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Soundtrack review: The defiant ones (Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross & Claudia Sarne – 2017)

Documentary TV

Soundtrack review: The defiant ones (Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross & Claudia Sarne – 2017)


“The Defiant Ones” tells of the unbreakable bond of trust and friendship between music legends Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, two street-smart men from different worlds who together defied traditional wisdom and transformed contemporary culture in the process. Filmed over a three-year period by director Allen Hughes, the four-part documentary traces the rise of two tough kids — Iovine the son of a Brooklyn longshoreman, Dr. Dre straight out of the streets of Compton, Calif. — through an unconventional business until their paths crossed in the late 1980s, leading to this unlikely duo brokering one of the biggest deals in music history. The score for this long awaited HBO documentary was written by Atticus Ross with help from Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne.

I am very excited to see this story since I used to listen to a lot of hip hop n the 90s with Dre or Snoop or Ice Cube as my favourites. I also listened insanely much to Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor; Atticus Ross is now a full time member and also Reznor’s partner in writing film music scores. Just like Warren Ellis sometimes splits from Nick Cave to write his own scores so Atticus is here without his other half and, once again, among my priorities to listen to and review.

When Atticus’s name is on the cover I can sit relaxed in my chair, close my eyes and welcome an ambient journey I know I will love. I remember when I first heard a solo score by him for Denzel Washington’s movie “The book of Eli” and the difference from Trent was obvious: Atticus writes broader, quieter and dreamier cues while Trent comes with his industrial machinery to cut them apart and make them edgier and more painful but also more intense. Take the angst away and you are left with an equally dark but quieter score, like “The defiant ones”; you are left with something reflective that can be trapped inside a snow globe you can shake every now and then to remember a certain mood. There are echoes of the more melodic parts of “The girl with a dragon tattoo” in this one and as I listen to “Instictual” I feel like I could get lost in this cue for hours at a time without minding it. The chimes, the veil so quiet that it almost dissolves into the next cue “Spiral” make for an early favourite.

Listening to this score makes me even more curious about the documentary. The hip hop world and especially rising in it was not a quiet affair and the score is probably hear to fill the gaps between the rap songs we probably hear. It will be an interesting contradiction to hear as Atticus’ music has a depth that could swallow everything else around it. A cue like “Off the record” is vintage Ross and I am right in my musical comfort zone. The score flows like one single gorgeous ambient cue and I am not even thinking about the documentary any more when “Which way now?” hits me so close to home in a time of major life changes. The music is dark, have no doubt about this, which makes its moments of melodic hope sound even better.

Even inside this ultimate minimalistic genre, there are different ways of writing ambient music and in “The defiant ones” we get an eerie, homogenous score that can be altered like a simple piece of bread: sometimes it’s just that, other times the composers press the fingers harder and the bread crumbles, other times they heat it and toast it and it becomes harder; it’s a fascinating score but as delicious to me as that piece of bread in times of great hunger and appetite. Atticus , Leopold and Claudia built an empty room with big or small places which can be filled depending on who is listening.

“The defiant ones” is a gift for ambient music lovers. The second half of the score tickles my 80s electronic nostalgia bone with a few cues that could have been heard on scores like “Terminator” or “The running man”. If you enjoy the less tormented parts of a Reznor / Ross score and you loved 80s electronic music, you count this one among your favourites. Me, I am always hungry for ambient music and I am never getting enough of it and when it’s done so well like in this score, I am a happy fan.

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 46 / 61

Album excellence: 75%

Possibilities Are Endless
Off The Record
Which Way Now?
Looking Ahead
Going It Alone
Bowed Waves
Welcome To Jupiter
Mother & Child
Non Disclosure
Make Or 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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