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Soundtrack review: Magic city (Lorne Balfe – 2016)


Soundtrack review: Magic city (Lorne Balfe – 2016)


“Magic city – The art of the street” is an urban art show where the whole city becomes an artist’s studio, an urban museum of the imagination. On the walls and in the squares of this specially built city of dreams visitors will find new works from more than 40 of the world’s best  street artists – specially painted, sprayed, scratched, glued, or even crocheted for this exhibition. Having ran out of movies and games to score, the composer who never sleeps Lorne Balfe turned his attention to scoring this. I would listen to him score even the vegetable section of a supermarket.

I imagine this will be an ambient score and I am curious to hear Lorne’s views on the genre. He has written music for games which can be similar but an art show like this one is something living and breathing, something the listener experiences while walking on the streets. I spend a lot of time walking and I’m always looking for music that fits. From the way the album starts it seems that Lorne took the electronic approach and this is right up my alley. He cleverly makes the music sound celestial as if to give me the impression of an open space, of the sky being visible. The simple and repetitive electronic pulses are the counterparty to the sky, the sensation that I am here, grounded, watching the infinity of imagination.

The music of “Magic City” is as unrestricted as the outdoors. It’s not heavy and it floats like a careless balloon. When electronic takes a break we get joyful piano moments like “A singleton’s visit to Pompeii” and it’s a perfect cue for a cold but sunny day. The journey then reaches Radiohead territory with background electronics, soft percussion and soft base; “Nine days a week” has that crumbled feel of a Radiohead instrumental piece: experimental, basic and charming. “Avenue of consequence” continues with this raw industrial sound and yes it fits a street art show.

The gem of this score for me is the 9 minute piano celebration “Spectral initiation”. It starts with a joyful section that makes me think of kids coming out to play; it sounds improvised and performed with delight. I love solo piano compositions and this one strikes the right balance between fervor and unpredictability. It contrasts with the silent bareness of “Absolute sincerity”.

I found a lot more in “Magic city” than I expected. Lorne Balfe’s composing range is vast and on display here as if he was the artist populating the exhibition. As the art show itself is a successful experiment so is Lorne’s ambient score. Open your minds for this one.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 45

Album excellence: 40%


A Singleton’s Visit To Pompeii

Unconditional Ruthlessness

Spectral Initiation

I’m On My Lunch Break



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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