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Soundtrack review: American Gods (Brian Reitzell – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: American Gods (Brian Reitzell – 2017)

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American Gods is an American television series based on the novel of the same name, written by Neil Gaiman and originally published in 2001. The television series was developed by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for the premium cable network Starz. Fuller and Green are the showrunners for the series. The series focuses on Shadow Moon, who meets a strange man named Mr. Wednesday after being released from prison. However, he soon finds himself a part of a large-scale conflict between the Old Gods and the New Gods, who grow stronger each day.

For me Bryan Fuller is the most exciting show runner in TV Land. Ever since he mesmerised me with Hannibal I have become a devout follower of his work. His visuals (including his obsession for rain and blood) are unparalleled and “American Gods” is no different. The show is just splendid, a fairy tale and I am hooked on it. There is only one composer who can match the weirdness and beauty of a Bryan Fuller show and his name is Brian Reitzell; his scores for the three Hannibal seasons have been amazing in context and fascinating out of context as he managed to capture all the sides, visible and invisible, real and imaginary, of Fuller’s vision. His effort was no different in “American Gods” as in context, as weirdly beautiful as the show itself was I couldn’t help but notice the accompanying music.

The score opens with the electric and hypnotic main titles “American Gods” and this one opening sequence o never skip because it’s a thing of beauty with all the neons and bright lights. The theme itself is engaging and exciting with the loud humming and the strings and percussion and race each other at a healthy pace. It’s the kind of fresh opening titles theme that can get very easily addictive. “Bilquis’ Orgy” is in the same vein as the scenes with the God of love are always happening in a room with bright red lights, at a frantic pace and with tribal and oriental influences. Since it’s Brian Reitzell scoring a Bryan Fuller show there are a few surprises and changes of mood inside this cue as at one point the instruments suddenly stop and whimper as if they were pushed off their rails.

Listening to a Brian Reitzell score out of the context of the TV show is like driving through an enchanted forest which has very bumpy roads, very strange creatures but also at the end of it the most peaceful and beautiful lake with a meadow on the banks to just rest on. The mix of weird and reflective is fascinating and a cue like “Shopping” with its neurotic start and ambient finish just invites me to close my eyes and let my imagination free.

As I was watching the show I was attracted to the Twin Peaks like mysterious and foggy cues that play in the bar or at the end of specific scenes. I am glad to find “Out of time” on the score and enjoy it to the fullest. The raw and psychedelic sound of this cue sends me back to the Deep Purple or The Doors instrumental pieces of the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s and I just love to get lost in music like this. “Gumball” is just the natural evolution as it gets louder and industrial and I feel as if I’m listening to one of the earliest progressive rock albums.

As always Brian Reitzell stitches his music so well in the fabric of the show that even from the first listen of cues like “Vulcan” or “Laura’s affair” the moods, characters and images from the series instantly come to mind. Having the music is like having different snow globes where scenes from “American Gods” play repeatedly and endlessly. I like how “Salim and Jinn” manages to capture in an ambient minimalistic piece the weight and emotion of that most controversial scene from the first season. I am a huge fan of ambient music and this cue hits the spot. It’s long, as an ambient piece should be, clocking in at seven and a half minutes and captures all the nuances of the strange love scene between Salim and Jinn, most of it unspoken. As the moments intensify so does the pace of the cue as a constant percussion and a sultry trumpet with subtle Oriental vibes take over at the end of it.

During the course of the show there were a few music pieces I absolutely wanted to hear on the score: the electronic homage to David Bowie (props to Gillian Anderson for a spot of portrayal) (“Media Bowie”) and some of the Irish music that played in the “A prayer for Mad Sweeney” episode (only the opening and closing motifs of “Essie accused”). I would have mentioned the Twin Peaks like jazzy moods that played in the bar or after some specific scenes but since the entire score is moody like that I will take it as is (and mention “Wednesday heals Shadow” and the rest of “Essie accused” as the jazziest pieces of the album”).

The music of “American Gods” is a fascinating journey which might seem a bit incoherent for people who haven’t seen the show as it changes moods and sounds; but if you give it time and open your mind to it, you’ll love it like I do. After all, it’s Brian Reitzell and it’s Bryan Fuller so you should know what to expect going in. I loved the album and I can’t wait for season 2.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 45 / 62

Album excellence: 73%

Highlights:
Main Title Theme
Bilquis’ Orgy
Shopping
Out of Time
Gumball
Laura’s Affair
Salim and Jinn
Media Bowie
Wednesday Heals Shadow
Essie Accused
They’re Here Finale

 

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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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