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Soundtrack review: Dark net (Justin Melland – 2017)


Soundtrack review: Dark net (Justin Melland – 2017)


“Dark net” is a documentary series that explores the furthest reaches of the internet and the people who frequent it, and which provides a revealing and cautionary look inside a vast cyber netherworld rarely witnessed by most of us. Advancements in technology have made it possible for us to connect in the most astonishing ways. Provocative, thought-provoking and frequently profound, each episode illuminates an exciting, ever-expanding frontier where people can do anything and see anything, whether they should or not. The score was written by Justin Melland.

The first thing I notice about this score is that it has extremely short cues: 41 of them for 61 minutes; usually this worries me but since the topic of this documentary calls for an electronic score, it’s one of the genres that work in short bursts. It was obvious that the score was going to be electronic but I wondered which kind: the alert, paranoid one or the quieter, more shadowy one. The opening is promising since it’s frantic pace reminds me of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for “The social network”. The feeling deepens with the next cue so I am welcomed to a very familiar and pleasant place in the beginning of this score. When I also hear a dreamy ambient piece like “It will feel natural” it does exactly that. It’s refreshing to hear a composer use the time he has available for music and the division he chose for it so well; I can’t even tell that the cues are 1 minute long because no matter whether the pace is frantic or slow there is enough depth in every piece to make it matter. I also like how he uses some experimental sounds that make me think of Jean Michel Jarre; “Who’s face are you wearing” is a fascinating little nugget.

Usually investigative documentary scores have a certain sound that just accompanies both the characters in their endeavours and the listeners in watching them, a sound that says that there is an investigation going on but we don’t want to sway your feelings either way or make you focus more on the music than on the story. A topic like internet and connections though has the advantage of having a sound of its own which can enhance the music and make it much more enjoyable for someone like me who loves electronic music in all shapes and forms.

“Dark net” is a clear case of “less is more” both from the length of the cues and from the music points of view; the score is simple at first view but a lot more exciting than even I was expecting. The composer keeps it fresh by using a variety of sounds and electronic pulses that make sure his music moves as blistering fast and reacts and spreads in different direction as quickly as the information on the internet. It’s not easy to make 41 short cues sound so varied by using so few tools so Justin Melland is a wizard and I want to listen to more of his works. Every cue sounds like a succesful experiment in an imaginary lab. As far as thrillers go, “Dark net” is the way to do it for me; I need a 20, 30 minutes long suite from this score to use as an energy shot whenever I need to. Plus, “My dreams are neon”; this cue title is the tagline for every guy who grew up in the 80s.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 39 / 61

Album excellence: 64%

A New Level
It Will Feel Natural
For How Long
Who’s Face Are You Wearing?
Nothing Is Certain
Under Skyless Stars
2 + 2 Is Not Four
The New Race
Hacking Is Over
Too Many Options
She Was Lost
When I Leave Here
It Starts with the Eyes
Give Me Liberty
The Frozen Stories
We Didn’t Need to Run
They Are Here for Us
My Dreams Are Neon
It’s Not Looking Good
Let’s Ride
I Would Come Over
It’s Over

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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