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Soundtrack review: Narcos (season 3) (Pedro Bromfman)


Soundtrack review: Narcos (season 3) (Pedro Bromfman)


Narcos tells the true-life story of the growth and spread of cocaine drug cartels across the globe and attendant efforts of law enforcement to meet them head on in brutal, bloody conflict. After spending two gripping seasons on the story of Pablo Escobar and the efforts of DEA agents Murphy and Pena to bring him down, season 3 chronicles the Cali cartel. This third season was even more tense than the first two because the writers focused more on the story and dealings of the cartel rather than the police efforts as it did in the first two seasons. Pedro Bromfman returned to write the score and in the context of the show his composition helped raise the suspense as I had flashbacks of the suffocating music Johan Johannsson wrote for Sicario a couple of years ago.

The score is dark right from the start as we get the themes for the two heads of security “Cordova and Salcedo” and the theme for the Cali cartel. These two opening cues connect very well with the music of the first two seasons as textural sounds that express the frantic nature of life inside a drug cartel. I like the ambient melodic sound of “Cali” as this cue is reflective and mysterious. As always it’s the atmospheric pieces that I am drawn to the most. “Cali” plays like a dream, or like a moment when you are oblivious of the outside world which is interrupted suddenly by the grim realisation that the outside world and its problems are still there.

I am enjoying the music of season 3 much more than the previous two albums; Pedro Bromfman gave his composition more depth even if the sound is still minimalistic. In “Narco democracy”, after a light start I hear the first adrenaline pumping minutes as the sounds mimic a heart beat that gets faster and faster. The buildup of suspense announces nothing good but is quite enjoyable musically if you are not feeble of heart.

The percussion that blends the jungle setting of some parts of the story with the shadows of the operations first appears in “Los Salazar”, the theme for one of the rival families of the leaders of the cartel. It’s a simple tribal cue that sits at the lower end of the instrumental spectrum of this season, together with the jungle “FARC” theme. Pedrom Bromfam played more with the music in this album; he inserted beautiful melodic acoustic guitar motifs like the second half of “Gilberto in jail”, a motif that expresses good, a sentiment not often find inside this season.

One of my most expected cues was “Saving Pallomari”, the first of the suffocatingly frantic percussion cues from one of the most nerve wrecking scenes of the season. Now ever since Henry Jackman wrote “Captain Phillips” I have been addicted to music like this as I strive on the suspense; I love having such cues on my running playlists and I love the sensation of having my heart way up in my throat because of the music. “Salcedo’s pitch” is another ode to suspense while the final and longest cue of the score, “Welcome to the jungle” puts together sneaky and dark sounds and motifs that are a lesson in textural tension.

“Narcos: season 3” is a very good score that manages to express musically the sometimes unbearable tension of the show. Pedro Bromfman plays with the listener’s nerves and emotions in a very effective way. With subtle latin guitar motifs and occasional ambient inserts weaved into the frantic percussion fibre of the score, “Narcos: season 3” is his best one yet.

To make for a complete listening experience, the album also includes some Colombian vocal songs and I have to mention the main titles song “Tuyo” by Rodrigo Amarante and my favourite one from the show, the tango “Dos Gardenias” by Angel Canales which played during the dance before one of the cruelest scenes of the season. I can’t wait for season 4.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 38

Album excellence: 56%

Narco Democracy
Saving Pallomari
Salcedo’s Pitch
Miguel’s Proposition
Welcome to the Jungle


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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