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Soundtrack review: Legion (Jeff Russo – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Legion (Jeff Russo – 2017)

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“Legion” is an American cable television series created for FX by Noah Hawley, based on the Marvel Comics character David Haller. It is connected to the X-Men film series, the first television series to do so, and is produced by FX Productions in association with Marvel Television. Hawley serves as showrunner on the series. David Haller was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age, and has been a patient in various psychiatric hospitals since. After Haller has an encounter with a fellow psychiatric patient, he is confronted with the possibility that there may be more to him than mental illness. Jeff Russo wrote the score and he’s one of the best TV music composers out there.

The “X-men” universe is my favorite from all the superhero worlds; I like the premise, regular people with special abilities rather than straight up superheroes. I can’t wait to see this show and until I can quench that thirst I get a chance to listen to the score. I can’t say there’s an “X-men” sound developed over the year as there have been many composers giving it a go; my favorite scores have been the one that went full epic but seeing the premise of this show and knowing Jeff Russo I’m expecting something more intimate.

“Yound David”, the opening cue, confirms this feeling. I hear an intimate, minimalistic cue where the guitar in the background and the barely touched strings give me a feeling of looking for comfort and finding it even if it’s fragile. The flute marks the moment where I feel safe and for a fan of minimalistic film music as I am this opening piece with its touch of Americana hits the spot. The James Horner like horns that come very naturally at the end of it bring a mix of hope and melancholy that only adds to the appeal of the cue. The eerie voice that defines “David in clockworks” is an experiment that works.

I feel more and more connected with it as this score goes on. There’s a 9 minute long cue “174 hours” that has time to develop and tell a story from a dreamy start to a more neurotic mood and back to an 80s like Morricone melodic section that feeds my nostalgia and makes me think of Quentin Tarantino movies where the music is beautiful and melodic while the on screen scene shows a carnage; still it mimics perfectly a train of thought from an uncertain period, complete with bits of voices in the head and doubts and as I listen to this score in such a moment in my life I can related to it even better. “174 hours” is a wonderfully schizophrenic cue that feels like a puzzle where not all the pieces fit but somehow the image is still clear. Something unexplained makes me already feel addicted to the music of this show.

One the action unfolds the music changes mood and pace and while still minimalistic it gets sharper and more uncomfortable as I imagine the character’s state of mind gets. There’s still an 80s feel in the muffled electronic sounds of a cue like “David” and it reminds me a bit of the music from “Stranger things”. I love this 80s feel and I like to close my eyes and explore the music and let it explore me. This will not be a score for everyone but for me it’s quite fascinating what the composer did here and I want to hear it in context. As I read from the review of the show it tries a different approach to the genre and the psychotic music definitely lets me know that. I never know what to expect as there are cues within cues that go from melodic to abrasive and back and the orchestral sections are short and poignant showing restless thoughts and mood swings.

If you just want to sample the score and get a feel if you enjoy it or not try the cues “David” for the muffled electronic feel and “The shift and cascade” for the trembling strings. The duality of the score is all in these two cues that come one after the other.  These are the ends of the spectrum but there’s so much more in between. For me “Legion” was enjoyable and fascinating from start to finish and I liked travelling its brilliantly constructed and complex labyrinth of sounds and moods. I love it when a composer is not afraid to experiment and do something different and it’s the case with Jeff Russo here. Add to that the 80s synth nostalgia (I’m looking at you, “87 days”) and I’m happy.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 57 / 75

Album excellence: 76%

Highlights:

Young David

David in Clockworks

174 Hours

Run

David

The Shift and Cascade

The Caper 2

Legion Main Title

87 Days

Clockworks

David and Syd

Choir and Crickets

Tea and Memory

David Redux

 

 

 

 

 

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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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