop a cue or skip another one. The music is addictive and is all about the paranoid and pulsating atmosphere it creates. There are no separate or special themes, no big variations and maybe this is exactly what the series wants to show: a world where everyone is equal, a world with no debts where everyone can start over. I want to watch this series after listening to the music.
For me, a score like the one Mac Quayle wrote is very welcomed because it’s thought provoking. The loneliness of the music drowns the outside noises and helps me look in an imaginary mirror.
Cue rating: 86 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 63 / 146
Album excellence: 43%