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Soundtrack review: Ghost in the shell (Lorne Balfe – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Ghost in the shell (Lorne Balfe – 2017)



“Ghost in the Shell” is a 2017 American science fiction action film directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger, based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow. It stars Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche. Set in a near future when the line between humans and robots is blurring, the plot follows the Major (Johansson), a cyborg supersoldier who yearns to learn her past.

The movie had its troubles upon reception from the public and press but so did the score as suddenly and mysteriously Clint Mansell who was supposed to score it was replaced by Lorne Balfe. Lorne’s score didn’t officially get released either but the composer has kindly made it available to fans so I am reviewing it.

The opening of the score stuns me; there’s no other word for it or other sentiment as the sound in “Logos” and “Shelling” sends me back to a unique place that’s very hard to visit: “Blade runner”. The sound is just as misty humming electronic, the synths are just as wonderfully dark and slow burning so I am just in awe of this beginning. We’ve had Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch write the new Blade Runner this year and I didn’t get as nostalgic as I get when I listen to “Shelling”. I am paying so much attention to this cue because the sound is so precious I’m worried it will change with the next cue.

It doesn’t. “Alternative shelling sequence” just gets more metallic and a bit more rhythmic but the nostalgia of the town where Deckard rolled stays strong; it’s in the way the cues flow, in the electronic echoes, the slow burning ambient melodies and I am just starting to wonder if one of the best scores of 2017 is one that hasn’t been officially released. As I dive deeper into the layers of electronic goodness that Lorne wrote I am more and more impressed and that’s saying a lot since I’m talking about one of my favourite composers who delivers constantly great music no matter what the genre; but this time he just added one more halo to his collection by writing one of the best ambient electronic scores, well, ever. I am comparing it to “Blade runner” which is the pinnacle of the genre and this sound right here is the only thing that was missing from the “Blade runner 2049” score earlier this year which focuses more on being aggressive and loud; it’s as if the three composers sat in the studio, got in the zone, wrote the perfect BR score and decided to split it between two movies; why have one perfect score when you can have two. They made a two piece puzzle that I’m putting together now.

“Ghost in the shell” gets pulsating loud when it needs to as well and it’s just as good. I just can’t get out of the mood and place the music has put me in from the beginning so it’s no longer GITS for me; I can’t tie this music, my favourite kind of music, to a story anymore as I follow the images it creates inside me. “My mind is human” hits that sweet spot where electronic meets orchestral and I will have a hard time picking the cue I liked the most from this score. Same with “What’s your name”; Lorne knows how to bring the waves of emotion when the story asks for it.

“Ghost in the shell” is a score that needed to be heard; film music fans deserved to have access to this composition that for me counts as one of Lorne Balfe’s best. If you were pining for something that brings the sound and, especially, the atmosphere of Blade Runner once again this year, this score is the most unexpected gift and a synth based composition for the ages. For me it’s one of the best scores of 2017 and I hope it will also get an official release.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 36 / 44

Album excellence: 81%

Alternative Shelling Sequence
Major On Site
The Leap
Skinny Man Chase
My Mind Is Human
What’s Your Name
Tank Battle
I Give My Consent
Major Motoko

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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  1. Sea Symons 30th August 2019

    I came across your review of the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack.
    I’ve been trying to find it avaiable as a download, with no success.
    Do you know where I might obtain it?

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 30th August 2019

      Hi. It’s actually available for free on Lorne’s website.

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