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Soundtrack review: Stranger things 2 (Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Stranger things 2 (Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – 2017)

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“Stranger Things” is an American science fiction-horror web television series created, written, directed and co-executive produced by the Duffer Brothers, as well as co-executive-produced by Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen. The first season, released in July 2016, stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, and Matthew Modine, with Noah Schnapp and Joe Keery in recurring roles. The second season will take place around Halloween (October 31) of 1984,[20] about a year after the events of the first season, and will explore the “bigger mythology” of Will’s disappearance, according to the Duffers. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein from S U R V I V E returned to write the score.

When “Stranger things” appeared last year it was simply the culmination of 30 years of movie, music and book nostalgia; the Duffer brothers came from nowhere with a movie about a few kids riding their bikes and investigating strange things in the 80s, a combination of the best and most Stephen King stories and immortal 80s movies with music to match. Every single thing about that show, from the fonts of the title, to the music, to the kids, the bikes, the radios were iconic for the best decade ever and I can’t believe it’s been a year already and the second part of the story will be coming to Neflix. Last year there were two volumes of music and both were a retro synth delight as composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein nailed the sound of the 80s to the note. Nostalgia through the roof and pure textural awesomeness.

Without including the main theme this time, “Walkin in Hawkins” picks up right where those two volumes left with that unmistakable and eternal dark eerie mood, quiet and reflective. The music, the sound is part of the Stranger things legend and if you ever came across a movie form the 80s you will recognise the dark and dreamy magnetism of the synth music. It’s a time machine like no other, a time machine that works perfectly and never fails; love it or hate it there isn’t a single second of this score that is out of the 80s vibe and lore; the quiet sadness, the dark ambient, the simple and slow moving synth motifs, I am immersed and addicted and I could stop this score at any time and play it again from any point and the feeling would be the same. My love for this favourite sound of mine and nostalgia through the roof don’t mean I am not remarking subtle changes in sound from last year’s score: this time the composers went for a duality: an even darker and quieter slow burning mood in contrast with downright horror. Strangely there are moments in the score, like “Scars” or “I can’t save them” which remind me of the darkness and mystery of “Twin Peaks”.

When this quiet flow is interrupted with uncomfortable horror cues like “Descend into the rift” or “Digging” the impact is obvious. As nice and dreamy as the music usually is sometimes is gets frightening and abrasive and I am experiencing the emotions of the main characters as they explore, discover, get scared. The horror cues are not my favourites as I am all in for the more reflective mood but I understand their point. The sweetest of comfort zones for me is in “She wants me to find her”, “Crib” and “The return”; this is my ambient drug of choice, this is the most immersive sound for me. These are the purest and most reflective synth pieces from the score. These cues are my favourites from both seasons if I had to choose.

Hypnotic, nostalgic and unbelievably immersive, “Stranger things 2” is at least just as good as the first volume from last year. The composers spend the time between seasons honing their raft and coming up with new ways to make the sound even better, even closer to perfection. There really is no other score that can come close in terms of nostalgia and 80s synth texture and I am grateful to Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for doing what they do. Now that I know the music, I can’t wait to dive into the show once again. If you enjoyed the two score albums from last year you are going to love this one as well. There is an Apple exclusive extra album that contains 15 bonus tracks and an additional 50 minutes of score. They focus on the horror part of the music so if you enjoyed those cues from “Stranger things 2” that atmosphere is further explored in the bonus tracks.

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 57 / 71

Album excellence: 80%

Highlights:
Walkin In Hawkins
Home
Presumptuous
Eight Fifteen
The First Lie
Scars
I Can Save Them
Looking For a Way Out
Birth / Rescue
In the Woods
Symptoms
Eggo In the Snow
Soldiers
Choices
Never Tell
She Wants Me To Find Her
Shouldn’t Have Lied
Crib
The Return
Escape
We Go Out Tonight
Connect the Dots
The Hub
On Edge
What Else Did You See?
Run
Levitation
To Be Continued

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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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