TV

Soundtrack review: Halt and catch fire (Paul Haslinger – 2016)

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“Halt and Catch Fire” is an American period drama television series created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, that premiered on AMC on June 1, 2014. The series is set in the Silicon Prairie of Texas, starting in 1983, and depicts a fictionalized insider’s view of the personal computer revolution. The show’s title refers to computer machine code instruction HCF, the execution of which would cause the computer’s central processing unit to stop working (“catch fire” was a humorous exaggeration). I think it’s a bit exaggerated to call this a period drama though, since it takes place in the 80. Paul Haslinger wrote the score. I am expecting great things from this score since it’s, you know, set in my favorite decade and focused on computer.
I am happy that the synth appears, even if shyly, right from the opening cue. “Golden gate” is simple and contained but it’s a good start down my favorite musical road. Nostalgia winks at me from this one. Somehow the setting in the beginning of the personal computer revolution contains the music a bit as sometimes it seems to mimic the simple first key presses of the PC world. I am enjoying the laid back beginning of the score without being really touched.
“First day on the job” brings the first electronically exuberant moment of the score. Nostalgia comes closer to me and sits near me. This one I recognize, this is right up my alley. “It speaks” gets eerie and mysterious and we have a momentum going. The most important element of an electronic 80s score for me is nostalgia. I am not looking for anything else and the closer it comes to me during a score the happier I am. “Halt and Catch fire” continues to sit close without touching me for real. The 80s sound is there but not very deep.
The music ticks and tacks quietly and I like it. It just doesn’t create the storm of nostalgia inside me that I was expecting. It is a bit unfair for the music to be thinking like this since I am enjoying it. Cues like “The morning after” and “Rooftop fireworks” come to make the experience even better as they are dreamy and intense. This section of the score goes to my favorite reflective place and chimes in tune with my expectations. This is the turning point in “Halt and Catch fire”; not a dramatic one but it was just the corner the music needed to turn to meet me.
I enjoyed the electronic vibes and authenticity of this score. I will surely return to it.  I will watch the show as well to experience the music in context.

Cue rating: 87 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 38
Album excellence: 36%
Highlights:
First Day On The Job
The Moming After
Rooftop Fireworks
1 Need A Little Time
Il Western Arrivals
10BROAD36
The Way In
Run Time
Gordon Steals A Cabbage Patch
Go Get The Bike
The End Of Donna’s Day

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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