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Soundtrack review: Negative (Bill Brown – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Negative (Bill Brown – 2017)


“Negative” is a 2017 movie directed by Joshua Caldwell.After taking a picture of a woman on the street, amateur photographer Hollis (Simon Quarterman) is shocked when she knocks on his apartment door and threatens his life. Demanding that he and the photograph must leave town with her or she will have to kill him, Hollis reluctantly obliges. While on the run, the woman, Natalie (Katia Winter) reveals she’s an ex-MI5 agent that double-crossed a Colombian Cartel. Just as she was about to escape for good, Hollis’ photograph surfaced and now the Cartel knows their whereabouts. The score was written by Bill Brown with solos by Robin Finck who becomes the fourth member of Nine Inch Nails (after Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Charlie Clouser) to feature on a movie score. He was also in Guns N’ Roses so I get a lot of nostalgia from the guy. Plus he is actually a very nice guy who stopped to shake my hand at a concert in Romania.

The main theme from negative gives me a very nice feeling right from the start with Robin Finck’s mellow guitar that makes this cue sound like the themes from the heroic 90s movies, the Michael Bay kind. There is also a buildup that makes me feel as if I’m listening to “Bad boys” or something and I love it. I grew up on these heroic 90s themes and the nostalgia factor is high with the opening cue of “Negative”. There’s also a subtle emotional element with the piano at the end and I am hooked.

No time for emotions in “The buildup” as that is the cue that starts the sickening and suffocating tension. I get flashbacks of “Sicario” in how dense and dark the music is. There’s a clear contrast between the cues where Robin Finck plays and the ones without his; I must admit that usually I am not a fan of the guitar in a score but in here it just works; the guitar doesn’t impose and just adds a heroic or melancholic touch when needed.

Bill Brown does a great job of fighting the usual generic dark thriller sound that has gathered a lot of momentum these past few years. His music is alive and exciting and I am actually feeling the tension and suspense even without seeing the movie. He writes addictive ambient cues like “I need to leave”. This piece is just a thick dark blanket thrown over the soundscape of “Negative” and I could listen to an entire score that sounded just like that.

It’s also a very bold decision from a composer to write a 9 minute cue, regardless of who he is. I am fascinated with “Hunting season” and how it builds up from quietly menacing to pulsating tension over a dark string undertone. I just can’t stop listening to this cue with that tingling feeling in my stomach that mixes fear with excitement. A moody piano balm like “None of it matters” is welcomed after such a trip. Even in this piano cue I hear that heroic 90s vibe that I am so addicted to. I am sure the composer has that decade in his DNA.

I hadn’t hear of Bill Brown until know but he made such a commanding and meaningful entrance with “Negative” that he is definitely on my radar now for thriller scores. One of the biggest pleasures and rewards as a film music reviewer is to find hidden treasures among the huge list of albums available. Complex, tense, heroic and emotional, “Negative” is one of the best surprises of 2017.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 26 / 47

Album excellence: 56%

Theme from Negative
The Buildup
The Motel
I Need to Leave
Hunting Season
None of It Matters

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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