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Soundtrack review: Atropa (Kevin Riepl – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: Atropa (Kevin Riepl – 2018)

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“Atropa” is a new Canal+ streaming series. The 7-part adventure consisting of 11-13 minute-long episodes tells the story of a troubled Off-World Officer, running from his past, but finding himself slammed directly into it when he boards the mysterious spaceship ATROPA. A love-letter to the grungy science fiction movies of the 70s and 80s, the seven episode digital series ATROPA features a twisting sci-fi plot, dazzling visual effects, and legendary genre actor Michael Ironside (Total Recall, Top Gun, Starship Troopers). Kevin Riepl wrote the score. I am always up for a solid Sci-fi score.

There is hope (for me, I can’t speak for the characters of the series) in the opening titles as the broad sound which combines electronic with orchestral is music to my ears. Naturally almost every composer who writes for a Sci-fi movies, especially one written in the vein of the 70s and 80s takes inspiration from Jerry Goldsmith’s “Alien” score and the “The Morinda” theme is no exception as it’s an homage to that and I love it. It evolves into something dramatic and bombastic and fit for my idea of a Sci-fi score. I like the sudden explosions of orchestral motifs because this is outer space and there shouldn’t be limits.

The biggest enemy for me in a thriller or Sci-fi score is generic dark suspenseful music and I am happy to discover an album where the composer stayed as far away from that zone as possible. Kevin Riepl’s music is robust, dense and captivating even outside the context of the movie as I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for what comes next. I also like a composer who is not afraid to go all in with long cues (“Tether” is over 7 minutes long) and who does that without obvious filler moments.

“Time” is one of the most beautiful pieces from this album (I know, a cue title like this always inspires composers); it has that reflective flow that soothes me and makes me dream of space adventures, of space isolation, with just a hint of pulsating mystery. I wouldn’t mind having a Sci-fi score written just like this, sort of how Marc Streitenfeld did for “Prometheus”. The more I listen to “Atropa” the more I am taken away from the reality of where I am right now and into the world of this story, on the mysterious spaceship.

If the creators of the “Atropa” TV show wrote a love letter to the Sci-fi movies of the 70s and 80s they got the right score for it. The music is both familiar and new, always interesting and echoes back to countless hours of watching Sci-fi movies; it’s a comfortable place for me and that’s why I enjoyed this score so much. I got what I needed, from heroic pieces like “Stop the cycle” to emotional motifs like the second half of “Cole Patrol, Pt 2”, both cues I needed to listen a few times before being able to move on.

The occasional synth motifs, the beautiful melodic passages and that obsessive “Alien” like motif that appears every now and then, all woven into a vast and mysterious texture make this score a safe bet for anyone who is into this genre. Kevin Riepl wrote a beautiful, grungy atmospheric score with a warm emotional core an album that cannot be mistaken for anything other than a meaningful Sci-fi story.

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 69

Album excellence: 23%

Highlights:
Time
Cole Patrol, Pt. 1
Where’s Mason?
Cole Patrol, Pt. 2
Stop the Cycle

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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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