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Soundtrack review: Waco (Jeff Russo and Jordan Gagne – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: Waco (Jeff Russo and Jordan Gagne – 2018)

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“Waco” is an American television miniseries based on the Waco siege that premiered on the Paramount Network on January 24, 2018. Waco reveals the story of the 51-day 1993 standoff between the FBI, ATF and David Koresh’s spiritual sect, The Branch Davidians, in Waco, Texas, that resulted in a deadly fire. It explores the true life details leading up to and chronicling the standoff told from several perspectives of those most intimately involved in both sides of the conflict. Jeff Russo and Jordan Gagne wrote the score.

Jeff Russo wrote the main title theme and it’s becoming like a trademark for him as the alert sound is very similar to his opening themes for “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Altered Carbon”, I would recognize it anywhere. The tone change to piano moody as soon as the next cue “Tear gas”; it’s not something I haven’t heard before as these piano and string musings are often used to convey emotion but there’s a reason for that: it works. I like music like this so I don’t mind if it’s repetitive; it’s an emotional, almost haunting cue, beautiful and intense. I can imagine people crying while this cue is playing and it could very well work as an end titles suite.

I like the music because the composers find the right balance between emotional and alert, and all done with minimalistic sounds; there is no time for epic or dramatic pieces and there is no need for them either. The score is a mix of dark thriller and melodic and even if it is very short the different moments or characters are very well defined. Decisive moments like “Rachel dies” are treated minimalistic but dramatic enough to make an impression; it doesn’t take more than a couple of string instruments playing off each other to make me care.

It’s obvious from the music, even without seeing the miniseries that the story is told from both perspectives as there is a clear distinction between the investigative FBI and ATF parts and the sentiments of the believers. “Incendiary” makes me feel all the intensity of the beliefs those people had, regardless if I agree with them or not, while an electronic cue like “Satellite response” brings a cold and calculated mood in response while still keeping the melodic essence fo the score.

For such a short score “Waco” sure gives me a lot more than I expected; this is the work of two composers who cared about the story and got involved rather than just writing generic tense music. I was especially impressed by the emotional pieces and there are enough moments here that I would like to revisit and I can’t wait to hear the music in context.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 12 / 21

Album excellence: 58%

Highlights:
Tear Gas
Incendiary
Burning Compound
Survivor List
McLellan Prison

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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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